7 Notable Moves That Shaped Theo Epstein Era With Chicago Cubs
Chicago Cubs: Events That Have Shaped The Theo Epstein Era
When Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer took over as the new faces of the Cubs' front office in the offseason between the 2011 and 2012 seasons, one thing was clear: change was afoot. Both made it clear from the start that this team was going to be in a rebuilding stage and that would require a lot of patience on the side of the fans. For a fanbase that has waited more than a century since their last World Series, another couple years shouldn't be too bad.
The model these two adopted was building the team from the ground up. By drafting well, signing solid international talent and signing players in the offseason that they believe they can trade for prospects at the deadline, this duo believed they could turn the Cubs around in a reasonable amount of time. Well, in just two short years, it seems like this formula is working. The Cubs have gone from one of the worst farm systems in baseball to the second-best behind only the Minnesota Twins.
While the major league product likely won't be ready to compete until at least 2015, this shows how well Epstein and Hoyer have turned around the franchise already. Even though this happened quickly, it's not like it happened overnight. Several moves of different kinds went into the team's turnaround in the farm system and in the culture, and each one will help shape what the Cubs become in the near future.
2014 should be a step forward for the Cubs, even if they're not competing for the playoffs. It should be a sign of improvement as their prospects come up and show what they can do in the future when the club does figure to be competing. Going from where they were in late 2011 to where they are now required a lot of planning and a lot of moves. Here are some of the moves that have helped shape the first few years of the Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer era in Chicago.
7. Trade for Anthony Rizzo
The first big move that the new regime made was trading for first baseman Anthony Rizzo. In a big move, Rizzo and pitcher Zach Cates came over from the Padres in exchange for pitcher Andrew Cashner and outfielder Kyung-Min Na. Clearly coveted by the Cubs' front office, he spent time with each of the three teams that Hoyer has been in the front office for.
6. Drafting Albert Almora
The very first draft pick of the new regime hasn't disappointed so far. Epstein and Hoyer took Almora with the No. 6 overall pick in the 2012 MLB Draft, and he has proven to be worthy of that pick so far. In each of his two minor league seasons, he has batted .321 and .329 respectively and has drawn praise for his leadership skills, which he hopes to transfer over once he joins the big league squad.
5. Signing Jorge Soler to 9-Year Contract
In June of 2012, the Cubs signed Cuban outfielder Jorge Soler to a nine-year, $30 million contract. He hasn't played in the major leagues in his career yet, but he could end up being worth every penny. Drawing comparisons to Yasiel Puig but with a higher upside, Soler has some of the most raw power in all of minor league baseball and should be ready to join the Cubs in 2015 if he can stay healthy.
4. Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo Signed to Long-Term Extensions
The Cubs have taken an approach that the Atlanta Braves have duplicated this offseason where they sign promising young players to contracts that they're technically not worth yet but hope they will be eventually. Essentially, if the player lives up to their potential then it's a great signing for the team, and if not, then not so much. They signed cornerstones Castro and Rizzo to deals like this. Castro got seven years and $60 million while Rizzo got seven years and $41 million.
3. Drafting Kris Bryant
Anytime a player is drafted No. 2 overall in the MLB Draft, you know he's special. However, Kris Bryant could be a once-in-a-generation talent. The Cubs took him in the first round of the 2013 MLB draft after he led all of college baseball with 31 home runs. He went on to tear up minor league pitching and win the Arizona Fall League MVP award. In his first ever spring training at bat, he hit a 420 foot home run to straightaway center field. Bryant is on the fast track to the major leagues.
2. Trading for Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop
In what could prove to be one of the bigger trade steals in recent memory for the Cubs, the North Siders sent pitcher Scott Feldman and catcher Steve Clevenger to the Orioles in exchange for starting pitcher Jake Arrieta and reliever Pedro Strop along with international signing money. This trade netted them Arrieta, who could be a solid back end starter for them if he can stay healthy, and Strop, who showed last season he could be the setup man or closer of the future in the Cubs' bullpen.
1. Trading Matt Garza to The Rangers
It seemed inevitable that the Cubs would trade their No. 2 starter Matt Garza at some point, and when they did, boy was the price right. They ended up trading Garza to the Rangers for great package of players that included infielder Mike Olt and pitchers C.J. Edwards and Justin Grimm. Olt could be the team's Opening Day third baseman this season, Grimm already contributed at the major league level a season ago and Edwards is now the team's top starting pitching prospect.