On Thursday, Major League Baseball announced that Theo Epstein has joined commissioner Rob Manfred's office as a consultant. The former Red Sox general manager and Cubs president of baseball operations will consult regarding on-field matters. According to the league, Epstein will also work with the commissioner's office and all 30 MLB clubs to determine the likely effects of various contemplated rule changes.
"Theo is one of the most accomplished and thoughtful people in our sport," MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement. "I am grateful that he has accepted our invitation to complement our ongoing efforts and provide his insights on making the best game in the world even better for the next generation of fans."
Epstein, 46, stepped down from his role with the Cubs this past November and the title-winning executive did not pursue a different position with another MLB team despite the reported interest from several clubs. Epstein was expected to take the 2021 MLB season off entirely, but it appears he was swayed to accept this consultant position.
"It is an honor to assist the efforts by Major League Baseball and the Competition Committee to improve the on-field product, and I appreciate Commissioner Manfred asking me to be a part of these important conversations, Epstein said in a statement.
"As the game evolves, we all have an interest in ensuring the changes we see on the field make the game as entertaining and action-packed as possible for the fans, while preserving all that makes baseball so special. I look forward to working with interested parties throughout the industry to help us collectively navigate toward the very best version of our game."
When Epstein announced his departure from the Cubs front office, our own R.J. Anderson explored the possibilities for where Epstein might land, one of which included the commissioner's office. Here's what Anderson wrote at the time, hinting at the possibility of Epstein one day taking over for Manfred:
Some within the industry have speculated that Epstein could have his sights set on the commissioner's office. He would certainly be an upgrade over Rob Manfred in some respects, like how he's viewed by the public and even by those who populate front offices. He would give the game a fresh, more-trusted face who had more media training and polish, too -- something it may need if the league and the union are unable to avoid a labor stoppage heading into 2022.
You do have to wonder if Epstein would want the headaches that come with the job. If he found working for the Ricketts exhausting, well, that's understandable. But would he want to have to answer to and deal with all 30 owners instead of just one? Would that really leave Epstein doing all right at doing all right? It's hard to say.
Epstein oversaw the Cubs' top-to-bottom rebuild that resulted in Chicago earning that 2016 championship. He was integral in transforming the Cubs' culture, as he did during his 10-year long stint with the Red Sox prior to landing at Wrigley Field. He achieved a full turnaround for Boston as well. Epstein oversaw the Red Sox as they snapped their 86-year championship drought in 2004 and in 2007, when Boston won another ring.