10/13 Waiting for Theo, Day 2
The Theo Epstein-to-the-Cubs deal is not official yet. Sources say the Cubs and Red Sox still must settle on compensation — Epstein has one year remaining on his contract — and who, if anybody, on his staff can accompany him to Chicago.
Cardinals GM John Mozeliak was asked about Epstein joining the NL Central.
“When you look at that type of hire, [the Cubs] are obviously changing their strategy and how they’re going about it,” Mozeliak said Wednesday. “Not knowing what they’re going to do or how they’re going to attack, it doesn’t necessarily mean instant success for 2012, but they surely are looking at this long term and for that leadership.”
He noted the similarities between the Red Sox and Cubs.
“There is unique history in the sense of what [Epstein had] in Boston,” Mozeliak said. “It had been a while since they had success, especially to the level that he brought them to. Obviously, in Chicago is trying to replicate that. But I don’t want to speak for them.”
If Epstein does make the move, Cubs fans will have to be patient. When he took over the Red Sox in November 2002, they were coming off a 93-win season. The Cubs lost 91 games in 2011, and have finished fifth in back to back years. His expertise couldn’t save the Red Sox this season as they finished third for the second year in a row.
“For all of us, collectively, it’s a failure,” Epstein said on Sept. 29 of the 2011 season in Boston. “In some small ways, we’ve gotten away a little bit from our ideal of what we want to be on the field and off the field. It’s our responsibility to fix it.”
Epstein did make key moves over the years. He acquired David Ortiz, who has become a Boston icon, and Curt Schilling for the 2004 championship team, and oversaw the drafting of Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, Jon Lester and Jonathan Papelbon, who helped the ’07 Red Sox win another ring.
But he also missed with acquisitions Mike Cameron, Julio Lugo, Edgar Renteria and John Lackey. His most recent big purchases — Lackey and Carl Crawford — flopped this year. Lackey is entering the third year of a five-year, $82.5 million contract; Crawford just finished the first year of a seven-year, $142 million deal. The Red Sox also invested $101 million to obtain Daisuke Matsuzaka and spent $70 million on J.D. Drew.
Kevin Towers promoted Epstein from the Padres media relations department to become director of baseball operations in San Diego. Now the Diamondbacks GM, Towers praised Epstein.
“I would enjoy giving him a project and expect him to take a couple weeks,” Towers told the Chicago Tribune. “Theo would have it done by the next day. Of course, he would stay up all night. He wanted to be good. His work is off the charts.
“I know Cubs fans are going to have great expectations,” Towers said. “He’s going t have the same expectations. I think he’s going to create an edge.”
Towers said Epstein was touting David Eckstein because he was an “on-base machine who would set up the middle of the order.” Towers and the Padres passed, and the Angels got Eckstein and won a World Series in 2002.
“Theo is a big-time thinker who has incredible instincts,” Towers said. “He has zero fear, as he showed when he traded Nomar [Garciaparra to the Cubs in ’04]. He takes the amateur Draft seriously. He’s going to be involved because he’s going to have a plan, a vision.”
Added Mozeliak: “Obviously, he had a ton of success in Boston and now that he’s taking it to our division, it’s going to change the landscape a little bit. It’s good for baseball and if it makes our rivalry any more interesting, that’s fun, too.”
– Carrie Muskat