CSS Button No Image Css3Menu.com

Baseball Prospectus home
  
  
Click here to log in Click here for forgotten password Click here to subscribe

<< Previous Article
Premium Article Playoff Prospectus: AL... (10/11)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article Manufactured Runs: Whe... (10/06)
Next Column >>
Premium Article Manufactured Runs: Pun... (10/20)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Playoff Prospectus: AL... (10/12)

October 12, 2011

Manufactured Runs

Curse to Curse

by Colin Wyers

the archives are now free.

All Baseball Prospectus Premium and Fantasy articles more than a year old are now free as a thank you to the entire Internet for making our work possible.

Not a subscriber? Get exclusive content like this delivered hot to your inbox every weekday. Click here for more information on Baseball Prospectus subscriptions or use the buttons to the right to subscribe and get instant access to the best baseball content on the web.

Subscribe for $4.95 per month
Recurring subscription - cancel anytime.


a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Purchase a $39.95 gift subscription
a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Already a subscriber? Click here and use the blue login bar to log in.

With reports out of Boston that Theo Epstein and the Cubs have agreed to a five-year deal, I thought now would be a good moment to consider what Epstein to Chicago would mean. This, of course, is not official until the Cubs and Red Sox work out an agreement to let Epstein leave with a year still remaining on his contract. And as will be pointed out repeatedly, Epstein has his current job because Billy Beane changed his mind after agreeing to be the Red Sox general manager. But it’s far enough along to make it worthwhile, I think, to clear the air on some things.

The easier question to answer is what this means for the Red Sox. Despite some people pining for a repeat of the Beane-to-Boston scenario, Ben Cherington is the guy that’s going to be the GM if Epstein leaves. Cherington is a well-regarded GM candidate throughout the industry who has been a key component of the Red Sox front office during Epstein’s tenure. Cherington will inherit one of the best baseball operations staffs in the game, as well as a roster that, despite a historic collapse, still won 90 games and doesn’t need a big overhaul to make the playoffs next year. His first priority will be getting a new field manager, and that might be fortuitous timing for him, as it may let him very quickly put his stamp on the team.

This isn’t to suggest that there will be no changes at all in Boston, although it’s hard to say yet what the changes will be. But it is to say there will be no turmoil; the Red Sox will keep running smoothly through this transition, and changes will be subtle at firstperhaps imperceptibly to people outside the organization itself.

The Cubs front office, however, will be shaken up substantially by this hiring, and by all accounts it needs to be. The Cubs have had one of the smallest front office staffs in the industry, and plans to build new office spaces to accommodate a growth in staff have stalled for years. The last time the Cubs team underwent a major roster overhaul, general manager Jim Hendry had to decide to pull his advanced scouts for the end of the season to have them scout potential acquisitions. Upon taking over as Cubs chairman, Tom Ricketts hired Ari Kaplan to serve as the team’s statistical analysis manager, but that doesn’t give the Cubs anything like what Boston has, with heavy hitters like Tom Tippett and Bill James available to give the team insight. (And no, I’m not giving you a link for Bill James.)

So Cubs fans need to significantly temper their optimism here; Epstein has his work cut out for him in building his new front office, and he’s going to have to start largely from scratch, as any agreement that lets him leave Boston for Chicago is likely to prohibit him from bringing key personnel with him.

Epstein is going to be taking on greater responsibility in Chicago than he had in Boston, where he famously left the team for a while in 2005 due to clashes with team CEO Larry Lucchino. Epstein will have a freer hand in Chicago, reporting directly to the Ricketts' without having to go through an intermediary. (Former Chicago Tribune executive Crane Kenney is likely to stay on as club president to help the Ricketts family with their plan to renovate Wrigley and other business matters but will have no oversight on the baseball operations of the team.)

Is that a good thing? It likely is for Epstein, which is presumably a big factor in his decision to take the position the Cubs are offering. It does mean that Epstein is taking on larger responsibilities, though, and nobody can be certain it’s going to work out in Chicago as well as it did within the constraints of the Red Sox front office. The Cubs have nothing to lose by gambling on this, of coursethey don’t have a Larry Lucchino around, and letting Crane Kenney fill that role would be a big mistake.

The other thing Cubs fans need to be clear on is that Epstein’s new job will have a lot more challenges than his old one out of the gate. He’ll be trading in huge contracts for a left fielder and fifth starter for… huge contracts for a left fielder and fifth starter. And while picking between Carl Crawford and John Lackey versus Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Zambrano might be a wash, the rest of the rosters are no contest. Boston is a team that stumbled at the end of 2011, but the Cubs were a team that stumbled the whole season. (Kevin Goldstein has a full roster analysis for the Cubs, and it ain’t rosey in the short term.) It’s also possible that Epstein is Cherington’s chief competitor in hiring a new field manager, as incumbent Mike Quade is imminently expendable. There’s a lot on his plate at the beginning, and despite playing in an NL Central that’s weaker than the AL East that Epstein is used to competing against, the odds of a one-year turnaround are slim at best.

Cubs fans who think an Epstein hire is a harbringer of an Albert Pujols signing may want to temper those hopes as well; Epstein’s approach to running a team focuses heavily on player development (which is what the Cubs said they were looking for at the onset of their GM search). Now he’s very clearly hired some big-ticket free agents in Boston, and the Cubs can support a sizable payroll as well, but the Cubs aren’t going to be able to simply spend their way out of the hole they’re in right now, and they may well decide to pass on the expensive free agents this year.

If I sound pessimistic, it’s because I’m trying to temper the optimism, and there’s a lot of it flying around right now for Cubs fans. As well there should bethe Cubs made promises at the start of their GM hunt: it would be quiet, it would focus on player development, and it would give the Cubs a stronger grounding in analytics (read: sabermetrics) than it’s had previously. Getting Epstein, in the fashion they are going about it, would resoundingly check all those boxes. That’s something Cubs fans can cheer about.

Colin Wyers is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Colin's other articles. You can contact Colin by clicking here

Related Content:  Chicago Cubs,  Cubs,  Front Office

9 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

Mike

The link to KG's "has a full roster analysis for the Cubs" is wonky. It's says I "don't have the credentials required to access this resource."

Oct 12, 2011 09:01 AM
rating: 1
 
BillJohnson

Looks like it's linking to an article number 15289 that's still in draft form. Maybe we'll see it later today, although the link should still get changed.

Oct 12, 2011 09:23 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Colin Wyers
BP staff

The link is correct, the article was just in draft form (I didn't notice that when I linked it - I can see articles before they're published, and my eyes skimmed over the "DRAFT" label at the top). It'll be up soon. Sorry 'bout that.

Oct 12, 2011 09:29 AM
 
BillJohnson

I think you're still going to need to fix the link, which continues to point at the "draft" directory, rather than Kevin's current article, now up and visible to us. Anyway, yes, that article is a nice companion piece to this one. Epstein does have his work cut out for him ...

Oct 12, 2011 10:25 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Colin Wyers
BP staff

Ah, my bad, you're right. Sorry, fixed now.

Oct 12, 2011 11:29 AM
 
Mike

Good article.

Where do you think Theo will look to build the stats part his front office? Guys currently employed by other teams? Internet writers/Sabermetricians? Ivy League universities?

Oct 12, 2011 09:10 AM
rating: 1
 
ScottyB

If the Cubs win the WS under Theo, he becomes godkingGM, right?

Oct 12, 2011 11:16 AM
rating: 2
 
BP staff member Colin Wyers
BP staff

Short answer: Yes.

Oct 12, 2011 11:29 AM
 
JimmyJack

(Already posted at KG's article)

Really out on a limb here...

If Theo wins Championships in both Boston (done) and Chicago, he will be the greatest GM ever.

Move over Branch Rickey.

Oct 12, 2011 13:30 PM
rating: 0
 
You must be a Premium subscriber to post a comment.
Not a subscriber? Sign up today!
<< Previous Article
Premium Article Playoff Prospectus: AL... (10/11)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article Manufactured Runs: Whe... (10/06)
Next Column >>
Premium Article Manufactured Runs: Pun... (10/20)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Playoff Prospectus: AL... (10/12)

RECENTLY AT BASEBALL PROSPECTUS
Fantasy Article My Model Portfolio: Framing Decisions Around...
Fantasy Article Dynasty Dynamics: TINO Does Arizona, 2015
Pebble Hunting: The Case For Shaming the Cub...
Every Team's Moneyball: Texas Rangers: Short...
Every Team's Moneyball: Atlanta Braves: Shor...
Prospectus Feature: All Spin Is Not Alike
Premium Article Baseball Therapy: The Most Important Player ...

MORE FROM OCTOBER 12, 2011
Premium Article Future Shock: Cubs State of the Union
Premium Article Playoff Prospectus: ALCS Game Three: Miggy S...
Fantasy Article The Keeper Reaper: Second, Short, and Catche...

MORE BY COLIN WYERS
2011-10-27 - Premium Article Manufactured Runs: Matchup Madness
2011-10-25 - BP Unfiltered: Some Unsolicited Advice for t...
2011-10-20 - Premium Article Manufactured Runs: Punting on Punto
2011-10-12 - Premium Article Manufactured Runs: Curse to Curse
2011-10-06 - Premium Article Manufactured Runs: When La Russa Should Pinc...
2011-10-04 - Manufactured Runs: The O-Swing of Things
2011-09-29 - Manufactured Runs: The Problem of Pain
More...

MORE MANUFACTURED RUNS
2011-12-02 - Manufactured Runs: The Year of the Free Agen...
2011-10-27 - Premium Article Manufactured Runs: Matchup Madness
2011-10-20 - Premium Article Manufactured Runs: Punting on Punto
2011-10-12 - Premium Article Manufactured Runs: Curse to Curse
2011-10-06 - Premium Article Manufactured Runs: When La Russa Should Pinc...
2011-10-04 - Manufactured Runs: The O-Swing of Things
2011-09-29 - Manufactured Runs: The Problem of Pain
More...