PITTSBURGH – Theo Epstein could be in position to reset the market for baseball executives as the Cubs potentially turn into a monster franchise.
But with one year left on his deal after this season, Epstein again confirmed that he hasn’t had any substantial talks with chairman Tom Ricketts about a long-term extension.
“Literally not even a thought in my mind,” Epstein said before Tuesday’s doubleheader showdown against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park. “I think it’s just something that we’ll probably pick up when we’re done playing, whenever that is.
“I have no concerns or worries about it whatsoever. Tom and I see things the same way. We know this is a beginning for this organization. We all want to see it through.”
While working within the franchise’s financial parameters, Epstein appreciates the way Ricketts lets him run the baseball-operations department without interference. Ricketts also has an interest in scouting and player development and a personal presence around the organization that does not go unnoticed by staffers.
Ricketts already extended president of business operations Crane Kenney – who is responsible for securing the team’s television future and overseeing the Wrigley Field renovations – through the 2019 season.
Andrew Friedman – another bright, young executive who views players as assets and still values old-school scouting – figures to be a reference point for Epstein. The Los Angeles Dodgers lured Friedman away from the Tampa Bay Rays last year with a reported five-year, $35 million contract.
Epstein doesn’t anticipate a major front-office shakeup, which would seemingly discount the possibility of Jason McLeod becoming a general manager somewhere else this offseason.
Epstein and McLeod have been tight since the early stages of their baseball careers, working for the San Diego Padres in the mid-1990s. McLeod – the senior vice president of scouting and player development – has been a strong voice for drafting first-round picks like Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber.
“We have a pretty tight-knit group,” Epstein said. “This is a great time to be a Chicago Cub, whether you’re in uniform or in the front office. I don’t really worry about losing people.
“But if we do, I think we have a really deep organization. There’s another layer ready to step up. We have some depth in the front office. We’re a great team in the front office. And I expect us to stay together for awhile.”
Epstein left the Boston Red Sox for a president’s title and a direct report to ownership in Chicago after an epic collapse at the end of the 2011 season. Those Red Sox of fried-chicken-and-beer fame had been 30 games over .500 on Sept. 3 – in second place in the American League East and nine games up on Joe Maddon’s Rays – and didn’t make the playoffs.
So while the postseason forecasts on Baseball Prospectus (98.4 percent) and FanGraphs (99.3 percent) projected the Cubs as locks before Tuesday’s doubleheader, Epstein said he isn’t working hard on the roster for a wild-card game yet.
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“After living through 2011, I don’t take anything for granted,” Epstein said. “I’m well aware of how momentum in September can take on a life all its own and effect the standings.
“It’s important to just keep focused on that day’s game, keep knocking out your wins, storing them and things will be OK if you just take care of your own business.”
After writing off three major-league seasons (286 losses), firing three managers (Mike Quade, Dale Sveum, Rick Renteria) and planning so much around the future, Epstein is going to try to sit back and enjoy the moment.
“The nucleus of the team is in place now and going to be together for awhile,” Epstein said. “It’s obviously a process of many years to try to build the organization into a position to where we can have the requisite talent and depth and makeup – and the right people – to try to compete and play your best baseball at the time when it matters most.
“We’re partway along in that journey. And then the cool part is you get to all be together and write the next chapter.”