Theo Epstein Changing The Way Teams Are Built


There is a revolution going on in baseball, and teams are looking at the Chicago Cubs. Theo Epstein has gone against the grain in trying to build a winning team, and is now he is seeing some of the results.

Chicago Cubs
Chicago Cubs /

Chicago Cubs

There is a revolution going on in MLB. You may not notice it right away, but it is happening. This revolution is being led by Chicago Cubs team president Theo Epstein.

For decades, there was an offensive explosion. Home runs were going out at an amazing pace, and hitting was just phenomenal.

Of course, a part of the reason why offenses were so good was because the players were enhanced medically.

The answer to all the offense (besides tougher testing) was to find pitching. Get as many arms as you can to counteract the offense.

Now, teams are dominating through pitching. Look at the 2005 Chicago White Sox. Their pitching led them to their World Series. They were in the top ten in every pitching category, and led in ERA (3.61), complete games (9) and saves (54).

You saw the same with the 2008 Philadelphia Phillies and the 2012 San Francisco Giants.

Now, however, things are changing. Epstein built his team by drafting position players. He now has one of the top young offensive talent in all of baseball.

Last season, Epstein had Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. The Oakland Athletics came calling, looking for pitching. There was still hope that Samardzija would re-sign with the Cubs, and Hammel was pitching well. That was pretty good pitching, but the Cubs would need more.

Instead of looking to add pitching, Epstein went ahead and dealt both pitchers when the Athletics offered shortstop prospect Addison Russell.

Now, Russell is one of the youngest players in baseball, starting at second base for the Cubs. Oh, and Hammel is back in Chicago.

The Cubs now have a situation where he has a plethora of offense, and teams are going to him to look for some. NOW he can concentrate on acquiring pitching to complete the building.

Epstein’s blueprint has not been lost on other front offices. Epstein’s former team, the Boston Red Sox, spent this past offseason loading up on offense. They spent their money in the winter on Hanley Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval and Rusney Castillo, even with a need at pitching.

One key to the build differed greatly from the old Cubs regimes was what type of position players they chose.

The previous Cubs front offices would go into the free agency market and sign big-name players. Some would do well for a couple of years, some never did well. What happened with that process, though, was that eventually the Cubs were stuck with old players with big contracts that couldn’t be moved. Much like the situation the current Phillies are in right now.

Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer, decided to go young. They built this team through the draft. “It’s hard to find bats, but it’s even harder to find them in free agency,” Hoyer says. “Our thought was, let’s be aggressive and build our offense and build our lineup for a long time.”

Now the Cubs are building a really good, young  offense, and they have a talent-rich roster with players like Starlin Castro, Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Russell, and they are under club control for a good time to come. There are other players such as Javier Baez, Arismendy Alcantara, Kyle Schwarber and Albert Almora.

The Chicago Cubs have one of the top minor league systems in baseball now, and have more young talent than they can use. Some of these prospects will be used as trade bait for teams looking to get young, and can give the Cubs the pitching they need to get over the top (yes, I’m looking at you Philadelphia with Cole Hamels).

Professional sports are run with copycats, so expect a lot of teams to start using the same plan Theo Epstein is using in Chicago. Both the Cubs and Red Sox now have a surplus in bats to work with on improving their teams.

Other teams are noticing. As one general manager noted to Buster Olney, “Boston’s lineup is a joke,” a rival general manager told me, meaning that as a compliment, “and if you were picking a team to win multiple World Series in the immediate future, you’d pick the Cubs. They can be that good.”

Next: Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo Give Chicago Cubs Great One-Two Punch

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