The Cubs' very brief and highly disappointing playoff run ended with a 2-0 loss to the Miami Marlins on Friday afternoon and many questions must be answered before the 2021 season begins next spring.
No question is larger or more important to the future of the franchise than what happens to Theo Epstein, the team's president since 2011. Epstein will meet the media on Monday via Zoom from his Wrigley Field office.
Sources have confirmed to me that Epstein and Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts will meet next week to discuss the long-term plan for the baseball operations department, and as I said on the Kap and J-Hood morning show on ESPN 1000 in Chicago this week, I don’t see Epstein returning to run the Cubs baseball operations team when his contract expires next year.
Sources confirmed to me that while the status quo is most likely, one of the possible scenarios that will be discussed is Epstein exiting now rather than waiting to complete the final year of his contract, which runs through the end of the 2021 baseball season, if that better positions the Cubs for their future.
But the larger news is that it is virtually certain that Epstein will not seek to sign another deal to remain at the top of the Cubs baseball operations department. He was clear when he arrived in the fall of 2011 that after 10 years both the executive and the organization need change.
Ricketts and Epstein have a great relationship and will collaborate on planning a transition that is in the Cubs’ best interests. The two options that will be discussed include Epstein staying through the end of next season and helping transition the organization to a new team president. Or, Epstein exiting now and the club hiring a new head of baseball operations.
While the Ricketts family has not yet told current general manager Jed Hoyer that he would be the successor many in the organization including Epstein feel that he is ready to assume that responsibility. He is incredibly well liked and respected throughout the Cubs organization as well as throughout the rest of Major League Baseball. If he is indeed the successor to Epstein the transition would be very smooth.
Ricketts feels comfortable that the Cubs do have a plan to upgrade the roster and plan for the long term future of the franchise.
“I don’t feel that there is any time pressure or deadline for us to make this decision. I am very comfortable with Theo staying because he always puts the best interests of the Chicago Cubs ahead of his own,” Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts told me on Saturday morning.
Ricketts also said that no decision has been reached on Epstein’s future and that those discussions would begin next week.
“I can tell you that we were focused on a very challenging 2020 baseball season and we have not made any decisions about his future. I love Theo and we plan on working together on a transition for the Cubs whenever that time may be,” Ricketts told me.
As far as Epstein’s immediate future he is not necessarily expected to immediately join another franchise whenever his run in Chicago comes to an end. Whether that is in the next few weeks or a year from now is not entirely clear but those discussions should crystallize the situation very soon.
If Epstein does indeed leave sooner rather than later he will leave a franchise in much better shape than he found it and a franchise that has a World Series championship trophy proudly displayed in their Wrigleyville office building. The massive Cubs fan base should thank him a million times over for delivering what so many thought would never happen.