Theo Epstein might not be named to his new post with the Chicago Cubs until after the World Series, and at this point, perhaps that is for the best. The Cubs remain locked in negotiations with the Boston Red Sox over the poaching of Epstein, who has been GM in Boston since 2002.
Now the fun starts, though, because as it turns out, this might be much less a lateral move than anyone previously thought. Epstein would become the Cubs' president of baseball operations, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, and it sounds as though he will try to name a GM of his own within hours or days of finally being officially signed by Chicago.
This is the Epstein process, the system as he has built it in Boston. Epstein was the man who brought Bill James into the room; who built the biggest front offices in baseball, and watched a fistful of his own men move on to big-chair jobs of their own. Epstein wants a lot of input and a ton of brain power, and Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts has shown a willingness to get behind that sort of system.
Assuming, then, that the Cubs eventually acquire Epstein, it seems that he has his sights set on a few names around the league to fold into his new operation. Here are five guys who should be on his radar, whether they are or not.
Hoyer is the clear choice, the one whom reports already indicate Epstein is agitating to get. He became one of the co-general managers during the short interruption of Epstein's Boston tenure. He went on and became the GM of the San Diego Padres. He's young, he's savvy and he flat-out stole Cameron Maybin from the San Diego Padres. Reportedly, if Hoyer does come to the Cubs, assistant Josh Byrnes would take over in San Diego.
Byrnes is another Epstein alumnus, a Red Sox assistant who moved on to brief success as GM of the Arizona Diamondbacks before being ousted and reuniting with former colleague Hoyer as assistant GM in San Diego. It would be a mild surprise if the Padres actually let Hoyer go, and assuming they're too smart for that, Byrnes is a good alternative option.
Currently an assistant GM for the Atlanta Braves, Coppolella is a straight-shooting numbers guy with a sharp eye for talent. He has been a major part of building the terrific player-development system the Braves have in place, and he deserves serious consideration for some GM job. He would be great for a Cubs organization that has struggled to get the most out of talented minor-league parts the past few seasons.
Hunsicker is perhaps the most underrated front-office name in baseball. He had an excellent decade as GM of the Astros from 1995-2004, and has worked even more impressive magic alongside Andrew Friedman in Tampa Bay since joining that organization. Hunsicker is familiar with numbers and sabermetrics, but also versed in player-development theory and scouting wisdom. He is precisely the kind of voice Epstein would like to have in his ear, pulling his triggers.
Even working within a decidedly ill-run organization, Hahn catches the eye of many baseball people on a regular basis. He knows the numbers inside and out, is an analyst and objective evaluator at all times, and seems willing to change as fast as the game changes. He would be a major asset, especially with Epstein around to re-institutionalize Hahn in a smarter way than did Kenny Williams.