For the past decade the Cubs have enjoyed a model of consistency within their Front Office. With Theo Epstein at the helm, along with his longtime partner in baseball ops, Jed Hoyer, the Cubs have long maintained one of the more respected Front Office’s in the game.
Even as the game has changed drastically over the past decade (just ask White Sox fans with regard to Tony La Russa’s decade-long absence from managing) the core of decision makers on the North Side has stayed consistent while mostly adapting to the game’s evolution. That consistency, coupled with a progressive/aggressive approach, not only allowed the team to end a 108-year curse, but also present the flexibility to reach the postseason in five of six seasons.
While it hasn’t always been perfect — you may recall the ridiculous non-story recently that Theo’s tenure has been a “failure” — and while the future is far from certain, it’s hard to be anything but satisfied with the decade of success achieved under Epstein and Co. Certainly, the lack of homegrown pitching is troubling, current budget constraints (a mixture of ownership decree and large contracts) are frustrating, and a top-heavy farm system isn’t ideal. And even if this upcoming offseason is entirely unpredictable at Wrigley, it remains true that this is the most successful run of baseball the Cubs storied franchise has ever had.
At long last, with Theo entering what essentially amounts to a lame-duck campaign, the consistency of this rather-successful Front Office might finally be disbanding:
Jon Morosi’s report that the Angels have interviewed Jason McLeod is an unsurprising reality. McLeod has been under consideration for GM vacancies in the past (San Francisco, San Diego, a baseball ops position in Minnesota), but he stayed with Chicago, in part because he wanted to see the team’s plan come to fruition. Clearly that gamble paid off in 2016, and with his promotion to VP of Player Personnel last year, it seemed the writing was on the wall he’d eventually be moving on. (For what it’s worth, the Angels have also sought permission to speak with Dan Kantrovitz about their GM vacancy, who took over drafting responsibilities for the Cubs upon McLeod’s promotion. He turned down the offer and remains in charge of the Cubs scouting department.)
While it’s natural for McLeod to eventually land his own GM gig — and, to be clear, that seems inevitable either this offseason or next — it illustrates a larger picture concerning the Cubs Front Office. Namely, the transition of power he has often spoken of is about more than just the next President.
Will Theo Stay Thru 2021?
Part of the fallout of Theo’s decade-long tenure decree is the reality that, as it comes to its known conclusion, the domino effect could start in earnest. That’s what happens when your Front Office is well respected, with key players other organizations would love to poach. The uncertainty of what comes next for the Cubs makes a jump to a different franchise all-the-more appealing, which is why I think McLeod’s interview is more than just smoke; change is going to happen for this Front Office regardless of what happens with Theo himself this offseason.
After the season ended, Theo used appropriate buzzwords concerning his future. A “transition” of leadership, keeping the “status quo”, expecting to be back in 2021, sure suggested the notion he’d finish out his contract. But he also didn’t close any doors about stepping down, or state emphatically he’d be at the helm in 2021. And with recent reports surfacing that Theo is “mulling” whether or not to step down this offseason, the already complicated offseason the Cubs are about to embark on becomes murkier still.
Little can be assumed right now: not about Theo’s ultimate decision for 2021, whether ownership slides Hoyer into the role of President or seeks new leadership from outside the organization, or what McLeod’s future might be. The fact that McLeod has interviewed for the Angels gig represents his readiness to move on, however.
McLeod’s departure now (as opposed to next offseason) would drastically alter the Cubs’ leadership makeup. Regardless of the outcome, it’s clear that the Front Office’s transition of power is already beginning to unfold.
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