Today, word broke that effective November 20th, Theo Epstein will be stepping down from his role as Cubs President of Baseball Operations:
Jed Hoyer, who has been tied to Epstein as his right-hand man and is currently the team’s General Manager, will be taking over the role and staying with the Cubs, indicating that the two will be separating for the first time since they joined forces in Chicago after the conclusion of the 2011 season. Hoyer and Epstein had also previously worked together in Boston with the Red Sox, before Hoyer left to serve as the GM of the Padres in 2009.
For the Cubs, this move has many potential implications, and the one that many will jump to after yet another late-season collapse is that this signals the beginning of another rebuild. It’s far too early to predict what the team will do, and Epstein’s departure certainly would not be the only thing triggering the decision to enter a rebuilding phase. However, it is absolutely on the table, and certainly seems likely in light of headlines last week that the Cubs are signaling an expectation of “significant roster turnover” in the coming off-season.
It’s also difficult to forecast whether Hoyer will be a significant change from Epstein as President of Baseball Operations. Hoyer and Epstein have, as mentioned before, been together in the Cubs front office for the last nine seasons, and from an outsider’s perspective it’s impossible to differentiate the impact that each of them has had on the club in that time. What is certain, however, is that Hoyer likely deserves far more credit than he has received for his impact on the club. He is more than qualified to assume his new role, though it will be interesting to see how he balances competing in the present and keeping the team competitive beyond 2021, especially with so many important decisions to be made in the coming off-season. Hoyer signed a five year contract extension in 2016, meaning that he is currently under contract with the Cubs only through next season. What happens beyond then is anyone’s guess.
In the wider scope of the league as a whole, Epstein is immediately one of the most sought-after executive candidates in a league where turnover of General Managers is very frequent. Indications are that Epstein won’t sign with a new team for the coming off-season, but is looking to head up baseball operations for a new team in the future. He does seem like a match for at least one current general manager vacancy (Mets), but it is very early to predict where Epstein goes next.