Earlier this week, I wrote how the actions of ownership maybe a strong reason Theo Epstein wants out of Boston, but what reason would he have to make Chicago his new home? I think the draw to the Cubs is much more than breaking another “curse” or even becoming the GM of another historic franchise. The draw is all about a team built for a general manager to build from the ground up.
When Epstein joined the Red Sox the team had a solid core including a roster built with HOF talent like Manny Ramirez and Pedro Martinez already on the team. The roster need some additions, but to this day Epstein still hears the talk that 2004 was mostly the work of Dan Duquette.
That’s all the past though, and now he’s stuck with a roster full of long term deals that are starting to look like bad ideas. If my analysis from Monday is right though, Theo was forced into a few of those deals to draw fans and raise TV ratings. Before the John Lackey deal you have to look at J.D. Drew and, to a lesser extent, Daisuke Matsuzaka as his only big long term free agent deals. Other than that he signed his own players and extended his arbitration players. Since then he has signed Lackey, Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez. Even the exercising of the David Ortiz option for 2011 seemed like a front office choice.
Honestly, I don’t think we will ever know who was behind what deal and when ownership made certain player demands, but I feel after 2009 the player management paradigm shifted and was less of an Epstein model. Either way, the Red Sox are looking at $126 million guaranteed before arbitration next year and $106 in 2013. With a rotation in disarray, an opening in right field, closer and DH plus injury concerns including Kevin Youkilis that isn’t much room with a potential budget of $170 million.
On the other hand, Chicago has been clearing house in anticipation of new ownership for awhile and the roster is ready for a new GM to build. In 2012 the Roster is consisting of only Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster, Marlon Byrd, Carlos Marmol and Sean Marshall. There is also an option on Aramis Ramirez or his $2 million buyout.
Adding up those contracts, you have $72 million signed with Matt Garza and Geovany Soto being the biggest arbitration deals. The new ownership will obviously set the new budget, but if they return to around $140 million then there is room to work. He could even take the shot at signing away Albert Pujols from the Cardinals for a large chunk of the money.
The contract obligations are even better looking down the road. In 2013 the team has only $28 million on the books between Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Marmol. The really good news is much of the talent that could help the team is in arbitration for their first three years. Players like Garza, Soto, Randy Wells, Starlin Castro and Tyler Colvin will all be on cheap deals in 2012 and 2013; allowing the new GM time to build the roster and even extend the best of the group.
The team surely needs pitching and has plenty of holes to fill, but if Theo can get a commitment from ownership to have full control this would be the ultimate general manager situation. It might take a year or two to really get it up to his expectations, but there would be no doubting this is his team and his players.
The minor leagues have also been a bit depleted, which would be a slight negative against the Cubs. They lost some talent in the Garza trade, but the Red Sox felt the same effect in the Adrian Gonzalez trade. On the whole, the Red Sox probably have a minor league system, but Theo takes pride in how he built that and should be able to do the same in Chicago.
Obviously Boston ownership holds the keys to this deal as Theo is under contract for another season, but they also have not made any solid statement that Theo is not available. Unless they make outrageous demands to talk to Theo, then I expect he will be headed to Chicago soon with full control of the Cubs.