10-12-2011: Epstein to join the Cubs

If you haven’t heard it by now, Theo Epstein to the Cubs is pretty much a done deal at five years and between $15-20M. He will assume GM duties there, but he will be given basically free reign and report to only one person. It’s hard to blame him for wanting the opportunity Chicago offers, with a bigger market, a high-profile team, and a chance to make history – again. Still, if I were him, I don’t think I would want to leave a team like this, after the biggest September collapse in Major League history.

From what was reported, the front office was trying desperately to keep Epstein, but he’s had issues with them before about having more autonomy. On the bright side, the Sox stand to gain compensation for letting him leave a year early. It looks like it will be a high-profile prospect and cash, and names like RF Brett Jackson and SP Andrew Cashner have been mentioned. I’d be glad to add either of those guys to our organization; both of those are areas of need.

I’ve been a fan of what Epstein has done, and you can’t argue with the overall results, although the organization doesn’t seem to be headed in the right direction, with this kind of disastrous finish and several big contracts that already look like albatrosses in John Lackey and Carl Crawford. Epstein moved this organization towards being a sabermetric-informed one, he filled the front office with all kinds of talent, and did a good job utilizing the draft, but hasn’t hit on many free agents or draft picks of late. Epstein has been criticized for fixating on certain players and aggressively going after them in free agency, only to have them crumble at Fenway. He tends to fill up the roster with injury-prone (read: upside) guys who always need DL time, and seems to have trouble engineering trades at times. I don’t know how much it has to do with him, but the player development system seems to break down at the upper levels, as we have prospect after prospect flame out once they reach Portland or Pawtucket. Maybe they reach that point and realize that they’ll never actually earn a starting role for the Sox. Whatever the case, Boston needs to find a way to work in the kids a little better so that we can evaluate them and find the right roles (or teams) for them.

It’s thought that Ben Cherington could very likely be named the next GM. A reality check here – you may not know Cherington’s name, but he is a very capable talent evaluator. He’s also a New Englander, hailing from New Hampshire. Currently Vice President of Player Personnel, he was co-GM with San Diego’s Jed Hoyer when Epstein briefly left the organization back in 2005. Oh, that makes him one of the guys responsible for bringing Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell to Boston. He will run the organization with a strong focus on the draft and the farm system, and utilize all the knowledge and principles that Boston has been using, but hopefully he can consider clubhouse chemistry and roster turnover rates as he constructs next year’s squad. My feeling is that one of Beckett, Lackey or Jon Lester has to go. I think he’ll handle it capably. Let’s see what he comes up with.

In the long run, I think we will miss Epstein far less than we will miss Terry Francona.


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