Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Epstein Would be a Smart Hire for the Cubs

Multiple sources, including ESPN and The Sporting News, are reporting that Red Sox GM Theo Epstein has agreed to a five year deal worth more than $15 million with the Chicago Cubs.  While the Sox and Cubs are still discussing compensation for Epstein, since he is still under contract with Boston, sources are saying that finalizing the deal is close.  Epstein would most likely be named Cubs President, a promotion from his role in Boston.

So is Theo really a good hire for the Cubs, or is he just a big name to make the Cubs owners, the Ricketts family, look good?  People have doubted Epstein's ability, especially after Boston's historic collapse this season.  There is the argument that Epstein led the Red Sox to the 2004 World Series on the heels of good moves by the previous Sox GM, Dan Duquette.  Epstein has also come under fire for throwing big money at players like Carl Crawford and John Lackey, who haven't performed well in Boston.

However, Epstein gets way more criticism than he really deserves.  Sure, Duquette made moves that helped the Red Sox win the World Series, but Epstein made important moves that finally got them there.  He signed David Ortiz to a cheap contract after he left the Twins.  He brought Terry Francona to Boston after the Grady Little fiasco in the 2003 playoffs, which paid off immediately.  He chased down Curt Schilling on Thanksgiving and made the crucial decision to trade Nomar Garciaparra for Orlando Cabrera at the trade deadline during the '04 season.  He stocked the Red Sox farm system with solid talent, drafting All-Stars Jonathon Papelbon, Dustin Pedroia, Clay Buchholz and Jacoby Ellsbury in his first three drafts from 2003-2005.

Epstein's moves to sign Lackey and Crawford have been criticized, but most of it has come in hindsight.  Lackey was 31 games over .500 in his career with the Angels with a 3.82 career ERA.  Crawford hit .295 from '02-'09 with the Rays along with averaging 23 doubles, 12 triples, 11 home runs, and 45 stolen bases a season during that span.  Yes, Epstein probably overpaid for both of them, but as the GM of a wealthy team he can afford to do that in order to sign the best players available.  Is anyone yelling at Theo for giving up big prospects to get Adrian Gonzalez (and then giving Gonzo a huge contract)?  Exactly.  If the Crawford and Lackey signings had worked out well, no one would be giving Epstein any crap.  Crawford could end up having a great career with Boston.  Lackey really does suck, but hey, give Theo a break for one bad signing.

The Cubs need a big change after John Hendry continuously overpaid players who were overrated to begin with, or who could only perform well for the first couple years of their contracts.  The Ricketts family would be smart to hire Epstein, who would not be intimidated by a big market with fans who are dying for a World Series title.  Epstein will energize fans in Chicago and won't be afraid to make the moves needed to win soon.  He drafts relatively well and kept the Sox stocked with a good core of homegrown players, while still going after free agents.  He won a World Series title in Boston, which no one had managed to do in 86 years, and then went out and built a team that won another one.  The positives far outweigh the negatives and Epstein could really help the Cubs become a consistent contender.

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