Archive | October, 2011

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Cubs Exercise Aramis Ramirez Club Option for 2012 – Wrigley Field 10/31/11

Posted on 31 October 2011 by Lou

The Cubs have exercised the $16 million club option for Aramis Ramirez for the 2012 MLB season.  Aramis Ramirez has already notified the Cubs that he plans to entertain free agent offers for the first time in his career, so the move was more of a smart procedural move by Theo & Co.  The Cubs either had to pick up the option or buy Ramirez out for $2 million.  By exercising the option, the Cubs would have had to offer Ramirez arbitration.  But Ramirez has chosen to opt out of the option and seek a long-term deal from another team.  The move saves the Cubs $2 million and also brings them a 2nd round pick in the 2012 draft from the team who signs Ramirez in free agency.  The wheels to re-build the organization from the ground up are already churning.

Ramirez’s agent Paul Kinzer had this to say about Ramirez’s departure from Chicago: “We are very sorry that this era is coming to the end for Aramis and the Cubs.  He loves Chicago and the fans.  They’ve been great to him, but at this point it’s better that we check out the market and address free agency… At this point, Aramis is looking for a multiyear deal and looking forward to being a free agent for the first time in his career.”

Ramirez hit only .241 in 2010 due to injuries, but he bounced back with a solid 2011 campaign.  He led the Cubs with his 93 RBI’s, .871 OPS and extra-base hits. and he was just one point behind Starlin Castro’s team-leading .307 batting average.

Now it’s up to Theo & Co. to get creative with the Cubs 3rd base hole for next year.  Can’t wait to see these guys in action…

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Hoyer, McLeod Set To Join Cubs Front Office – Wrigley Field 10/28/11

Posted on 28 October 2011 by Lou

The Cubs plan to hire Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod to their front office to join Team President Theo Epstein.  The trio worked together in the organization during the successful run from 2004-2008 when the Red Sox won 2 World Series titles.  Since both executives are under contract with the San Diego Padres, the Cubs will send a player to be named later as compensation for the deal.

Jed Hoyer will serve as Executive Vice President / General Manager (alongside) Theo Epstein.  McLeod will serve as the head of scouting and player development.  The Cubs just gave Oneri Fleita a new 4-year contract as the director of player development, so he will report to McLeod.  Current scouting director Tim Wilken will also report to McLeod.  Fleita and Wilken have excellent reputations thoughout all of baseball, so having 5 top-notch executives in one front office makes the Cubs a very formidable team “behind the scenes”.

The Cubs will hold a press conference on Monday to make the hirings official.  The rumor is that Randy Bush – who has been serving as the team’s interim GM since Jim Hendry’s firing this summer – will no longer serve in any capacity for the Cubs in the future.

The pieces keep falling into place.  Now that the World Series is almost over, it will be time for Theo, Jed & Co. to get moving on formulating a game plan for what they want to do with Manager Mike Quade and free agents like Aramis Ramirez, Ryan Dempster and Carlos Pena.  The front office will also have to decide what to do with Carlos Zambrano and Alfonso Soriano.

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Will Theo Epstein Keep Manager Mike Quade? Wrigley Field 10/26/11

Posted on 26 October 2011 by Lou

Will new President Theo Epstein keep Manager Mike Quade in the mix in 2012?  It is a great question and Epstein didn’t show his hand during several radio station interviews this morning, including an interview with Waddle and Silvy on ESPN Radio 1000 Chicago.  Epstein had this to say about the Cubs current manager who still has 1 year left on his contract through the 2012 MLB season: “I’ve already had a couple of nice phone conversations with Mike Quade.  We have plans to meet in person sometime over the next week… Mike seems like a great guy and he has developed a great reputation over many decades in the game.  I look forward to sitting down with him in person as a first step, sharing with him my vision for the organization. I’d like to hear his vision for the organization.”

It’s kind of a difficult situation for both Epstein and Quade.  Let’s face it, the Cubs are not going to be good in 2012, even with Theo at the helm.  So if Epstein fires Quade and brings in a new manager (say Ryne Sandberg), when the Cubs have another awful start to the season (which they likely will), you’d hate to have the fan base start questioning Epstein and the new manager right off the bat.  By leaving Quade in place, when the Cubs start bad, you can always blame Quade and make a move to switch managers mid-season.  That new manager can either be an interim manager to finish the season or the guy you want to go to to lead the team in the future.  The one “X” factor is what if the Cubs actually have a decent season – then what do you do with Quade.  But I guess I’d rather have it that way.  It doesn’t mean you have to stick with Quade after the 2012 MLB season.  It just means you bring in someone else who will raise the bar even higher for years to come (similar to what the Blackhawks did when they fired Dennis Savard after a few games at the start of the 2009-2010 NHL season and brought in Joel Quinneville who eventually led the Hawks to the Stanley Cup Trophy later that season).

In any event, we should know pretty soon whether or not Quade will be back – we’ll keep you posted…

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Cubs Introduce Theo Epstein as President of Baseball Operations – Wrigley Field 10/25/11

Posted on 25 October 2011 by Lou

Theo Epstein is the Cubs new “savior” – sort of.  Epstein will serve as the Cubs President of Baseball Operations under a 5-year deal that will pay him just under $20 million.  Theo brought the Red Sox 2 World Series titles during his tenure as Red Sox GM and Tom Ricketts and Cubs fans all over the world hope that he do the same for the north siders.  Theo is clearly talented and he gets it, having experienced the same pain and agony that Cubs fans have felt for 103 years and counting.  Theo said all the right things during his Tuesday press conference – here are a few snippets of some great lines from the day:

“To me, baseball is better with tradition, baseball is better with history, baseball is better with fans who care, baseball is better in ballparks like this, baseball is better during the day. And baseball is, best of all, when you win.”

“I firmly believe that we can preserve the things that make the Cubs so special and over time build a consistent winner, a team that will be playing baseball in October consistently and a team that will ultimately win the World Series.”

“I’ve waited a few weeks to say this, but it truly feels great to be a Cub today.”

“I don’t believe in curses, (and) I guess I played a small part in proving they don’t exist, from a baseball standpoint.  I do think we can be honest and upfront that certain organizations haven’t gotten the job done. That’s the approach we took in Boston. We identified certain things that we hadn’t been doing well, that might have gotten in the way of a World Series, and eradicated them. That’s what we’ll do here.”

And when asked why he thinks he can bring a championship to the Cubs even though no one else has been able to do that for 100+ years, you have to love his confidence, focus and tenacity:  “When I got to Boston they hadn’t won in 86 years. We didn’t run from that challenge. We embraced it.  We decided the way to attack it was to build the best baseball operation that we could, to try to establish a winning culture, to work as hard as possible and to bring in players who care more about each other and more about winning than the people around them thought or the external expectations, the external mindset. That’s something that is going to be important to us here as well.  We’re going to build the best baseball operation we can. We’re going to change the culture. Our players are going to change the culture along with us in the major league clubhouse. We’re going to make building a foundation for sustained success a priority. That will lead to playing October baseball more often than not. Once you get in in October there’s a legitimate chance to win the World Series.”

San Diego Padres GM Jed Hoyer and Assistant GM Jason McLeod have also been in Chicago the last 3 days working out their deals and ESPN’s Bruce Levine anticipates that we will have an announcement on their hires within the week.

Gotta love it – obviously there are NO guarantees, but when you put the right people in charge, and those people know how to put the right pieces together, you have a great chance to succeed year in and year out.  It may take 2, 3 or even 5 years, but if they do build another “powerhouse” organization in Chicago with a team that wins every season and with a team that competes for the post-season each and every season, Cubs fans will have a lot to cheer about.  And who knows, maybe they’ll even get to hoist that World Series trophy at Wrigley Field…

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It’s Official – Tom Ricketts Hires Theo Epstein as President of Baseball Operations – Wrigley Field 10/22/11

Posted on 22 October 2011 by Lou

It’s official – Tom Ricketts and the Cubs have hired Theo Epstein as their new President of Baseball Operations.  MLB Commissioner Bud Selig convinced the teams to make the announcement on Tuesday (a World Series off day) and finalize the compensation to allow Epstein out of his last year as Red Sox GM at a later date.  After aiming “high” by asking for Starlin Castro and then Matt Garza, and then asking the Cubs to take on the remaining 3 years of John Lackey’s $82.5 contract, the Red Sox agreed to settle for “minor league prospects” as compensation. The Red Sox and Cubs spent a week haggling over players until they agreed upon a process to select the players to be traded from the Cubs to the Red Sox to complete the deal.  What is known is that the Cubs top 3 prospects – Brett Jackson, Trey McNutt and Matt Szczur will not be part of the deal.

The Cubs have scheduled a press conference for  Tuesday to make the announcement.  After the World Series ends, the Cubs will then announce that San Diego Padres GM Jed Hoyer will come to the Cubs to serve as GM under Epstein.  Padres Assistant GM Jason McLeod – a top scout under Epstein and  Hoyer with the Red Sox – will also re-unite with the duo in Chicago and serve as Assistant GM to Hoyer.

This is pretty incredible – the Cubs who have had one of the smallest baseball executive offices in all of baseball with GM Jim Hendry and Assistant GM Randy Bush will now become one of the premiere offices in all of baseball.  These guys all have a proven track record, so let’s hope that they can get it done on the North Side in the next few years.

Good work Tom – let’s hope we see some immediate improvement over the next few seasons…

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Is No News Good News – Still Waiting for Completion of Epstein Hire? – Wrigley Field 10/21/11

Posted on 21 October 2011 by Lou

We’re still waiting to hear that the Cubs and Red Sox have agreed upon the “compensation issue” to complete the Cubs hiring of Red Sox GM Theo Epstein as their new President of Baseball Operations.  We all thought it would be today – a World Series off-day – but it looks like it is going to drag on into next week.  We’re not sure if the teams have agreed upon the Cubs prospects to be dealt to the Red Sox in exchange for the Red Sox releasing Epstein from the final year of his contract and that those players are now undergoing physicals.  Or if the teams are still holding firm on who they want involved in the deal.  This is getting a little ridiculous.  Each side is losing bargaining position the longer this drags out, so they just need to get it done.

Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig has even offered his “services” to step in and mediate the compensation.  Gimme a break.

We do know that the deal will happen at some point this year.  No cash compensation will go to the Red Sox – it will be minor league prospects.

Following the confirmation of the Epstein hire, it is now even more clear that the Cubs will then hire San Diego Padres GM Jed Hoyer as the Cubs GM under Epstein.  And it has also been reported that Padres Assistant GM Jason McLeod will also come over from the Padres to the Cubs.  Hoyer served as Epstein’s Assistant GM with the Red Sox and McLeod served as a scout for the Red Sox during that tenure as well.

The last piece of the Red Sox puzzle could be whether or not Red Sox management allow Epstein to take special assistant Dave Finley with him to Chicago.  Epstein has a high regard and great working relationship with Finley and would like to bring him to Chicago.

We’ll keep you posted, but it looks like we’re heading into a 3rd week of negotiations…

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Cubs Set To Hire Theo Epstein as President & Jed Hoyer as GM – Wrigley Field 10/20/11

Posted on 20 October 2011 by Lou

The Cubs are set to hire Theo Epstein as President of Baseball Operations and then Jed Hoyer as General Manager.  Supposedly all the details have been agreed upon and now it’s just a matter of waiting for a World Series off-day for the teams to publicly make the announce on Friday.  Cash will not be part of the deal, but it looks like the Cubs will send one or more prospects to the Red Sox for the ability to hire Theo.  The prospects till not be any of the Cubs top prospects – Brett Jackson, Trey McNutt or Matt Szczur.

The Cubs will not owe any compensation to the San Diego Padres to hire their GM away from San Diego.  The Padres are ready to promote their senior VP of baseball operations Josh Byrnes into the role currently held by Hoyer.

Now it looks like Tom Ricketts got his main man and also pulled off another coup by landing Hoyer in the process as well.  The two-headed Epstein-Hoyer monster is sure to make Cubs fans very very happy.  I’m sure we’ll have a lot more to report on Friday morning – we’ll keep you posted…

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Latest on Theo – Red Sox Wanted Matt Garza?! Wrigley Field 10/17/11

Posted on 17 October 2011 by Lou

The Cubs and Red Sox are still trying to work out the compensation that will allow the Cubs to hire Theo Epstein as their new General Manager.  While things have been mostly quiet on the front, it did come out over the weekend that the Red Sox initially requested Cubs starting pitcher Matt Garza in the deal.  Good luck with that one John Henry.  What a joke.  I hope Tom Ricketts laughed in their faces when they threw Garza’s name out there, just as he should do if the Red Sox throw out the Cubs top prospect – Brett Jackson – as the player who needs to move if the Cubs want to complete the deal.

This is turning into a complete charade, as it appears that Red Sox management is being completely unreasonable.  If you knew you would only let Theo go if the other team gave you a top major league player or a top prospect, then you should have made that clear when you granted the other team position to talk to your GM.  If you really wanted your GM there long-term (or at least for the final year of his contract), then you should not have even granted another team the right to speak to Theo.

Red Sox management is making this way more difficult than it needs to be and I hope Ricketts holds his ground before succumbing to the Red Sox egregious demands.  At this point, the last thing that the Red Sox want to do is bring Theo back, so they are in just as a tough position as the Cubs are.  After all the things John Henry has said the last 2 weeks, can you really see Theo serving out his final year as Red Sox GM?  No way.  If that happened, the Red Sox would probably have to pay Theo the value of his final year PLUS the $3.5 million conclusion bonus just to sit on the sideline.  I can’t see them trusting Theo enough to play a major role in selecting the Red Sox next manager and then making major player decisions which will affect the Red Sox organization for the next several years.

It’s clear that both Red Sox management and the Ricketts family will have to “bend” a little in order to get this deal done.  Ricketts wants Theo to turn his bad club around and the Red Sox want Theo out of their skin so they can go onto the next phase with a new GM and a new manager.  Now they just need to take a step back, realize what is at stake and come up with a minor league prospect who can make both sides save face.  I know that’s tough to swallow for millionaires with insane egos who are used to getting what they want.  But if they look at the alternatives at this point of the negotiations, I think they’ll be able to see which is the better way to proceed.

We’ll keep you posted as soon as anything goes”official” before the start of the World Series on Wednesday…

 

 

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What’s the Hold Up – Cubs/Epstein/Red Sox On Hold?!?! – Wrigley Field 10/14/11

Posted on 14 October 2011 by Lou

Uh-oh.  Could the Theo Epstein to Cubs “Trade” fall through as Cubs and Red Sox brass duke it out over the 37-year old GM?  What a disaster?!

Supposedly, the Cubs and Red Sox are still working out the “compensation” for bringing Theo Epstein to Chicago to take over baseball operations for the Cubs.  It’s not clear whether the “compensation” will be cash only or a combination of cash and players, but we do know that Tom Ricketts has provided a list of prospects to his senior scouting team to determine which players, if any, they would be willing to part with.  Another glitch has been whether or not the Red Sox will refuse Theo to bring any Red Sox “staffers” with him to Chicago.  When Jed Hoyer left the Red Sox in 2009 to take over the San Diego Padres GM job, Red Sox management allowed Hoyer to take 2 senior staffers with him.  But rumors have it that the Red Sox management is really being stubborn about allowing a similar precedent with Theo.  Could that block a deal.  Maybe if the Cubs part with the right prospect or 2, then maybe the Red Sox will relent on their personnel stance and allow Theo to take one or top executives with him.  But right now it is all still up in the air.

Another issue is the fact that once the World Series starts on Wednesday, October 19th, MLB prohibits teams from making announcements regarding their organizations.  That means if the Cubs/Red Sox can’t agree on a deal by Tuesday, they would have to wait until after the World Series ends to make an official public announcement about the Epstein “trade”.  Neither team wants that.  The Red Sox need to hire a new GM and Manager.  The Cubs need to announce the hiring of their “savior” in order to appease their fan base when they send out 2012 season ticket invoices to their “loyal fan base” who have had to endure 2 of the worst seasons in Cubs history in 2010 and 2011 – and that’s saying a LOT for a team that hasn’t won a World Series title in over 100 years.

All these things being said, I can’t see Theo going back to Boston to fulfill his obligations under the last year of his contract at this point.  He clearly has some issues with the team’s style right now and was clearly enamored by a chance to be in complete control over the baseball operations of a major league team.  The Red Sox were clearly willing to let him go.  The Red Sox could have prevented Theo from even talking with the Cubs, but they didn’t.  Statements released by Red Sox Owner John Henry sure seem to indicate that Theo will be the Cubs President/GM very soon – “I would love to have Theo back.. That was my hope.  That would have been my hope. But you don’t always get what you want. I did everything I could personally, and so did Tom and Larry, to make that happen. The fact is that being general manager in Boston, being manager in Boston, is a terrifically tough job.”  So it seems like the Red Sox have come to grips that Theo is on his way out, and now it’s time for Cubs management and Red Sox management to put their egos aside and agree to some “reasonable” compensation to finalize this deal ASAP. That is the right thing to do for both teams to bring some closure to a deal that could end up being good for both sides – how about a Cubs-Red Sox World Series in 2013 or 2014?

This should be interesting and we’ll keep you posted as soon as anything official is announced.

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Ricketts, Cubs Lure Theo Away From Red Sox, Beantown – “Year One” Begins For 3rd Straight Year Under Ricketts Regime – Wrigley Field 10/12/11

Posted on 12 October 2011 by Lou

It’s time to usher in “Year One” for the 3rd straight year under the Ricketts Regime as the Cubs lure GM Theo Epstein away from the Boston Red Sox.  While it still isn’t official, all sources indicate that a deal will be announced any second now.  “Year One” in 2010 was the 1st full season where the Ricketts Family actually owned the Cubs.  “Year One” in 2011 was the first full season with new Manager Mike Quade at the helm.  And “Year One” in 2012 will be the 1st full year in which Theo Epstein will be the Cubs GM. Ah — gotta love to be able to spin things anyway you want to…

Theo will be the Cubs new General Manager and at the end of the day, will likely also serve as the Cubs’ President of Baseball Operations (hopefully that title signals the end of Crane Kenney’s role as “president” as he quietly glided around the “friendly confines” of Wrigley Field taking money from the organization and doing absolutely nothing positive in the role; but I digress).  Tom Ricketts identified Theo Epstein as the man that he wanted to get and it looks like he is going to turn over the keys to the car to the 37-year old Boston native.

There are certainly a lot of details to be ironed out.  Here’s what we know:

Deal Terms — 5 Years, $15 million.  The Cubs will also pay Theo $3.5 million to cover the conclusion bonus that Theo would have earned if he served out his term as Red Sox GM through the 2012 MLB season.

The Cubs and Red Sox are also negotiating compensation to be paid to the Red Sox for allowing the Cubs to pluck Theo from the Red Sox organization since he still had 1-year left on his deal.  While the Red Sox have allegedly asked for a high level prospect, it appears that MLB and the Cubs have issues with that request.  In the end, the Cubs will probably have to pay some cash to the Red Sox to get the deal done.

The Red Sox are also likely to impose a restriction on whom Theo can “recruit” from the Red Sox organization to bring to the Cubs.  Theo may have to obtain the Red Sox consent before he can hire someone else away.

And while the deal still could potentially fall through IF the two sides can’t agree on compensation or some of these ancillary issues, I can’t imagine Theo going back to Boston now.  And since the Red Sox brass – John Henry, Tom Werner, Larry Lucchino – did not prevent Theo from speaking with the Cubs as was within their right – it’s pretty clear that they were primed and ready to part ways with the young GM despite the success that he brought to the organization.

Here’s a quick capsule of Theo’s time in Boston — Theo took over the Red Sox after the conclusion of the 2002 MLB season as an up-and-coming 28-year old GM.  In his 1st year behind the helms, the Red Sox took the Yankees to the brink of elimination in Game 7 of the ALCS before blowing an 8th inning lead which allowed the Yankees to keep the Red Sox out of the World Series and prolong their 86-year championship drought.  The next year, however, Epstein and the Red Sox made baseball history by coming back from a 3-0 hole against the Yankees in the ALCS and advancing to the World Series for the 1st time since 1986.  A 4-0 sweep over the St. Louis Cardinals brought that elusive title to Beantown.  The Red Sox won another World Series under Theo in 2007 and the team advanced to the post-season in  6 of his 9 seasons in Boston.  He is a proven winner and now takes on the challenge to break the Cubs 100+ year championship drought.  If he does that, we will go down as one of the greatest GM’s of all time in any professional sport.

Good work Tom – after bumbling around for 2 years, you really seem to have your act together now.  My biggest wish was for you to actually fire Jim Hendry even though he still has 1 year left on his deal.  When you announced that in August, I started to have some faith again.  Now you’re truly showing that you want to win and that you’re going to do whatever it takes to bring a championship to the north side.  While there are never any guarantees, at least you are putting yourself in a position to succeed with this hire.  Congrats!

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