The Chicago Cubs announced Tuesday that Theo Epstein will step down as the team’s president of baseball operations. Epstein’s last day with the Cubs will be Friday. The Cubs announced that general manager Jed Hoyer will replace Epstein, whose five-year contract with the Cubs was set to expire following the 2021 season.
Epstein, 46, spent nine seasons with the Cubs and led the franchise to the 2016 World Series title — Chicago’s first in 108 years.
“For the rest of my life, I will cherish having been part of the great Chicago Cubs organization during this historic period,” Epstein said in a press release. “All of the things that have made this experience so special — the fans, the players, the managers and coaches, ownership, my front office colleagues, the uniqueness of the Wrigley experience, the history — make it so tough to leave the Cubs. But I believe this is the right decision for me even if it’s a difficult one. And now is the right time rather than a year from now.
“The organization faces a number of decisions this winter that carry long-term consequences; those types of decisions are best made by someone who will be here for a long period rather than just one more year. Jed has earned this opportunity and is absolutely the right person to take over this baseball operation at such an important time.”
At 46, Epstein is certainly able to commit to a new challenge in baseball (or elsewhere), but it appears that won’t happen until after 2021. According to MLB Network’s Jon Morosi, Epstein will take the 2021 Major League Baseball season off. He will not be pursuing the open general manager positions with the New York Mets or Philadelphia Phillies.
Epstein oversaw the Cubs’ top-to-bottom rebuild that resulted in Chicago earning that 2016 championship. He was integral in transforming the Cubs’ culture, as he did during his 10-year long stint with the Boston Red Sox prior to landing at Wrigley Field. He achieved a full turnaround for Boston as well. Epstein oversaw the Red Sox as they snapped their 86-year championship drought in 2004 and in 2007, when Boston won another ring.
When Epstein left the Red Sox he explained that the move was in part because of a philosophy he picked up from longtime 49ers coach Bill Walsh. Walsh believed that coaches and executives benefitted from a change of scenery every decade. In that sense, Epstein’s departure from the Cubs comes at the right time.
In a letter sent to friends, Epstein said that he plans to spend time with family and work with nonprofits during his time away from baseball, per ESPN’s Jeff Passan. “I do plan on having a third chapter leading a baseball organization someday, though I do not expect it to be next year,” Epstein wrote in the letter.
Former Marlins executive David Samson broke down the Epstein news on a bonus episode of Nothing Personal with David Samson. Listen below:
The Cubs finished the abbreviated 2020 season as NL Central champions with a 34-26 record, but were eliminated from the postseason, dropping both games of their best-of-three series against the Miami Marlins in the Wild Card Round. Since winning a championship in 2016, the Cubs have slowly regressed from contender status and have not won a postseason game since 2017. CBS Sports’ Matt Snyder explained why this year’s early playoff exit signals the end of the road for the Cubs’ core group that won the 2016 World Series.
Hoyer is Epstein’s longtime friend and colleague, in both Chicago and Boston and said he’s “thrilled” to lead the Cubs moving forward.
“I am thankful to the Ricketts family for bestowing me with the opportunity to lead the Cubs baseball operation,” Hoyer said in the release. “For the last nine years, I have worked alongside so many dedicated colleagues with one goal in mind — to build a team and an organization that makes Cubs fans proud and provides them with memories of a lifetime. I am thrilled that this leadership transition will provide continuity to a department that has had tremendous successes over the past six seasons. Ultimately, this transition is about the future, and I look forward to constantly pushing the Cubs to evolve and grow to ensure that there is sustained success at Wrigley Field.”