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Epstein takes GM job, has many holes to fill

Theo Epstein and the Chicago Cubs agreed to a five-year deal worth nearly $20 million, according to ESPN.com, although other reports put the contract's value at closer to $15 million. As part of the agreement, the Cubs will pick up the conclusion bonus of Epstein's Red Sox deal.

The Cubs, who parted ways with GM Jim Hendry earlier this season, met with Epstein twice. Cubs owner Tom Ricketts spoke with Epstein last week, and team president Crane Kenney met him in Chicago last weekend.

Because Epstein has one year left on his deal in Boston, the Red Sox will receive prospects and/or cash, but no major league players would be part of the deal, according to ESPN.com.

Epstein is believed to be obtaining a higher title with the Cubs that extends beyond the executive vice president/general manager role he had in nine years with the Red Sox.

The Cubs haven't won a World Series since beating the Detroit Tigers in 1908.

As of Oct. 12, field manager Mike Quade remained in limbo as the team worked to finalize Epstein's arrival.

"I really did vanish for a week, and then I've got 80 million texts and phone calls from people to get back to," Quade said during an MLB Network Radio interview. "Everyone assumes I'm in the loop and understand. Look, Tom was going to do this search and if in fact it's Theo, I know it was someone he was probably looking at first and foremost."

--Not much was expected of the Cubs this year, and they delivered in kind, with a record of 71-91. That was enough to get general manager Jim Hendry fired in August, and it might cost field manager Mike Quade his job, too.

What the Cubs learned was that they were woefully short of depth, particularly in starting pitching. Right-handers Randy Wells (forearm) and Andrew Cashner (rotator cuff) went down after their first starts of the season, and there was nothing homegrown with which to replace them.

The Cubs had to sign veteran retreads such as Doug Davis, Ramon Ortiz and Rodrigo Lopez, and the results were predictable. That is, woefully inadequate. It was an indictment of a minor league system without any starters close to being major league ready.

The offense flashed power at times, with first baseman Carlos Pena, left fielder Alfonso Soriano and third baseman Aramis Ramirez each hitting at least 25 homers, but the Cubs ranked at or near the bottom of the National League in walks all season long.

Shortstop Starlin Castro is a star in the making, as he led the NL in hits with 207. He is still a work in progress defensively, but he's also only 21 years old and figures to be a fixture for this franchise for years to come.

While the starting pitching came up short, the bullpen performed generally well despite some monumental lapses in control and effectiveness by closer Carlos Marmol. Lefty Sean Marshall might be the best left-handed setup man in the league, and right-hander Jeff Samardzija made significant strides.

Team owner Tom Ricketts says he wants his new GM to be more analytical from a statistical standpoint than was the old-school Hendry. The Cubs need to stress getting on base more. The new GM will have his work cut out in finding at least two solid starting pitchers and possible replacements at first base, third base and in the outfield.

Copyright (C) 2011 The Sports Xchange. All Rights Reserved.


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