The Chicago Cubs were eliminated from the postseason last week, dropping both games of their best-of-three series against the Miami Marlins. Naturally, the Cubs are now turning their attention toward the future. That doesn't mean just what the roster will look like come spring, however; it also means whether team president Theo Epstein will remain in place for the long haul.
The answer there is likely that Epstein is done after the 2021 season with the Cubs, but he definitely seems on board for the 2021 season. His contract runs through next season and he is not expected to ask for an extension. Epstein spoke in a press conference Monday at length about the situation and multiple times referenced his past thoughts that after about 10 years an executive needs to move on for the betterment of everyone involved. Via The Athletic:
"I've been transparent about my feeling that after a certain period of time, there can be real benefit for both an individual leader and for the organization for some change," Epstein said. "I've not backed away (from that idea). I mentioned it the first day I was a Cub, and again when I signed my second contract. I'm not going to run away from those feelings, but I am also as invested in the Chicago Cubs as our leader in baseball operations today as I was at any point in the last nine years.
"I woke up this morning thinking about how we can improve for next year and position ourselves for long-term success. But given the things I'm on record with about the benefits of change at a certain point, it just means that you have to be smart in discussing the timing and nature of a transition because it's inevitable at some point.
"My expectation is that I'll be here. And my expectation also is that I'm going to do whatever is best for the Cubs every day. That means being thoughtful about a transition whenever that may come. But I'm focused on the 2021 Cubs and how to position ourselves for long-term success."
Epstein has been the Cubs' top executive since October 2011. When he left the Red Sox he explained that the move was in part because of a philosophy he picked up from longtime 49ers coach Bill Walsh. Walsh believed that coaches and executives benefitted from a change of scenery every decade. In that sense, he's running right on schedule.
Should Epstein remain interested in running a team after he departs the Cubs, he's likely to have any number of suitors. He's one of the most accomplished executives in the game, having won the World Series with both the Red Sox and the Cubs. Let's also make clear he's made plenty of money and could take some time off in the immediate aftermath of leaving the Cubs.
As for the Cubs, it's anyone's guess as to what their transition plan looks like. General manager Jed Hoyer is a longtime friend and colleague of Epstein, but it seems unlikely that Epstein's departure would impact his job security given his track record and his reputation around the game. Epstein discussed Hoyer specifically in the press conference:
"We've only had general discussions about a potential transition, whenever that may be," Epstein said. "Nothing specific. Obviously, now's the time. To be thoughtful about it, you do have to start getting more specific and making some more decisions. But Jed is someone who's been a huge part of the success here at the Cubs and at the Red Sox before that. He's also someone who's already been a successful No. 1 in baseball operations when he served as the general manager of the Padres.
"I recognize those qualities and everything that he brings to the table and how much he's done for this organization. And Tom and the Ricketts family do, too. That's obviously a factor when you start to set out and discuss what a transition might look like. But have there been any decisions made or is there any firm succession plan or transition plan in place? No, those are exactly the things that we have to talk about moving forward. But we're lucky to have Jed, and I think that's universally recognized around here."
Moving toward the new year, however, it seems like the Cubs still have their dynamic duo of Epstein (president) and Hoyer (GM) as the top decision makers concerning baseball operations.