There are many reasons, I believe, as to why the Cubs have a strong foundation to build their future upon. The most important of these has to do with the club’s baseball operations personnel.
Jose Serra, Tim Wilken, Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer are those responsible for the Cubs’ bright future.
Despite his pennant-less reign in Chicago as scouting director and then general manager, Jim Hendry did play a role in drafting many of the club’s top minor league prospects and young talent on the MLB roster.
As scouting director from 1996-2002, Jim Hendry did an at best mediocre job in that role. Then, after a three year debacle when John Stockstill was the Cubs’ SD—a term that produced only Sam Fuld of note—Tim Wilken was named as his replacement.
It was under Wilken’s direction, along with Jose Serra, that the level of talent brought in to the organization increased. The Cubs’ former scouting director and current special assistant to the president\GM, Tim Wilken, is responsible for bringing much of the Cubs’ current young talent to the organization.
Jeff Samardzija, James Russell, Brett Jackson, Darwin Barney, Josh Vitters, Andrew Cashner – used in trade for Anthony Rizzo, and Dan Vogelbach—were all scouted and drafted by Wilken. But mining talent into the organization was not a one-man show.
Acquiring the highly touted Javier Baez to the Cubs was a joint effort. Baez was scouted by the Cubs’ scout in the Dominican Republic, Jose Serra, and drafted by Wilken with the team’s first pick in the 2011 MLB draft.
In 2004, Serra scouted and signed Cubs starting catcher Welington Castillo after convincing him to move from the infield to catcher. Then, two years later, Serra signed Cubs shortstop, then 16-year-old, Starlin Castro. Serra is also credited with signing Rafael Dolis, Junior Lake and Carlos Marmol into the Cubs organization.
Then, in 2011, the Ricketts family did some organizational reshuffling when they fired Jim Hendry midseason and essentially traded for Theo Epstein in October and named him President of Baseball Operations. Shortly thereafter, Jed Hoyer was plucked from San Diego to become the Cubs’ GM—the same position he held with the Padres.
The duo of Epstein and Hoyer are a proven tandem, not only in winning championships but also in making good player personnel decisions.
During their time in Boston, the Red Sox drafted Jon Lester, Dustin Pedroia, Clay Buchholz, Jonathan Papelbon, Anthony Rizzo, Ryan Lavarnway, Will Middlebrooks, Josh Reddick, Daniel Bard and Jacoby Ellsbury.
Epstein also made tactful short-term personnel decisions that brought the club’s first World Series Championship in 86 years, and another followed in 2007.
In early 2004, Tito Francona was named the manager, Big Papi was signed and Curt Schilling traded for in late 2003, the club traded for Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell in 2005 and brought Kevin Millar to Boston in late 2003. While every one of those players, except David Ortiz, are no longer with the team, and Tito is broadcasting for ESPN Sunday Night Baseball, they all were instrumental in breaking the Curse of the Bambino.
However, Epstein’s tenure as Boston GM was not all lollipops and rainbows.
You may have also recalled the last two years Epstein’s tenure as GM was chock full of disabling contracts—Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, John Lackey. But not having to compete financially with the likes of the New York Yankees in the National League nor serving a well-known manic fan base, along with having his confidant Hoyer back along his side, such large contractual decisions like those should not be of worry.
Epstein and Hoyer are also taking a different approach to building a team than what the Cubs have seen in recent years. They are using the model of the Tampa Bay Rays and Oakland Athletics to construct the team and organization while also utilizing the benefits of a large-market team.
They are relying on scouting and analytics to rebuild the franchise for sustained success. There will be trades and free-agent signings, but only those that can lead to long-term success. Not like the ones in the past that were made with short-term tunnel vision detrimental to the long-term.
Epstein and Hoyer have worked under the pressures to deliver a World Series title to a long suffering franchise and had been successful in doing so.
It is the synthesis of the proven track record of Wilken and Serra with the successes and vision of the new club leadership that exemplify the bright future that is held for the Chicago Cubs.