So just how much is a good general manager worth in baseball? We are about to find out.
By now, the news of Theo Epstein’s acceptance of a five-year deal with the Chicago Cubs has made its way around the block more times than a Kardashian chasing any second-tier athlete not wearing a wedding ring. Of course, the hurdle here is that Epstein is still under contract with Boston for another season, meaning that if the Cubs truly want him, they’ll have to compensate the Red Sox accordingly.
That brings me back to the first question. How much is a good general manager worth?
Well, for the Cubs, you just can’t put a price tag on that. For a team that has not won a World Series since 1908, let alone hasn’t even played in one since 1945, a blank check may well be in order. Epstein would be step in the right direction. He would immediately bring a sense of credibility to a front office that has lacked solid leadership for years and his ability to identify amateur talent would help to rebuild a farm system that has been lacking in top prospects for years.
And let’s remember, that Epstein likely won’t be alone. He’ll bring with him whomever the Red Sox will allow him to squeeze into his file box with his personal belongings. Epstein has always enjoyed having the brightest minds placed right beside him and moving to the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field won’t change that. The Cubs will be getting an entire team of little Theo’s as well.
All that remains is how big of a price tag the Red Sox want to place on him.
All indications are that Boston is asking for prospects while Chicago wants only to part with cash, but this fan has other thoughts. There should be more at stake here.
First off, Boston should not settle for prospects or cash alone. They need Major League talent that is ready to play now. And where Boston needs it most is the pitching staff. The Cubs have one in particular who knows the rigors of the AL East and would be an immediate boon to the staff; Matt Garza. Obviously, Chicago won’t throw him in for Epstein alone, but there are ways to get a deal done. Make the Garza acquisition a side deal contingency, one that sends John Lackey and some cash to offset some of his contract to Chicago for Garza. Sox immediately upgrade their pitching and get rid of a cancer both in the line-up and the clubhouse.
Secondly, Boston should see at least one prospect back in the deal. Of the names flouted, only right- center-fielder Brett Jackson is truly worth mentioning. Jackson put together a 20/20 season last year between Double and Triple-A, and would protect Boston against losing Ellsbury in two seasons.
For the Cubs, that sounds like a small price to pay for a young GM who is recognized at the top of his class and has a history of turning around an organization. Epstein won’t deliver immediate results, but he’ll make things fun in Chicago and he’ll do it within a season or two.
For their part, the Red Sox will surely miss Theo, but they’ll also be in good hands with Ben Cherington, Epstein’s assistant and top protégé still under Boston control. Of course, they could try to lure Brian Cashman from New York or Andrew Friedman from Tampa Bay, but money says they stay in house, especially with all of the upheaval currently underway.
So in the end, we come back to the question of just how much a good general manager is worth. It may be an arm and a leg, but they are an arm and a leg that they can afford to lose.