Theo Epstein has served as the Cubs’ President of Baseball Operations for nine offseasons now. With an eye on contending beginning in 2015, the club committed at least $191MM in three of four offseasons. The Cubs were able to avoid paying the luxury tax in 2018, resetting their penalty percentages for 2019. Under the designation of a first-time payor, the club received a $7.6MM luxury tax bill for ’19. For 2020, it appears Cubs ownership under the Ricketts family is again treating the base tax threshold – $208MM for 2020 – as something of a salary cap. Based on the team’s quiet offseason, it appears that the Ricketts aren’t willing to go much beyond that point.
Had the Cubs brushed up against the second surcharge threshold of $248MM, they would have been subject to a tax bill in the neighborhood of $14MM, and could have potentially reset in 2021 with Jon Lester, Jose Quintana, and Tyler Chatwood coming off the books. Given that relatively modest one-time penalty, the question must be asked: is there more at play in the Ricketts’ unwillingness to spend? For example, could ownership’s reluctance to spend be a function of Epstein’s track record in free agency? In other words, can the Cubs’ top exec be trusted with the checkbook?
To answer that question, I’ve assigned a letter grade to each of Epstein’s 15 Cubs free agent signings of $10MM or more. Aside from the grades, this will also provide context on how the Cubs got to their present situation. Note that this analysis omits some effective bargain contracts, such as the Cubs’ 2012 signing of pitcher Scott Feldman. That signing netted the Cubs Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop in a trade months later, which turned out to be a masterstroke. Still, that’s more a testament to Epstein’s trading ability than a measure of his track record in signing significant free agents.
The Rebuilding Years
David DeJesus – signed on 11/30/11 for two years, $10MM. Grade: B
What we said at the time: Given the lack of offense he provided the Athletics, DeJesus didn’t come at a bargain price for the Cubs. Still, the 32-year-old will be worth the money if he bounces back in his first extended National League exposure.
DeJesus was Epstein’s first free agent signing of his Cubs tenure. This signing worked out fine. At the time, the Cubs were still running out the clock on left fielder Alfonso Soriano’s deal, while they had little to speak of in right or center field. DeJesus wound up leading the team in defensive innings at both of those positions in 2012, and served as a classic second-division regular. In August of the second year of DeJesus’ contract, the Cubs essentially gave him away to the Nationals to avoid paying his remaining $2.5MM.
Edwin Jackson – signed on 12/20/12 for four years, $52MM. Grade: F
What we said at the time: They paid about market value for Jackson, which could net a profit if he improves. The contract will make more sense to me if the Cubs aim to contend in 2014. Otherwise, they won’t get a lot out of the first half of the contract, when Jackson is closest to his prime. A contract of this nature might have been a better move during the 2013-14 offseason, when the team will be presumably closer to winning.
Jackson was Epstein’s first major free agent signing for the Cubs, and at the time the move had a “this money is burning a hole in our pocket” vibe. The Cubs had run parallel pursuits of the second and third-best free agent starters that winter, Jackson and Anibal Sanchez. You probably don’t remember it this way because Sanchez’s deal ended poorly, but his first two seasons of that five-year, $80MM deal with the Tigers were good enough to pay for almost the entire contract.
Jackson’s selling point was taking the ball every fifth day and putting up an ERA around 4.00, perhaps with a little bit of upside to unlock. Cubs GM Jed Hoyer said at the time, “He pitched all of last year at 28 years old, he’s been incredibly durable, had some really excellent seasons during his time in the big leagues, and we actually think his best days are ahead of him.” That position was a reasonable one, although Jackson still seemed unnecessary for a team with two rebuilding seasons ahead of it. More sensible were the Cubs’ smaller rotation depth deals that winter, for Scott Feldman, Scott Baker, and Carlos Villanueva.
Ultimately, Jackson bombed in Chicago, making 58 starts with a 5.58 ERA over the first two seasons. By June of the third year, the righty was released. The lesson, perhaps, was not to spend significant money on non-star free agents.
Carlos Villanueva – signed on 12/20/12 for two years, $10MM. Grade: B
What we said at the time: He’ll be a useful swingman.
Villanueva was indeed able to serve as a useful swingman for the 2013-14 Cubs, providing 20 starts due to a Matt Garza injury and the Feldman, Jeff Samardzija/Jason Hammel trades. But it wasn’t hard to move him back to the bullpen when the Cubs needed a spot for Arrieta.
There’s a gap here, as the Cubs had a quiet 2013-14 offseason. It wasn’t for lack of trying, however, as they made a $120MM bid for Masahiro Tanaka.
Creating a Winner
Jason Hammel – signed on 12/12/14 for two years, $20MM. Grade: B
What we said at the time: Signing Hammel would help them stabilize the middle of their rotation, but presumably would not preclude them from continuing to pursue an ace like Lester. The reported terms make for an attractive price for Chicago.
The Cubs had included Hammel with Samardzija in the trade that netted them Addison Russell from Oakland in the summer of 2014, and then they brought Hammel back as a free agent in December. The team was able to avoid a three-year commitment and add a secondary rotation piece as Epstein made his first real push for contention. Though Hammel failed to make an impact in the playoffs in his time with the Cubs, he provided solid regular season work with a 3.79 ERA across 61 regular season starts.
Jon Lester – signed on 12/13/14 for six years, $155MM. Grade: A
What we said at the time: The lofty $155MM price tag matched expectations, and after years of conserving payroll, the Cubs can certainly afford it. The Cubs need their new ace to be a workhorse, a trait that’s missing from the team’s other projected starters. Any deal of this magnitude and length for a starting pitcher carries a lot of risk, but the Lester signing addressed the team’s biggest need without sacrificing young cornerstone players or a draft pick.
The Cubs put a monumental effort into their pursuit of Lester, convincing him that the team was ready to contend. His signing marked a turning point for the franchise. Lester delivered, especially on the front end of the deal with 9.1 WAR in the first two seasons and 35 2/3 superb, crucial frames in their 2016 postseason run. The Cubs don’t win the World Series without Lester, cementing his status as a franchise legend. Even as Lester transitions into more of a back-rotation arm, he’s continued to provide the Cubs with solid innings, meaning the Cubs will likely get an even-money return on their investment.
The Cubs signed Lester in the 2014-15 offseason, and also pursued free agents Russell Martin and James Shields that winter. After the 2015 club surprisingly reached the NLCS, the Cubs pushed in more chips on their heaviest-spending offseason to date.
John Lackey – signed on 12/4/15 for two years, $32MM. Grade: B
What we said at the time: I thought Lackey would command a three-year deal even at his advanced age and with a qualifying offer attached, so plucking him from the Cardinals on a two-year term was a big win.
After entering the offseason seeking impact starting pitching, the Cubs finished a “distant third” to the Red Sox in the bidding for David Price, according to Epstein. That led him to a much more modest commitment with Lackey. Lackey’s tenure with the Cubs was similar to that of Hammel: good value in his first season with the team, and minimal postseason impact.
Ben Zobrist – signed on 12/8/15 for four years, $56MM. Grade: A
What we said at the time: I was surprised by the Cubs’ plan to move Castro to make room for a second baseman from outside the organization. Instead of plugging Baez in at second base, the Cubs went with veteran Ben Zobrist, who turns 35 in May. Zobrist served as Joe Maddon’s Swiss Army knife for six seasons after establishing himself in the Majors with the Rays. While Zobrist may not be the defensive asset he once was, he’s still an excellent high-contact hitter and potential three-win player. The Cubs should get good value with Zobrist at $14MM a year, despite the riskiness of signing a player through age 38. He’s a clear improvement over Castro, and with the Yankees taking on Castro’s contract, two-thirds of Zobrist’s deal is covered.
Like Lester, Zobrist became an integral part of the Cubs’ 2016 championship team, winning World Series MVP. The distribution of his regular season value to the Cubs was uneven, with two seasons of around 4 WAR and two that were close to zero. Ultimately, Zobrist gave the Cubs much more than $56MM worth of value.
Jason Heyward – signed on 12/11/2015 for eight years, $184MM. Grade: D
What we said at the time: I was surprised to see the Cubs aggressively pursuing Jason Heyward, because right field didn’t seem like a primary need for the club. Nonetheless, they signed the offseason’s best position player to an eight-year deal guaranteeing $184MM. That the Cubs will effectively be signing Heyward away from the Cardinals only sweetens the deal for the club. Including an opt-out clause was a prerequisite to signing Heyward, who was an unusually young free agent at 26 years old. Now that the Cubs have Heyward and this contract, they have to hope he does opt out after 2018, making this a three-year, $78MM deal. If Heyward’s 2018 season is good enough to compel him to opt out (to which Matt Swartz assigns a 50% likelihood), then it likely means the Cubs got more than their money’s worth.
The best available free agent that winter – David Price – matched the Cubs’ desire for an impact starting pitcher. Once Price signed with the Red Sox, the Cubs pivoted to the second-best available free agent in Heyward, much like the Angels signing Anthony Rendon after missing out on Gerrit Cole this winter. The plan was for Heyward to serve as the Cubs’ center fielder, a position he had rarely played in the past but was thought to be able to handle due to his stellar right field defense.
Defense and baserunning made up a large part of Heyward’s value, but he was still a 116 wRC+ hitter over the three previous seasons. Heyward was, in essence, a younger version of Carl Crawford: a low-power corner outfielder known for great defense and baserunning and a decent bat. Crawford, signed by Epstein in Boston five years prior, became an epic bust. Halfway through Heyward’s contract with the Cubs, the results have been similarly disappointing. Heyward has managed to climb his way up to league average offense in the past two seasons, resulting in a pair of 2 WAR campaigns. It’s not nearly enough for a player earning $23MM a year. Barring a return to form, Heyward’s contract could wind up more than $100MM underwater for the Cubs.
A Cubs fan might be inclined to say, “Hey, it’s not my money, and you can’t put a dollar value on the rousing speech Heyward delivered in Cleveland during the rain delay of Game 7 of the World Series.” Those things are true. We can’t know whether Kyle Schwarber, Ben Zobrist, and Miguel Montero would have gotten those hits without the speech or if Carl Edwards and Mike Montgomery would have held onto the lead in the bottom of the inning. But we do know that Heyward has failed to live up to his contract on the field, and that he’s a large part of the payroll crunch that has kept the Cubs from improving the team the past two winters. Long thought to be of interest to the Cubs, Bryce Harper inked a contract with the Phillies with an average annual value only $2MM beyond that of Heyward.
Dexter Fowler – signed on 2/25/16 for one year, $13MM. Grade: A
What we said at the time: Fowler’s talks with the Orioles fell apart when they wouldn’t give him an opt-out clause, and the Cubs swooped in with a low-risk one-year deal. While it’s true the Cubs sacrificed another potential draft pick, Fowler basically fell into their laps.
From a team perspective, when a low-risk free agent opportunity comes along, even after Spring Training starts, the payoff can be huge if you can find a few coins in the couch cushions and snag the player. The Cubs had all but moved on from Fowler, but when he became available for one year and $13MM, they found the money and moved Heyward back to his natural position. The unexpected contract became critical to the Cubs’ 2016 championship, as Fowler put up 4.6 WAR in the regular season and led off Game 7 of the World Series with a home run.
Attempting To Add Pitching
Tyler Chatwood – signed on 12/7/17 for three years, $38MM. Grade: D-
What we said at the time: After coming up short on returning expat Miles Mikolas, the Cubs signed former Rockie Tyler Chatwood to a surprisingly large contract for a pitcher coming off a 4.69 ERA. Now that he’s out of Colorado, Chatwood has several things going for him: his age (28), his ability to induce groundballs, and a fastball approaching 95 miles per hour. Though it was surprising to see Chatwood land at nearly $13MM a year, he’s a solid upside choice to replace Lackey.
The Cubs were unwilling to go beyond $15.5MM for Mikolas – who ended up having a spectacular 2018 season – and instead set the market for Chatwood. You might be noticing a trend here: when Epstein has won the bidding for a youthful free agent the Cubs perceive to have upside – Edwin Jackson, Jason Heyward, and Tyler Chatwood – the contracts have gone terribly. Chatwood’s longstanding problem with the Rockies had been a lack of control, and the Cubs weren’t able to fix that. In fact, in 2018, Chatwood walked nearly 20% of batters faced, by far the worst in the game among those with 100 innings. Chatwood’s contract seems likely to land him the Cubs’ fifth starter job out of camp in 2020. It’s another case of the Ricketts’ recent fiscal conservatism preventing the team from making upgrades – obviously the free agent and trade markets offered better alternatives for the Cubs’ rotation this winter.
Brandon Morrow – signed on 12/10/17 for two years, $21MM. Grade: D-
What we said at the time: While his contract is reasonable, the risk comes in the Cubs’ reliance upon a pitcher with Morrow’s lengthy injury history and heavy 2017 postseason workload. Given the volatility of relievers, the contract itself is no riskier than those given to Wade Davis, Mike Minor, Jake McGee, Bryan Shaw, Tommy Hunter, Juan Nicasio, and others.
In 2017, Morrow emerged from a minor league deal and a long injury history to serve a key role in the Dodgers’ World Series run. Though he may have been burned out pitching 13 2/3 postseason innings, Morrow’s only real blemish was a four-run drubbing in Houston at the hands of George Springer, Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve, and Carlos Correa that cost the Dodgers Game 5 of the World Series. HMMMM.
It wasn’t trash can banging that did Morrow in with the Cubs, however. He made it only to mid-July of the contract’s first season and hasn’t appeared in the Majors since due to injuries, though Morrow is currently healthy and in camp with the Cubs on a minor league deal. To be fair, the 2017-18 offseason is so littered with free agent reliever busts that it’s difficult to say Epstein should have known better and signed, say, Craig Stammen.
Drew Smyly – signed on 12/12/17 for two years, $10MM. Grade: D
What we said at the time: The Cubs quietly made a different free agent signing with a Maddon/Hickey connection, lefty Drew Smyly. Smyly had undergone Tommy John surgery in June of 2017, and was signed with an eye toward the 2019 rotation. If Smyly returns to full health and ability for 2019, the Cubs will have a good kind of problem on their hands in that they’ll have six established starting pitchers under control for that season.
Though it’s only been two years, the Cubs seem far removed from a time when they would throw $10MM at a pitcher in hopes that he could provide depth a full season into the future. Smyly was a luxury and a depth stash, and while he did return to a Major League mound in 2019, it wasn’t for the Cubs. In the first omen of the club’s clamping down on payroll, Smyly was shipped to the Rangers as a pure salary dump so that the Cubs could “afford” Cole Hamels’ club option. That the Cubs unloaded $7MM of Smyly’s contract and he was subsequently terrible for most of 2019 saves this from an F grade, but it’s hard to say whether Epstein got lucky or actually expected the lefty to struggle.
Steve Cishek – signed on 12/14/17 for two years, $13MM. Grade: B
What we said at the time: Cishek, 31, has had a few ups and downs at times in recent years and has played with four organizations in the past three seasons. For the most part, though, he has continued to function as a quality setup option. The sidearming Cishek will offer a different look out of a re-worked Cubs pen.
It’s hard to complain about the results the Cubs got out of Cishek, who posted a 2.55 ERA across 134 1/3 innings in his two seasons. Though he was generous with free passes, hitters generally couldn’t square him up.
Yu Darvish – signed on 2/10/18 for six years, $126MM. Grade: C
What we said at the time: Darvish’s $21MM average annual value was surprisingly low. Like other big market teams, the Cubs are intent on staying below the $197MM competitive balance tax threshold, and the sixth year given to Darvish helped accomplish that. With Darvish in the fold alongside Jon Lester, Jose Quintana, Kyle Hendricks and Tyler Chatwood, the reigning NL Central champs will have one of the more complete (and formidable) rotations in all of baseball.
Darvish’s debut season with the Cubs in 2018 was a disaster, as he made only eight starts due to injuries. At that point, his contract looked like quite the albatross. Even as late as July 3rd of the 2019 season, the righty’s ERA sat at 5.01. Then, he reeled off a 13-start run with a 2.76 ERA, 118 strikeouts, and a mere seven walks in 81 2/3 innings. A pitcher who had exhibited lousy control for the Cubs suddenly had the best control in baseball. Darvish’s turnaround and the potential for strong work in the final four years of his contract means this contract could become a win for the Cubs. Of course, Darvish is 33 now, so it could easily go south as well.
Craig Kimbrel – signed on 6/5/19 for three years, $43MM. Grade: F
What we said at the time: With a career 1.91 ERA, 14.7 K/9, and 4.23 K/BB rate over nine seasons and 532 2/3 career innings, Kimbrel’s resume could very well eventually land him in Cooperstown down the road. While 2018 wasn’t as dominant as some of his past years, Kimbrel still seemed to have a viable platform year with a 2.74 ERA, 13.86 K/9, and 3.10 K/BB over 62 1/3 frames for the World Series-champion Red Sox. Beyond the surface numbers, however, there were some red flags. It was hard to ignore Kimbrel’s increased struggles in the second half of last season, and then through Boston’s playoff run.
It could be a win-win situation for Chicago, as the team looks to both avoid the top tax threshold while also getting a closer to bolster a bullpen that has generally been around the middle of the pack this season. The looming question could concern Kimbrel’s effectiveness, as other players whose qualifying offer-induced long waits in free agency (Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales in 2014) both struggled badly after sitting out months of the season.
That concern from MLBTR’s Mark Polishuk proved prescient, as Kimbrel posted a 6.53 ERA while allowing nine home runs, more than a hit per inning, and a 12.5 BB% in his 20 2/3 innings. Kimbrel has two more seasons with the Cubs to turn the contract around, with the possibility of an additional season vesting. You can see how one bad signing begat another. Morrow was unable to serve as the team’s closer in 2019 as planned, pushing the Cubs to use the money they saved from Ben Zobrist’s leave of absence on Kimbrel. Now, due to Kimbrel’s presence and contract, the biggest addition to a questionable bullpen this winter was Jeremy Jeffress.
Of these 15 free agent contracts, Darvish, Heyward, Lester, Kimbrel, and Chatwood remain on the books for 2020. For luxury tax purposes, that’s just under $97MM. Epstein was able to win a World Series in Chicago in part due to free agent contracts for Lester, Zobrist, Fowler, and Lackey, but missteps on other players have led to the Ricketts family turning off the spigot – perhaps even at the expense of contention.
Kimbrel will certainly improve this year. the regular offseason and spring training will help. still dont buy the narrative that he is declining.
Nowhere to go but up.
Well if you don’t go to the games you probably won’t be able to see them this year anyway. The “Marquee” network isn’t available here unless you want direct tv.
Remember when WGN carried them and you could actually watch them play?
Their front office isn’t doing any better that Epstein. Makes you long for the Wrigleys. ONLY money counts now, fans don’t matter.
He’s probably declining if not due to age than due to mileage on his arm but he’s declining from one of the very best in the game to just being really, really good.
There’s no reasonable sign of Kimbrel improving.
You think he will be that bad again this year?
ChiSoxCity knows everything. You truly love to chime in on Cubs posts. Worry about your average Sox team guy
Check spelling of ur name “noitall”!!
People comment on other teams it happens.. you only comment on the cubs though right? Be realistic about Kimbrel his spin rate and velocity are down and his control is atrocious… there is a lot going on with Kimbrel. You look at the other signings recently and the cubs basically threw money away and created a sour attitude in the club house. The cubs are in a ton of trouble…bottom 3rd farm system and no money to spend for 2020.. a first year manager and the same song as last year “we expect more from our current players” it’s a total joke for a team commanding the money they are from fans and now not just at games but to watch them on TV. Worry about the north side.. the south side has too much talent and a ton of money to spend during the season and next offseason and has the prospects to pull of whatever trade they feel necessary to push the team forward.. everyone says the cubs are sliding down and the white sox are going up.. maybe that’s why you gotta knock the white sox with like half the payroll and prob bitter about Eloy and cease. Cease looked like he turned the corner the last month and Eloy is a Monster!!!
Kimbrel no good.
Sorry, no future.
Cubs last place for sure
I’m not even a Cubs fan and I know they won’t be in last place you’re jut trolling
I bet chisox are close to last place this year and I’m not even a cubs fan. i just want to see you cry
It really kills you that the Cubs are Chicago’s reigning CHAMPS and until another team wins a championship and has a parade that draws 5,500,001 fans the cubs will always be America’s CHAMPS. Until you accept that you will always be an outcast in a city that doesn’t even recognize the team you support. Worry about drawing 1,000 fans on a cold day before you waste all of our time with comments that show how much of a hater you are. You can go now little boy, no one wants you here.
Yet, if he were wearing the dreary black and grey of the South Side, you would be saying the opposite. I would bet big money on that.
I struggle to believe Kimbrel will be just as bad or worse. He will have the opportunity to prepare just like every other pitcher in ST. It’s hard to believe jumping into the middle of a division race almost cold had NO impact on Kimbrel’s performance.
@ChiSox. You realize you can hate the Cubs, as a proper rival should, without just blasting them thoughtlessly.
He or she isn’t looking for any interesting or thoughtful baseball conversation and actually might be incapable of it. Just trying to annoy people because apparently he or she is in a state of arrested development. It’s all quite trite and boring.
I agree on kimbrel. No need to overreact. give him a full offseason to prepare.
For the record… “SalaryCap” is talking about ChiSoxCity…
It seems as though Cisheck (who Epstein let go) has been about the only thing Epstein has done right since the beginning of 2017. Instead of writing on here to complain about Epstein, maybe we should ask the Rickets family why Hoyer and Epstein are still here.
I was wonderful to finally win a world series but it’s becoming painfully obvious that Hoyer and Epstein are no longer up to the task of grading talent. Here’s a good place to start. Dump Bryant and Heyward no matter the cost and give Ross free reign.
Dump Bryant? Please dump him on my Mets!!!!
i disagree, IMHO. he’s done being elite
And you were wrong.
Actually…. looking at the Cubs grading their acquisitions, over the years covered, look good compared to the Cardinals and John Mozeliak’s deals. That is if he made any moves at all!!!! On the other side of the coin, the Cardinals Mozeliak has traded away some now top baseball athletes for basically nothing. It seems John Mozeliak’s moves,or lack there of, are making an abundance of Cardinal fans question his current ability to evaluate players currently in his system and outside.
Granted, some of Mozeliak’s and Girsch’s more recent moves haven’t worked out, but they’ve made some good moves too such as the Mikolas signing, the DeJong extension, the Ozuna trade, the Goldschmidt trade, and resigning Wainwright last offseason; while the jury is still out on the Mikolas extension, the Goldschmidt extension, and the (Andrew) Miller signing.
Also, while they have technically (so far) lost the Voit trade, they did pick up a good piece in Gallegos from it.
Kimbrel obviously will improve from last year but the arrow was already pointing down his last Boston year.he probably will be a good reliever again but his absolute prime could be over.
Still to early to call it an F of course.
Yeah. Some swings and misses here. I’d like to see the full overview of his various trades. For the most part, that’s where he was able to do some damage. Of course, the Quintana trade hasn’t worked out. Fans still chide him for trading Torres but without Chapman, I doubt the Cubs mount the playoff run and WS victory.
Rizzo, Hendricks, Arrieta, Hamels, Kintzler, and etc were nice trades. The Arrieta and Strop trade was maybe one of the most lopsided trades in recent history. The Caratini trade was also solid. The Montgomery trade was also solid. Rowan Wick is incredibly promising.
Trading for Ian Stewart was a bad one, especially since they gave up DJ.
It just seems that when Theo misses in free agency, he misses big.
I’d agree with it being a lopsided trade; however, don’t forget the Braves shipping off Shelby Miller for Dansby, Ender, and Aaron Blair. That honestly to me could be the most lopsided in recent memory. There also could be a little bias in that decision.
Tyler Glasnow, Austin Meadows, and Shane Baz for the corpse of Chris Archer is the worst trade Ive ever seen.
Hahahaha the Quintana trade “hasn’t worked out”. LOL We haven’t even touched the tip of the iceberg as far as how bad this trade is going to turn out! Thanks Cubs!
wait until Jiminez and Cease actually do something. Jiminez is essentially a DH or a -2 WAR right fielder and Cease has potential…neither of them have shown “superstar” qualities. Not to say they won’t, but don’t be silly and act like they’re all stars. Give them a few years.
Either way, it’s too bad Quintana has regressed the way he has.
Wow they don’t look like superstars in their rookie season? Shocking! Also eloy definitely is NOT a RF. He played LF all last year. 4th In rookie of the year voting as well. HES 22! He was also a positive WAR. Player get out of here with this crap
That’s what I’m saying though. Chris coghlan won rookie of the year, look how he ended hp. What I’m saying is that they haven’t done anything to justify the Cubs got fleeced narrative people are peddling. The only support in that argument is that quintana has scuffled, therefore the cubs should have traded those prospects for someone else. Prospects are so fickle. I hope Jiminez turns out to be solid as I liked following him when he was in the Cubs farm. With that being said, just be cool. Clearly not a great trade for the cubs, but fans obsess too much about prospect rankings. Look at previous top 100 lists and see how many of those players made any real impact. Cubs were in an area to contend and they dod what contenders do, trade prospects for major leaguers. Right now the Sox are doing what the cubs did 5 years ago, trade major leaguers for prospects. Hopefully those trades work out for the Sox.
“neither of them have shown “superstar” qualities”
Eloy put up 31 home runs in 122 games as a rookie while fighting injuries throughout the year. That’s 40+ home run power as a rookie (full season pace). Heck, he slashed .340/.383/.710 in September. That’s “superstar quality,” and he’s just scratching the surface of his abilities.
I think Eloy is going to be good, but…
1 juiced ball
2 bad defense
3 Joe Chaboneau effect — things go go south quick
That is all.
F. Tatis Jr.
I got nuthin.
MVP J. Donaldson
Donaldson was a hendry trade. Hendry was garbage. But, let’s just put it this way…each gm makes mistakes. Hahn has done so and so has theo. Theo pulled in strop and arrieta for nothing. One of the trades of the last few decades. He also built multiple WS teams. No one is perfect all the time. I mean, Hahn has yet to even field a playoff caliber team in what, 8 years? With that, hes also built a solid team at this point by making smart trades and good signings. Yall love animosity. Be cool. Find common ground. The quinatana trade could someday rival the arrieta trade if jiminez or cease turn out to be anything other than league average players. Who knows. Epstein and hahn are both good GM’s who have made both incredible and subpar moves. Same goes for every GM.
I certainly like Harvard law’s ability to GM. Plus Northwestern MBA . My point is Hahn education certainly not hurting him. Reinsdorf finally letting loose of purse strings so sb interesting to finally see results
First time we agree- You got nuthin.
Bad decision making? Can you remember James Shields???
Could have had Verlander for probably the same price. And we got Q…
@ Astros fan. Ya, that’s a good one. Off the top of my head I can’t think of a more lopsided trade. The Braves-Diamondback trade involving Swanson was pretty bad but I don’t think that trade was as bad as it could have been.
Worst trade I can think of recently… Mike Clevinger for washed up Vinnie Pestano
Here is a timeline of Epstein’s moves up to the World Series win. Kinda a cool article.
Loved the Bonafacio and James Russell for Caratini trade… only to sign both guys back the following offseason. XD
Spot on grading.
Still a 2.133 GPA?
That’s a 2.2 GPA! That gets you into SIU all day
More like ISU.
I really enjoyed this piece. Well written and researched.
Wish mlbtr would do this with all 30 shot callers, this is fun
I agree. I would like to see more of these articles.
I still can’t believe Heyward got close to 200 million. That bum has been living off of his minor league hype for his entire career.
Before that Epstein signed Carl Crawford for a $140 million. Heyward is an improvement over that signing.
So not the 24.3 cumulative WAR he had up to that point in his career. It was just the prospect hype?
That’s only about 4 WAR a year (and only if you believe WAR grades his defense accurately enough), which is by no means worth the contract he got.
What exactly are you basing that on? Most $/WAR models comes in around $9MM.
Most of your grades are on the high side. Has never developed a pitcher in Boston or Chicago. He’s now unable to out spend his mistakes like he’s done in the past. The Ricketts are smart to close the checkbook. Learn to draft like the Dodgers who get players fr9m all rounds & forget free agents. He’s put them in a terrible position now & it’s showing. A Big Market Club now shopping in the basement with the Marlins. Inexcusable
Great point, Theo and his front office regimes have never had a hand in developing any good pitchers.
Not Lester, not Buchholz, not a Papelbon, not Hendricks, not even so much as a guy who was briefly promising/useful for a couple years like a Bard or Edwards, nor any successful reclamation projects like an Andrew Miller or Jake Arrieta. Just clueless.
But this article isn’t about “developing”. It’s about FAs.
Maybe read the dumb comment I was replying to and it will make more sense.
Epstein didn’t kill himself btw
The question moving forward for the Cubs is do you push all your chips in the table for the next couple years or tear things down a bit and try to rebuild on the fly? Given their lack of activity this offseason it kinda makes more sense to start turning over the roster, especially since there isn’t too much coming on the horizon from the farm. Bryant and Contreras trades could jumpstart a rebuild pretty quickly if the money saved in conjunction with resetting the tax penalties is used wisely.
I don’t believe it’s necessary to tear things down. Trading a player of Bryant’s value could very well set the wheels in motion for a quick reset. The Cubs have a stronger minor league system than what people are giving them credit for. That system, with a few extensions and a couple free agent signings should do the job. They won’t need to go through the 8 year rebuild like the Chisox are going through.
Yes, they need to trade Bryant and possibly Contreras. Either they dumpster dive for starting pitching next season after Lester, Chatwood, and Quintana leave, as their arbitration raises get more expensive (Baez, Bryant, Contreras, and Schwarber) or they trade for some young pitching options. After Marquez there’s not a lot of talent pitching wise, maybe Azolay (But he’s probably a reliever), in the system.
There’s just no flexibility in the roster. No ability to take advantage of situations or mid-season trades that arise. They should have used 2020 as a reset. Especially with the roster the Dodgers have in 2920; no chance they’re beating the Dodgers!!!
As of now they can contend for the division. They have a infield with 3 of the 50 best players in baseball, a power hitting c lf decent rf. Pitching is their weakness. If they get in the playoffs the other teams are just beast.
So are they happy to just hang around keep people coming to the games interested in the central race. Do they make a trade or 2 for some stud pitchers at deadline and weaken the farm. Or do they tear it down? Trade Contreras to get under luxury won’t hurt too much. If you trade Bryant you might as well blow it up.
Dumpster diving might actually be an improvement over Quintana and Chatwood, though.
Their pitching isn’t just a weakness, it’s the reason why even if they get to the Playoffs in 2020, they would get eliminated immediately. They have the worst pitching staff of any contending team in N.L. in 2020, Dodgers, Cardinals, Reds, Mets, and Nationals. They are about the same as the Braves (Cubs have a worse bullpen) and better than the Padres (Padres also have a better bullpen).
In addition, their defense is terrible, 2nd most errors in baseball last year. Their range in the outfield is terrible, and they are not getting good trade value for Kris Bryant right now because his defense is terrible (-1.1 in defensive WAR). Also, Bryant’s overall WAR last year 13th in baseball among 3rd basemen. He’s essentially a 1B or DH playing 3rd base. Also, their bullpen was also terrible last year in high-leverage situations.
It’s not an issue of simply amassing great players; it’s about maximizing value in relation to cost, and spreading out that value across your roster. They are too weak in other areas of their roster and should have traded either Bryant or Contreras to address those areas. Sure, they have a chance in 2020 to get to 90 wins. But they’re going to fall off a cliff in terms of being quality team in a couple years, while paying $20 million a year to Darvish and Heyward, ouch!!!
Good franchises maximize value, while consistently changing over their roster. Look at the Cardinals getting Liberatore this year or the Dodgers dealing Puig and Wood last year. Good franchises don’t fall off a cliff but consistently compete.
I am a disappointed Cubs fan!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I disagree. Contreras has more value than Bryant because of the additional year of control and his contract is 1/4 ($4.5 million to $18.6 million) the cost of Bryant. And he’s easily one of the top 5 catchers in baseball, whereas Bryant is nowhere near a top 5 3B in baseball (he was 13th in WAR amongst 3B this past year).
The Nationals let Harper walk last year and got better (signed Patrick Corbin and fixed their catching situation), winning the World Series. If the Cubs had shown more urgency this off season, they could have traded Bryant earlier and used that financial savings to strengthen the roster (probably putting money into the bullpen). As of right now, the Cubs probably finish 2nd or 3rd in the Division. There’s no way for the foreseeable future that they’re better than the Dodgers (who are better now and have a better Minor League System) or Braves (who might not be better than the Cubs now, but have the best Minor League System in the NL).
So if you’re not legitimately competing for a World Series in 2020, where is the Cubs future plan for success, especially when it seems they’re just going to let a few guys walk after 2021 and then fall off a cliff? Epstein has done a terrible job leading this team the last 1 and 1/2 years.
They’re going to be hamstrung even worse in a couple years as they have to start paying real money to Contreras, Baez, and Schwarber, extend Rizzo, and guys like Hayward/Darvish/Kimbrel become less useful with age while still locked in on big deals.
This front office has shown they are capable of doing a full scale rebuild from square one all the way to the top. Pushing in whatever trade chips and money they’ve got left at their disposal to make one last real run with this group should be an absolute no-brainer.
Right, the inactivity of the Cubs this offseason makes things worse down the road!!!
They’ll probably need to let Rizzo walk in free agency in two years (as well as Bryant if he’s not traded). Personally, I don’t get why they don’t consider trading Rizzo instead of Bryant, as he’s almost as valuable, doesn’t have any no-trade protection, and 1B would be much easier to replace than 3B in the 2020 lineup.
I agree Bryant is likely walking, but that’s fine, and my point. They don’t have enough guys in the minor league pipeline who look like obvious future studs that could soften the blow of having to lose a Bryant or Rizzo type player. So go all in for these last couple years while you’ve got the band all together.
I can promise you (re: Martinez & Ellsbury), as can any Nationals fan promise you (re: Rendon) it’s way more fun to go for it with one last run with your star players who aren’t sure bets to re-sign in free agency than it is to “recoup value” and trade them away before they can leave,
I disagree. The Red Sox can resign Mookie Betts in a year. Good teams consistently maximize value through trades and free agency. The Red Sox made a great decision in 2020 to reset things.
Look at the Dodgers. They traded Alex Wood last year and resigned him this year. The Dodgers, Rays, and Cardinals are better at managing rosters than any team!!!! The Dodgers and Cardinals, in addition, like never rebuild because they’re always run well.
Not my Cubbies!!!! They’re going to fall off a cliff in a few years!!!!!
While the Cubs still can, they should trade Bryant to the Rays for Kiermaier ($35 million over next three years but good CF defense), SS/2B Xavier Edwards, and RHP Shane Baz.
I would do that trade in a heartbeat – younger, better defense, and someone to put in the rotation for 2021.
Also, give Bote and Happ more at bats.
In the last 20 years, how many World Series have been won by teams that have made “maximizing value” their focus via intentionally neglecting their major league team to amass the top minor league system?
You basically have the 2017 Astros, who cheated, the 2016 Cubs, and the 2015 Royals.
The Red Sox and Cubs are in a different financial stratosphere than most of the rest of the league. They do not have to and should not operate that way and should not be losing Betts or Bryant-caliber players purely over money.
Actually last year the Nationals let Bryce Harper walk before the season started and used half the money they would have used signing him to sign LHP Patrick Corbin. Then they acquired Yan Gomes and signed Kurt Suzuki. So no, last year the Nationals were a perfect example of maximizing value in areas where the team wanted to be strong: starting pitching, defense, and contact hitting, so they let Harper walk.
That’s exactly where the Cubs need to improve: better pitching, better defense, and more contact hitting. Trade Bryant for the return I mentioned above, and then focus on addressing weaknesses in the roster.
There is recent precedence for letting a star hitter walk in free agency and winning the World Series. But the Cubs have nowhere near the pitching staff of the Nationals, which is the problem!!!
I think you need to take into consideration injuries. When someone signs and they are healthy those signings look good. The Chatwood, Heyward signings are the worst ones IMO. Did he also sign Edwin Jackson. I think that is the worst in Cub history.
dimitrios in la
Glad this article was finally written. Overdue.
How about an article on Theo’s most memorable trades? I’d LOVE to hear about the Quintana one! But you know what they say….
Yep, Quintana’s numbers are almost identical to his White Sox numbers. A cost controlled starter that the Cubs needed and also kept him away from Milwaukee. Jimenez might turn out to be good, but all we’ve seen are glimpses of his raw power, was blocked on the Cubs anyway. Not benching Schwarber for him to play obviously. Cease might turn out to be good, but n addition to being injury prone he’s proven nothing at the big league level except obvious struggles.
But yeah… let’s look at Theo’s trade history. Fleeced BAL for Arrietta AND Strop for NOTHING. They don’t won without them. Fleeced TEX for Hendricks while giving up NOTHING and he continues to dominate. Russel for Shark. Again, glad Russell is gone now BUT they don’t win in 2016 without him. The one that hurts depending on how you view it is Torres for Chapman. Out of all the prospects Theo moved in trades, he’s the only bonafide Star. BUT, they don’t even get to the World Series without Chapman, much less win it, most Cub fans would take that trade every time. Besides, they have a pretty good SS in Baez, haha.
So, I’ll definitely tack Theo’s track record in trades. But since you’re sooo obsessed w/ anything Cubs and since no one cares and/or talks about the Northwest Indiana White Sox, I’ll throw you some love. Let’s see, what can we say about their front office…. hmmm. Well, they still can’t convince a star free agent is his prime to go there. They’re so cluelessly inept, they can’t even self scout. For example, they claimed to be “All In” just a few years back and traded Tatis Jr for James F’n Sheilds THEN proceeded to lose more games than teams ACTIVELY tanking. Hahaha, but yeah, the baseball community is suppose to believe they can pull off a successful rebuild like the Cubs did. Sure… hahaha. Now I get why you guys obsess over everything and anything Cubs, anything to distract you from your own irrelevant, poverty franchise. I don’t blame you. LOL
The real question is, what are you going to change your name to when the Cubs trade Bryant because the Cubs are “broke”? LOL. I’m sure you’ll keep it, trying to hold on to ANY memory from that team a half-decade ago. You’ll be like those Bears fans that still talk about that 85 team to this day!
You aren’t from Chicago, are you?: No self-respecting Chicagoan would call Chicago “Chitown”.
He’s not, I’m guessing Gary or Terre Haute, where the rest of the Northwest Indiana White Sox fans reside. To answer the trolls comment, why would I change my handle when(if) KB gets traded? It doesn’t erase 2016… “half decade” ago? Hahaha, a math major I see. I wonder how many are left from the ‘05 squad flash in the pan White Sox squad? Haha, I wish these trolls were at least a lil clever. This would be more entertaining and a lil less predictable.
Now I know who you are! WillieGault85 is your name in the Bears forums! Pathetic
You’re from California so you have no room to talk. I can’t stop laughing at the thought that you used the word “predictable” to insult a Sox fan. You literally regurgitate the same rhetoric over and over again. I’m going to start playing the Bryzzo drinking game. Every time you use the word “inept” Or “all in” I’ll take a drink. You haven’t had an original thought on this site in 4 years.
No, it’s just Cubs fans always with an elitist mentality. They also always “try” to put a positive spin on anything & everything involving the Cubs. That is until they turn on most of their players/managers. I predicted years ago that Joe Maddon’s zoo animal antics and other stuff would get real old when they started to lose. Have they not performed worse every year since ’16? Think about how so many Cubs fans have turned on KB already, some trashed him for going to arbitration over Cubs holding him down for 11 days or whatever. Sosa was a favorite and then he was hated by most of their fans. Same with Soriano, Zambrano, etc.
You lost everyone with “I predicted.”
“Cease might turn out to be good, but n addition to being injury prone he’s proven nothing at the big league level except obvious struggles”
Might want to do some fact checking there, bud. Cease hasn’t had any real injuries since his TJ in 2014…
Wow, one admittedly awful trade by the sox, what a savage comeback you loser. Theo has gotten fisted in every transaction since the series and you still are on your knees for him. Are the sox perfect, hell no, I’d kill for Tatis to be on the south side, but I’d take the last 10 transactions the sox have made over the disaster Theo has orchestrated over his last 10 any day of the week
I wish I had Mr. Dierkes as a teacher or as my boss nowadays! The “dynasty” that could have been eroded away faster than anyone imagined or predicted. Theo is good but is grossly overrated IMO. Something I would like to point out is how EVERYONE refers to Lester’s contract as 155 mil. So apparently EVERYONE assumes he will be gone in 2021 and they’ll just pay him the 10 mil buyout (otherwise he gets 25 mil in 2021 taking it to 170 total). The other thing was I recall Lester getting certain amounts of private jet hours for himself and his family and suites in hotels on road games (which probably costs a pretty penny over the course of a season, but doesn’t count against the cap).
Bennie getting an A, “you serious Clark”? The professional athlete who took the longest time away in professional sports history to deal with a “divorce” and the “amazing” guy who had a cumulative 7 WAR in the 4 years of getting 56 million from Mr. Ricketts? I understand he was named World Series MVP and he put together good ABs but in reality he should have been a bench player on some real good yet under performing Cub teams the last few years. I think Mr. Dierkes gave him extra credit for riding his cute little bicycle to Wrigley those few times, oh the memories!
Theo traded away Torres, Jimenez, Soler, DJ, etc. What about him acquiring Miguel Montero and his 40 mil they paid him over 3 years? How about his trade for Justin Wilson, that worked out just wonderfully. How about some slightly over and under 10 mil deals for Uehara, Duensing, Graveman, Brach, Descalso, etc?
So….this article was about free agent signings. I think that was pretty clear.
Zobrist at 8.2 WAR over four years was easily worth the money, without even considering the postseason.
If you had pointed out that Lester’s 2021 option has a chance at vesting, that would have been a good point. But you pointed out other stuff that doesn’t really matter.
“…other stuff that doesn’t really matter”. Why is that, Mr. Dierkes? Is it because it bothers you as a Cubs fan or because the other information I included cannot be argued?
You gave a somewhat fair assessment in the article but the facts are Zobrist was signed from his age 35-38 years at 56 million large as a glorified utility player.
Why is there no mention of Lester being a borderline headcase? Sorry I’ll put it nicer, how did genius Theo not know Lester COULD NOT THROW TO BASES OR HOLD RUNNERS? 155 million and they had to deal with that? Plan they took was to pump Contreras with PEDs to counter Lester’s unbelievable shortcomings. I’ve said tons of times before & years ago that if I had Cubs money I would’ve signed Scherzer way before Lester.
Lester had the most caught stealing in the majors from 15-18. also, MANY pitchers allowed a higher SB % than JL. Is Gerritt Cole some sort of failure, because he allowed 10%higher SB rate than Lester and almost as many total steals?
hoozurmom… That “glorified utility player” was the MVP of 2 WS. “Headcase” Lester has been on 3 WS championship teams. Maybe Hellenkeller would be a better handle for you?
“Caught stealing” hence my opinion that Contreras was pumped full of PEDs. The guy bounced around back there like a caged animal and threw lasers to bases. Remember how Lester tosses underhand or bounces throws to Rizzo??? Haaaa, but yes let’s give Johnny headcase all the credit for that. Just shows how Cubs fans go to great lengths to try and defend their beloved wittle Cubbies.
Rondon is a complete f00l and I won’t even waste my time with him.
Its sure nice to know that “whosyourmoma” isn’t a GM
Hey Dierkes, fun article. Would love to see more like this. The GM’s in review series.
I’ve been interested in more articles concerning team front offices and owners such as reviews, performance evalutation, tier lists and what not. I don’t find much on the subject though. Maybe you guys would find the subject just as interesting?
Dodgers spent how much since 1988…..and number of WS trophies ??????
If the Yankees don’t win in 2020…….they will be crucified by the local media.
I really doubt it. They are at least TRYING to win.
Cubs win it all in 2020……no one will remember this article or the grades.
Luckily for you, no one will remember this comment either.
I remember when old man Wrigley did not want to pay Madlock asking price…….got traded………..but did pay Murcer even more !
The grading in the article is on point. No doubt Theo has had some strikes and gutters during his tenure with the Cubs. Safe to say all GM’s/team presidents in all sports can make that claim. He helped bring the Cubs a World Series in 2016 so I’m thankful. Should have had a least one more world series win or at best an appearance in the world series. My guess is that Theo moves on after the 2021 when his contract expires.
“Given that relatively modest one-time penalty, the question must be asked: is there more at play in the Ricketts’ unwillingness to spend?”
Interesting article regarding CBT penalties..
Summary: The penalties could be double, maybe even triple the $14 million.
Not defending the Ricketts here, but it’s their business.
Cubs are broke.
Only two NL Central teams won a WS since 2000……Cubs & Cardinals
so that means Reds, Pirates, Brewers all get an “F”
The Darvish signing gets a “D” on a good day. All that money with little return.
he was one of the top three pitchers in the second half in 2019.
Top 3 on the cubs maybe.
Did you know George Washington lost 11 battles and won only four battles…………but still was elected as POTUS……..that is a 36%….which would be an “F”……..is George a Failure like Theo ?
Thanks to the France, George Washington won the battles that mattered.
at least the French did not waive a White Flag in that War !
It’s fair to grade Epstein but you are way of base as far as spending. Ownership has has never been reluctant to spend. I do believe they are over their heads with the improvements they are making in the neighborhood and Wrigley Field. They bought a ball park that was crumbling apart and raining concrete onto the seating area. Bathrooms had troughs instead of toilets. They bought a McDonald’s property and built a hotel complete with sky walk to the park. They are now owners of four buildings outside the park with plans to buy all the roof tops as they become available. They are a team that is always in the top five in spending on team contracts in baseball with harassment from the City of Chicago thru every thing they improve in the neighborhood. Nope the problem isn’t ownership.
Well, they have been super reluctant to spend on players, for the last two offseasons.
Judging by what the Rickets have chosen to spend their money on, I believe they will sell the Cubs within the next two years.
Where is Theo Epstein’s grade?
I’d give him an A+ up to 2016, and a D- from 2016 to present. It’s difficult changing the culture of a perennial losing team, so he deserves high marks for that, despite the ridiculous Heyward contract.
Since 2016, however, he’s underperformed in terms of player evaluation, resource allocation, and getting a reasonable ROI from a premium budgeted roster. If he hadn’t acquired Aroldis Chapman for three months in ‘16, he wouldn’t have a ring to justify his continued tenure with the cvbs. He might have been fired during the ‘18 offseason, and certainly during this ‘19 offseason.
So, your GM and President haven’t got to the playoffs for how many years? And you’re mouthing off about the guys that have gotten there 4 out of the last 5? Hopefully your team will get to the playoffs in this decade. The last one really sucked.
Not sure the White Sox have anything to do with this grading Theo Epstein, which is the point of the article. Everything I said is based on fact. If you’re so emotional about the topic, maybe you should consider skipping articles of this nature. I don’t know, might be better for your mental health and peace of mind.
Lol. Everything I said was fact.
Facts are tough to swallow for these obsessed lil bottom feeders.
Can’t imagine what u dream of swallowing with ur name bryzzo
Fact is Cubs have DECLINED every year since 2016! The greatest dynasty that never was!!! With the young players they had and the amount of money they spent it has been an EPIC FAILURE since 2016. Cubs fans just cannot accept that FACT! They always deflect & degrade. I’ve seen it for easily 20-30 years now.
Hay “Chisoxcity” all you do is talk negative CRAP on here and aggravate people as much as you can. Why dont you either grow up or crawl back to mommies basement?
IMO the dollar-per-WAR basis should be lower on every player (and thus every grade lower), because the goal is to get above average production per dollar, not just reach the median. Also, the basis should be dollar per WAR averaged across all players, but you seem to be using only the basis for free agents, which is not a good way to evaluate business transactions.
I realize I’m nitpicking but whatever. This is my career so I can’t help myself lol.
Always entertaining to see more White Sox fans on a Cubs comment board than their own comment board…..then again, not much to discuss when it comes to the White Sox……except when will Disco Demolition Night return………or will there be a Yoan Moncada .bobblehead this year !
Enough with the cubs stories
Lessons learned, that’s why now Theo and Jed just go Dumpster Divin’
Damn, I thought this was going to be a poll.
Epstein is garbage, basically
The cubs are the 4th best team in the central. This is a plus 2 .500 team.
True but contrare
Theo’s free agent spending in Boston should have let the Cubs know what they were getting from the get go
Reminded me of the days where it was me and you and 20 comments per article!!!!!!!
Just awesome! Nothing but facts there! Glen Ellyn to Maywood ……. stand up!
I get a real kick out of reading these comments. I’ll date myself here, but I’ve been a Cub fan since the early 60’s. Except for 1969, I didn’t really see any successful Cub teams until 1984. I never forgot about all of those depressing lean years. So……. I think the Cubs have a pretty solid team! I’m hopeful for the team to come together with good chemistry led by Ross. If they stay healthy and perform very close to their potential, and have a few with significant years we’ll be able to beat the Reds, Cardinals and Brewers! Why such negativity? The last 5 Years have been fun, yes frustrating at times. I love Theo and team, and I loved Joe. So cut it out and let’s look forward to a fun year, because the potential is all here!
Oh look, another over exuberant cvbs fan with nothing intelligent to say about the topic or team. Must be a Coolaid convention in town.
He’s not wrong. 2015-2019 have been a blast. Much better than sniffing the playoffs twice a decade with average teams. People that have been fans for more than 6 years can actually appreciate how hard it is to contend for 5 straight years. By far the best baseball by either Chicago team in my lifetime, probably ever. Watching all the gms copy theos playbook is all you need to know about his abilities, including the white Sox.
Too many facts. Now you’re just being mean to the thirsty White Sox fans that can’t stay away from anything Cubs related. No, their 10s of fans have never experienced a 5 year run of winning baseball, including a ring and 3 straight Championship series.
Best in your lifetime, huh? Were you born four years ago? The Sox won a WS championship 11 years before the cvbs, with one of the most dominating postseason runs in MLB history. It just goes to show how myopic and naive cvbs fans about other teams in the sport. They don’t appreciate the game of baseball, they just need something to worship.
three straight championship series and remember you lost 2 of them. And were you really in the playoffs in ’18? i mean you lost the wild card in your own back yard after blowing the division — you didn’t make the best of 5 series-call it a 3 yr run
Oh there goes ChiSox again with nothing intelligent to say. Must be an ignorance conference in town with ChiSox making the hate monger Kool Aid
This is supposed to be the GENIUS front office???!?
Some big hits with the larger $ contracts. Heyward didn’t pan out but he has upside and is at least useful. Missing on lesser guys doesn’t hurt a ton when 3 teams in your division can’t spend more than 130 million while you can go over 200 million. Don’t blame them for sticking to the threshold. I wouldn’t want to to lose millions and have nothing to show for it. I would be under it every year. You can easily contend with a 190 million payroll. Spend smart. When a team and GM who spend recklessly don’t resign their closer after winning the world series then maybe he is trending downward? Wow who would of thought that?
The Cardinals spend less money and win more. Tough seeing your point.
Point is you are too stupid to get my point even if I was trying to make a point because on a Theo and Cubs article your dumb ass is talking about the Cardinals.
I’m pretty sure the Reds have jumped over the $130M mark this offseason.
I think this is excellent but I really dont know how Epstein’s performance as laid out here compares to other GMs with a similar type budget. He did of course win the Series for a team that hadnt won it in we all know how long. Also, the team did make the playoffs several times during this period. I would love to see other write-ups on other GMs with similar budgets. Thank you very much.
Great analysis! I’ve been wanting to do this but it’s not my job… so I’m happy to benefit your hard work. Also, love that you revisited your prior analysis as part of this and holding yourself accountable. Thanks! That said, Theo has been terrible at signings and trades. And Joe lost his mojo after the newness went away. Plus, I look forward to to A stable lineup if Ross keeps his word. The Cubs have a good team to compete. Like most teams, they will just need to stay healthy and all have good seasons.
Kimbrel was awful the 2nd half of 2018 as well as last year!!!! no one wanted to pay him during free agency or give up draft pick. i think this signing and the time he was bidding against himself for Heyward will be Theo’s worst contracts as a cub.
Pretty unimpressive when you look at this. Are the Red Sox in the same predicament today due to Epstein’s tenure? A world series though still exempts him from any blame! Actually, the farm system has become somewhat relevant again, jumping up to 19 from bottom three. It will be interesting to see if a management change makes a difference. I’m hoping a former catcher is going to manage the pitching staff much better & have a more. consistent lineup
Joe Maddon was a former catcher
So the overall grade is slightly better than a C
Never understood the buzz about Hayward when he hit free agency. He’s always been nothing more than a 6’5″ singles hitter, and not a very good one at that. Wish he would have done the Cubs a favor by falling on his sword and opting out.
Cubs should be calling Fred McGriff to come in and work exclusively with Heyward on hitting. Similar body type. Only prerequisite is he wears the same hat from his instructional video.
134 IP of 2.55 ERA over two years is a B grade for a $6m per year reliever signing… lol.
What would have gotten Cishek an A, 170 IP of 1.55 ball? Post was fine overall but this grade was a real head-scratcher.
Terrible comparison between Crawford and Heyward. Crawford was an exceptionally fast leadoff hitter who stole 480 bases in his career and played a very average LF. Heyward was an exceptional defensive RF, who walked a lot and stole barely 100 bases in his career. Very little in common other than the horrible contract Epstein gave each of them.
The points of comparison are considerable, and are exactly what I wrote:
“Heyward was, in essence, a younger version of Carl Crawford: a low-power corner outfielder known for great defense and baserunning and a decent bat.”
– Low-power corner outfielders. This is a rare trait in general, and given that two such players signed market-topping contracts, there’s a direct comparison.
– Baserunning value is baserunning value – there’s no need to differentiate. They both had it as a major trait. The shape of that baserunning value isn’t terribly relevant.
– Their overall offensive contributions in the three preceding seasons were nearly identical by wRC+.
– Crawford put up massive defensive numbers in the three seasons before the Red Sox signed him. It was a huge part of his value, just like Heyward.
To say these two players/signings had “very little in common” is simply wrong.
Also, Crawford literally did not lead off a single game in his final year with the Rays.
Okay – so ‘terrible comparison’ was strong, but you called him a ‘younger version of Carl Crawford’, and that is equally strong in the wrong direction. I will counter a few of your points, and concede a few others: I will mostly use their last season’s before the contract, both because they are arguably their best and also because they played a huge part in why they received their large contracts:
– While ‘low-power’ corner outfielders is somewhat accurate, Crawford’s last season’s ISO was .188, (23rd among outfielders) while Heyward’s was much lower at .146 (36th). But I will concede this one for the most part.
– This is the biggest miss to me – baserunning value is baserunning value is like saying runs batted in are runs batted in. Of course they are equally important, but they in no way imply similar player. Would you call Tommy Herr’s 110 RBI in 1985 with 8 home runs similar to Brady Anderson’s 110 RBI with 50 HRs in 1996? Of course not – they both drove in 110 runs, but in very different ways, just like Crawford and Heyward adding baserunning value differently.
– Agree on wRC+, but again that doesn’t make them similar players, just similarly productive. Frank Thomas (’95-’98) had the same wRC+ as Rickey Henderson (’90-’93). Similarly productive, but couldn’t be more dissimilar as players.
– Defense, I will admit that I was a bit harsh on Crawford and didn’t realize he was as good a defender as he was for that stretch. But Heyward was better, and they were very different in how they did it again. Crawford has much better range (RngR 15 v 10) while Heyward’s arm (4 runs saved vs. 1 for Crawford) helped much more.
– Concede the leadoff comment, I was wrong there as he was hitting near the heart of the lineup in his last years in Tampa.
So – Heyward was ‘a younger version Crawford’ is simply wrong. But there are a few similarities that I brushed off. Fun to research that, thanks for the reply.
stan lee the manly
Maybe I’m in the minority here, but I just don’t see Kimbrel recovering anywhere near as much as most people think he will. He’s always relied heavily on his fastball overpowering everyone, but he saw a big dip in velocity last year and it became a very predictable pitch. Unless he completely remakes himself, this style of pitching may be out of his reach at this stage of his career.
One swig of the cubbie koolaid, and you’ll swear anything’s possible with that team. Most delusional fans in sports!
I am curious if any GMs have a better track record for free agent signings or if there is a curve.. because it seems like more signings than not don’t work out.
Epstein didn’t kill himself
If there is one guy who knows how to get the best out of Kimbrel it’s going to be David Ross. Think about this for a minute, David Ross caught Kimbrel in 41 games and 41 innings for a 0.00 ERA. over three years with 68 k’s. If Ross can’t get the best out of him then no one will.