There was a news conference in Chicago on Monday that may have had some relevance to the Phillies and their search for a new head of baseball operations.
Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein, breaker of World Series curses in two of the game’s biggest markets, told reporters that it was likely he'll remain with the club through the 2021 season, the last year of his contract.
“I think the status quo is the most likely outcome,” said Epstein, who, according to NBC Sports Chicago and other outlets, will meet with Cubs ownership sometime this week to discuss the club and his future.
Epstein is not likely to pursue a contract extension with the Cubs. He has been with the team for nine seasons and led a rebuild that resulted in the team breaking a 108-year drought and winning the World Series in 2016.
The Phillies are seeking a leader of baseball operations after general manager Matt Klentak’s departure from the role last week. Klentak’s assistant, Ned Rice, is filling the role on an interim basis but is not considered a candidate for the permanent position. Rice is overseen by club president Andy MacPhail.
Owner John Middleton on Saturday did not put a firm timetable on having a new leader of baseball operations in place. While he said the position could be filled in a month or two, he also acknowledged that he was prepared to have Rice fill the role throughout the 2021 season. MacPhail’s contract runs out after the 2021 season.
It’s possible that Middleton could ultimately restructure the team’s baseball hierarchy and hire a president of baseball operations and let that person select his own general manager. By setting a flexible timetable, Middleton can buy some time, see where the COVID-19 pandemic goes, and wait for the right candidate to emerge for the Phillies’ position.
Would Epstein be worth waiting for? Absolutely. He’s won World Series in Boston and Chicago and is probably already a slam dunk for the Hall of Fame.
Epstein would certainly require a president’s title to come to Philadelphia and that likely would not be an issue. The money could be a different story as he reportedly makes $10 million per season with the Cubs, and could seek an ownership stake in his next venture.
Nonetheless, the timing of his expiration date in Chicago, coupled with the Phillies’ flexible timetable for hiring a new head of baseball, make him a name worth watching.
For more on this potential scenario, check out our latest Phillies Talk podcast.