While we wait with bated breath for word if the Boston Red Sox will allow the Cubs to speak to Theo Epstein about their general manager position, I'm wondering why the Cubs are not exploring a better candidate who they don't need permission to talk to: Tampa GM Andrew Friedman.
I know he doesn't have the rings, and that's what everyone in Chicago is clamoring for. But given what he has had to work with and taking away the bling, hasn't he done a better job than Theo?
The Rays beat out Boston this year to make the playoffs with a meager $42-million dollar payroll; about a quarter of what the Red Sox spend.
They have also won the division twice in the last four years, while the Red Sox have two division titles in the last 20. Of course neither Epstein or Friedman has been there nearly that long, but Theo has always had bank, while Friedman needs a loan from one.
Friedman has utilized the draft to build the team, and that is right up Cub owner Tom Ricketts's alley. He said he wanted to build a strong farm system. He has also been smart enough to take advantage of the system, allowing players to leave, and stockpiling high draft picks in return.
He has gotten as much as you can out of what he has to work with, but there comes a time when you need more.
While the Rays were the darlings of baseball for their unlikely comeback and accomplishing what they did on a shoestring budget, frustration is setting in in Tampa.
Owner Stuart Sternberg said as much in recent stories in both the St. Petersburg Times and on ESPN.com.
"I am frustrated this year," he said when talking about getting knocked out for the second straight season by Texas. "We're getting to the point where we don't control our own destiny. This is untenable as a model going forward."
What he's referring to is that despite the team's success on the field, they can't draw flies in their current ballpark. In Tuesday's playoff game, they drew only 28,229 fans, the lowest total in an MLB playoff game since 1981.
The future is not looking brighter. They have the worst stadium in baseball, and don't have money to build a new one. The area is not a baseball hotbed, with a lot of transplants and retired people.
The Rays always have to be right with the decisions they make, while the Red Sox can afford to blow a hundred million here and there without even feeling it.
When the owner seems to have given up hope, is there a reason for Friedman to want to stay in a hopeless situation? I know he's loyal, but there comes a time when you have to cut ties and this is that time.
In Chicago, instead of having to deal with the New York Yankees or the Red Sox, he will be with the big pocket team in the division and not the "Little Sisters of the Poor" anymore.
Can you imagine what he can accomplish with the Cubs payroll in a much weaker division?
Of course, he will have to deal with all the talk of the curse, but hasn't that just been really bad ownership and management for those 103 years, with just a little bad luck mixed in?
Epstein, on the other hand, is used to curses, having slayed the "Curse of the Bambino," but that's nothing compared to the goat.
He has a little Jim Hendry in him, throwing around big-money contracts with not a lot in return, and signing the likes of John Lackey, Edgar Renteria, Julio Lugo, Daisuke Matsuzaka, and Carl Crawford this year, to name a few.
But he also picked up David Ortiz and traded for Adrian Gonzalez this past offseason. He drafted and developed mainstays of the team in Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jon Lester, and Jason Papelbon.
Since he bought the Cubs, Tom Ricketts has aspired to model them after the Red Sox, and that's why he has Epstein in his sights to take over the baseball side of the organization. He can't afford to be short-sighted.
The Cubs will probably have to pay some sort of bounty to pry him from Boston, while Friedman won't cost them anything.
Andrew Friedman is the best choice for the job. I just wish Tom Ricketts knew that.
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