For the first time since 2014, the Cubs aren’t going to qualify for the postseason. They were in the driver’s seat for a playoff spot for most of the season, but a September collapse has doomed the club to a bitterly disappointing finish. The Cubs’ late-season demise will not lead president of baseball operations Theo Epstein to exit the organization, however.
Epstein shot down any speculation to the contrary Wednesday, saying (via Jesse Rogers of ESPNChicago.com): “I’m here [with the Cubs]. We have a lot we need to work on to get back to the level we’re accustomed to. I’m invested in that. That’s what I’m focused on.”
Epstein added that the idea of “waking up and trying to build the next Cubs championship team” still excites him. The architect of Chicago’s curse-breaking title-winning team in 2016, Epstein has been enormously successful since he stepped down as Boston’s general manager in 2011 to run the Cubs. However, thanks to the unhappy ending to the Cubs’ season and the Red Sox’s need for a new leader in their baseball department, speculation arose of a possible Epstein-Boston reunion. If we’re to believe Epstein, though, the Red Sox will have to find Dave Dombrowski’s replacement elsewhere.
As things stand, Epstein still has another two seasons remaining on the five-year, $50MM extension he signed with the Cubs in September 2016. While Epstein’s immediate future in Chicago is secure, the same surely doesn’t apply to a fair amount of this year’s roster. He and the rest of his front office cohorts will spend the next several months trying to construct a team that doesn’t fall apart in crunch time, which figures to lead to quite a bit of offseason turnover. Even championship-winning manager Joe Maddon may not be safe. Maddon has made it known that he wants to manage the team for a sixth season in 2020, though he doesn’t have a contract beyond this year. Epstein declined to reveal when he’ll decide Maddon’s future, per Rogers.
Whether or not Maddon returns next season, he likely won’t have either of the Cubs’ top two players – third baseman/outfielder Kris Bryant or shortstop Javier Baez – for the rest of 2019. Maddon said Wednesday (via Tony Andracki of NBC Sports Chcago) that it’s unlikely either will play again until next season. Bryant has been out since he sprained his right ankle last Sunday, while Baez has taken just two at-bats this month (none since last Saturday) after suffering a hairline fracture in his left thumb. The futures of both players will be on the minds of Epstein & Co. during the winter, when Bryant and Baez are each scheduled to go through arbitration for the second-last time.