Has there ever been a time when one man’s decision had such a large effect on those around him? Aside from politics, and keeping our conversation focused on baseball, I don’t think so. When Theo Epstein’s hiring as the Chicago Cubs President is announced on Tuesday, it will create a ripple effect through baseball unlike any ever seen before.
Long before Epstein made it known that he was planning on leaving Boston, the rumors were there. As his club collapsed in September, the rumors turned into suggestions from some, demands from others. Those who felt bad for Epstein going through the losing streak thought it best if he cut ties. Those rooting for the Sox, the ones most rabid after the collapse, demanded Epstein leave town. He had used up all his talents and charm. Yet, no matter what anyone suggested or demanded, the Red Sox did not want Epstein to leave. Outwardly, after it became clear that he would not be returning, unnamed Red Sox employees began to change their tune on Epstein’s tenure in Boston. He had over-spent, not developed players well, and missed on many occassions. While much of this may be true, he also won two World Series in a town that had fell under a Championship drought unlike any baseball had seen (except in Chicago).
As yesterday’s teaser of a press release came out, all the rumors of who would be coming with Epstein, of who would replace him, of moves to fill the voids began to fall into reality. And these moves will shake the landscape of the entire League like a nationwide earthquake. For better or worse, the names and faces we knew, and those we didn’t, will be shuffled up and sprayed all over the fields and offices of baseball like a game of 52 pick-up. Below is a glimpse of just a few of the known (or rumored) changes we will see.
The wunderkind, boy-prodigy, and savior of Boston is gone. He takes over the Chicago Cubs in a position with more control, more power, and more questions. He will be announced as the Cubs’ President Tuesday, starting a new era in Chicago. He will also be tasked with building a front office capable of evaluating players, employees, ticket sales, and promotions. And that starts at the GM position, leading us to Jed Hoyer.
The former Epstein assistant, and friend, will be announced officially on Tuesday as the new General Manager of the Cubs. The clubs released joint statements yesterday confirming as much. Hoyer’s tenure with San Diego was much too short for an real reflection on his talent. It is clear that he has a determination and drive for success. He clearly understood what it meant to be the GM of a small-market club. He made moves that would easily be classified under the buy low-sell high category. Unfortunately, many of those moves failed to pan out. Given slightly more resources, more time, and the expert tutelage of Theo Epstein, Hoyer may develop into one of the game’s best GM’s. But he, like Epstein, will be leaving a hole at his former position.
Byrnes was hired by Jeff Moorad as GM when both were in Arizona. Moorad later began the long process of buying the San Diego Padres in installment payments. He left Byrnes to fend for himself in Arizona and hired Jed Hoyer because, well, he needed a GM. Byrnes had some success in Arizona, but he also had some pretty famous failures. He help the Diamondbacks to a 2007 National League Championship appearance. Unfortunately, he only guided the club to one more winning season during his tenure, an 82-80 season in 2008. He was fired in the middle of the 2010 season and replaced by former Padres GM Kevin Towers. Byrnes is considered by most to be a very intelligent executive. He seems to know what it takes to put together a winning ballclub on paper. In practice though, he swung and missed on as many moves and he connected with. I will not throw the Dan Harren trade in the swing and miss category. Look at what he did for the Angels this season. I will, however, point out the Eric Byrnes contract. Yes, that Eric Byrnes who doesn’t even play professional baseball anymore. Perhaps, Josh Byrnes was left in a situation beyond his control. Perhaps, a promotion to GM under Jeff Moorad in San Diego will be beneficial. But time will only tell. As the Padres Executive Vice President, there has not been enough to show whether he will succeed as the Padres GM.
When Theo Epstein attempted to leave Boston in 2005, Ben Cherrington and Jed Hoyer were tasked with sharing the General Manager duties. They would be co-GM’s. As we all know, Epstein chose to return to Boston, won another World Series with the club, and left Cherrington waiting for his chance. That chance appears to be imminent. I have not heard anyone quote a source who said the Red Sox would go in any other direction than Cherrington as their next GM. Cherrington has been with Boston for 14 years now, knows the system well, and has been assisting Theo Epstein every step of the way. He is the natural choice for the position. Cherrrington shares in many of Epstein’s beliefs in player development, data analysis, and how to develop wins in general. No one truly knows what his relationship with Larry Luchino, the Red Sox President and CEO, is and how it will further take shape as Cherrington takes the helm as GM. However, Cherrington has had years to adapt and work alongside Luchino. Ben Cherrington’s first order of business? Salvaging a sinking Boston ship that has seen more than its fair share of drama since September 1st.
While nothing official has been announced, or even discussed for all I know, it is widely thought that Epstein’s first order of business once the front office is in place will be to find a new manager. Many will say Quade never had a chance. He was handed a group of players that no manager could win with. But that’s not the issue. Quade didn’t have to win with them. He had to perform and not make Cubs fans embarrassed for rooting for these players. He had to take differing personalities and help them mesh in the clubhouse and on the field. A few Carlos Zambrano blow-ups, some dugout fights, a short-live retirement, and a disqualification later it has become clear that Quade is not the guy to make things come together in Chicago.
The front office executive-turned Major League manager-turned lower level executive is due for a promotion if Josh Byrnes take over General Manager duties. Hinch started with the Diamondbacks in the front office as the Director of Player Development. In May of 2009 he was promoted from the front office to the clubhouse when he took over skipper duties. There were questions from the start. Hinch lacked any real coaching experience. He was a former player, but never any type of on-field coach. Those questions proved to be based on real concerns as Hinch suffered through two losing seasons before being dumped along with Josh Byrnes. The Padres and Jeff Moorad quickly scooped him up and made him the Vice President of Player Development. When Hoyer leaves, he is expected to take his assistant GM, Jason Mcleod with him. This will open an assistant GM position that will likely be filled by Hinch.
The current assistant General Manager of the Padres is expected to continue his same duties under Jed Hoyer in Chicago. The Cubs and the Padres have already reached a compensation and “pilfering” agreement in which the Cubs agree to leave the rest of the Padres front office alone. McLeod is most notable for his scouting ability. While under Epstein and Hoyer in Boston he found Dustin Pedroia, Clay Buchholz, Jed Lowrie, and Jacoby Ellsbury. While it’s still too early to tell how his drafts in San Diego will pan out, many consider the Padres farm system to be one of the best. McLeod will be missed in San Diego, but his replacement, A.J. Hinch, has a knack for developing talent.
So far, Lackey’s potential move to San Diego is only rumored. It seemed certain prior to talks with the Cubs and Red Sox fell apart regarding Epstein and compensation. If the Red Sox do eat the majority of Lackey’s contract and ship him off to San Diego, Lackey will just be another domino to fall. Lackey is much maligned in Boston right now. He may benefit from a reunion with Bud Black, the former Angels pitching coach while Lackey pitched in Los Angeles. A pitcher-friendly ballpark would help him return to form much like it has for Aaron Harang and Jon Garland.
Andrew Friedman of Tampa Bay will, by all accounts, remain with Tampa now that the Cubs have just about figured out their entire front office. Friedman was considered by some and even better choice than Epstein for GM. However, it appears the Rays will get to keep the man who has led them to the postseason three of the last four years with a payroll that ranked in the bottom fourth of all of baseball.
The Yankees will hold on to Brian Cashman who was rumored for the Cubs job as well. The club and Cashman still seem to have a good relationship, so his remaining time in New York should not be overshadowed by his connection to the Cubs’ GM search.
The lower-level executives of both the Padres front office and the Red Sox front office will still need to be worked out. For example, A.J. Hinch will need to be replaced. Ben Cherrington and other will need to be replaced in Boston.
The amount of job openings and employee moves generated by one man’s decision are astounding. The pressure on Epstein to win in Chicago will be huge, while the pressure on Cherrington in Boston might actually lighten. Byrnes will feel little pressure to start in San Diego. Overall, the moves do not seem bad for baseball. The talent was not funneled into one team, but spread out across the League and across the nation. Epstein’s move will forever be remembers as one of, if not the biggest, ripple-effect move in baseball history.