Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer face a difficult challenge. Good baseball minds have toiled for a century to bring a championship to Chicago. They have all failed.
But hope is not lost. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer are bringing their winning ways to Chicago. Here are 12 reasons why Epstein and Hoyer could bring a championship to the Cubs.
The Cubs' new front office has already shown something that has not been seen around Chicago baseball for a long time: confidence. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have a plan, and they are fulfilling it swiftly and unapologetically.
Theo Epstein wants an experienced manager. Ryne Sandberg was the fan favorite, but he did not fit into Epstein's plans. As unpopular as this move was, it shows sense, purpose and resolve.
When Jim Hendry assembled the Cubs 2008 team, he seemed to throw money at every big name available (Soriano, Fukudome, Piniella). It was not a carefully assembled team, and the Cubs are still paying the price for Hendry's hastiness.
Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer will put together a good team in the coming years, but it will also be a sensible team built for sustained production.
Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer are taking over a poor team, but not a worthless one. In their quest for contention, the Cubs already have a few key pieces in place. Matt Garza and Starlin Castro are excellent players to build around.
Both Garza and Castro are good, young players who have yet to realize their full potential. They are hugely talented, and their ability has already translated into on-field success. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer need to give them an environment in which they can truly excel.
Matt Garza and Starlin Castro, if given something to work with, can develop into two of the most dynamic and exciting stars in the Majors.
There are still some reminders of the wasted extravagance of the Jim Hendry era. But Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have arrived at precisely the right time. Aramis Ramirez, Derrek Lee and Kosuke Fukudome are already gone. Zambrano too, is likely out.
Alfonso Soriano is the worst contract on the team. The defensively challenged outfielder is still on the books until 2014. The Cubs might still be able to move him but will have to eat much of his contract.
Still, the Cubs are largely a blank canvas, which is precisely what Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer need. The Cubs' new front office needs room to set their plan into motion, and they have it.
The Cubs' farm system is not one of the best in baseball. That said, the Cubs farm system is also underrated. A handful of players could make an impact at the Major League Level.
Chris Carpenter and Trey McNutt have the tools to develop into good big league pitchers. Brett Jackson is a power hitter with enormous potential. Matt Szczur is a showcase player who, along with Starlin Castro, Darwin Barney and Tyler Colvin, will continue to help the Cubs become a threat on the base-paths and in the outfield.
The expertise of Jason McLeod should again help here. If these players are monitored carefully and continue to develop, the Cubs could have a formidable core of young talent on the field.
Jason McLeod has an excellent scouting record. McLeod helped bring Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, Clay Buchholz and Daniel Bard to the Red Sox. Homegrown impact players are extremely valuable—not only are they productive, but relatively cheap.
Further, homegrown talent is necessary to have any sort of postseason success. Even the richest and most extravagant powerhouses in baseball (New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies, Boston Red Sox) rely heavily on homegrown talent. In hiring Jason McLeod, Theo Epstein brought the Cubs one step closer to contention.
Jed Hoyer has demonstrated that he can put together a good team with little money. The 2010 Padres prove as much. The ability to spend money efficiently is extremely important; good contracts create more options and set up teams for consistent success.
Star players, because of high costs and lengthy contracts, are often risky to sign. Each signing needs to be evaluated carefully. The Cubs know this all too well. The bloated contracts of Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Zambrano and Kosuke Fukudome have been holding them back for years.
Jed Hoyer will oversee a smarter and more efficient era.
Theo Epstein has shown a propensity for making impact deals. Epstein's moves were a huge part of the Boston's success. David Ortiz, Curt Schilling, Josh Beckett, and to a lesser degree, Julio Lugo and Victor Martinez, were instrumental in establishing the Red Sox as a perennial contender. Adrian Gonzalez is not going to hurt them in the future either.
The Cubs are going to need productive acquisitions if they wish to make the World Series. Theo Epstein has shown he is generally very good at making them.
The Theo Epstein era Red Sox had a lot of star power. But Boston's championship teams had something else going for them as well, namely, outstanding role players. Kevin Millar, Mark Bellhorn, Bill Mueller and Mike Lowell might not be first-tier stars, but they all turned excellent seasons for the Red Sox.
Every championship team needs unlikely heroes. Players like Edgar Renteria, Cody Ross and most recently David Freese, have made all the difference. Stars can carry a team, but a baseball season is a long haul. A good team needs to be balanced and dangerous throughout.
Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have put together talented and deep championship teams. They were not flukes by any stretch of the imagination. The Cubs' new front office duo will undoubtedly bring this formula with them.
The Cubs' new front office will value player development and scouting. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have put together smart teams. But they will also need resources from Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts.
The Ricketts family has yet to really reveal exactly what type of owners they will be. The Cubs have cut payroll every year since the Ricketts took over. But is important to remember that they have not cut payroll stupidly and acquired some key players in Matt Garza and Marlon Byrd.
The Cubs also spent big on the most recent draft. These are promising indications. The Cubs suffered through a rare dip in attendance this year, so Tom Ricketts should know that a good team sells much better than a poor one. In all likelihood, Theo Epstein and company are going to get the resources they need to put together a winning squad.
The Cardinals are undeniably a well-engineered team. They will likely contend for much of the foreseeable future. That said, St. Louis is a flawed team.
The Cardinals have a middling bullpen and shaky defense. They are built around offense but will see a sizable decrease in production if Albert Pujols decides to go elsewhere. Further, Tony La Russa's retirement can only hurt the Cardinals. A good deal of St Louis' success came from their intelligent and resourceful coaching staff.
The Cardinals will be good but beatable if the Cubs can put together a powerful club of their own.
The Brewers are not likely to replicate their 2011 success. They have a decent core of starting pitchers, even if Yovani Gallardo, Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum do not quite match up to Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright and Jaime Garcia. Still, the Brewers' pitching is far from overwhelming. They finished seventh out of 15 in ERA last season.
Like the Cardinals, the Brewers are built around offense. If Prince Fielder decides to go elsewhere, and he likely will, the Brewers offense will suffer. They scored the fifth most runs in the National League last year and will go down from there. It is hard to see the Brewers establishing consistent dominance in the NL Central.
Theo Epstein is not the first person to be heralded as the genius who will finally break the curse. The Cubs have seen this kind of thing before—former GM Andy MacPhail won two Word Series titles with the Minnesota Twins before taking over the Cubs. He did not win in Chicago.
But something is legitimately different here. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer are uniquely qualified to end the Cubs' surreal drought. They have won in a large market city during a lengthy drought. And frankly, Theo Epstein's Boston teams were much better than any team Andy MacPhail put together (the 1987 champion Twins somehow gave up more runs than they scored).
The championship teams Theo Epstein put together were brilliantly constructed; they had offense, pitching, defense, and incredible depth. They were a dominating force.
It is going to take a few years, but Theo Epstein will construct a good team. Their farm system will be strong; Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod are proven architects. A consistently good team starts with people who can put the pieces together.
The Cubs are heading in the right direction and doing so with purpose and confidence.