Cubs tab Hoyer as GM
An announcement about the hiring of Jed Hoyer as the team's general manager under Epstein was originally expected after the World Series ended, but the process was sped up a bit. The team announced on Tuesday that Hoyer -- and Jason McLeod, who will serve as senior vice president in charge of scouting and player development -- will officially come over from the Padres to serve for the Cubs.
"If we bring in someone as a general manager, it will be because there's someone who I think is one of the best and one of the brightest in the game and someone who can make a real impact on the Cubs," Epstein said earlier on Tuesday. "We have a ton of work to do."
Hoyer is to run the Major League team on a day-to-day basis, which would free Epstein to deal with other baseball operations matters, such as the new Spring Training facility and the new academy in the Dominican Republic.
What about the curse?
By winning the World Series in 2004 with the Red Sox, Epstein and Co. ended Boston's 86-year "Curse of the Bambino." The Cubs have their own "curse of the billy goat," and it's now been 103 years since the team won the World Series.
"I don't believe in curses, and I guess I played a small part in proving they don't exist from a baseball standpoint," Epstein said. "I do believe you can be honest and upfront about the fact that a certain organization hasn't gotten the job done and hasn't won a World Series in a long time. That's the approach we took in Boston. It wasn't a curse, it's just that we hadn't gotten the job done."
Aramis Ramirez and the Cubs have a $16 million mutual option for next season. Ramirez has said he'll test the free-agent market, but also has said he'd like to stay with the Cubs if they give him a multi-year deal. Ryan Dempster has a $14 million player option for next season, and he must make a decision by three days after the World Series ends.
Epstein said he is in the process of prioritizing what needs to be taken care of immediately, and the two players are on his list.
"Clearly those player decisions and the ones that involve options after the World Series, we'll be sitting down with the staff and talking about those in the next couple days," he said.
Both Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder will be free agents after this season. The Cubs need a first baseman. Epstein wouldn't comment on those specific players, but did caution about long-term contracts.
"I think the impact free agent, the free agent who requires the long-term substantial commitment, there's a time and a place for that type of investment," he said. "I think it's important to understand when the right time is.
"It's also important to understand the player. The player has to check every single box that you look for. He has to be an impact player offensively, you'd like him to be an impact player defensively. In an ideal world, you'd love for him to be an up-the-middle player.
"You'd love for him to be a player of high character who you can put your faith in and will represent the organization well over the years. You want to make sure the player is young, so you're buying a lot of prime years. There will be a time and place for that."
However, he wasn't ready to say if the time was now for the Cubs. He will be active in free agency, though. He got lucky when he signed a released player to a one-year, $1.25 million deal in David Ortiz.
"That's probably not going to happen again," Epstein said. "There's a time and a place for a big impact player, and also a time and a place for the smaller, more nuanced moves."
Will he miss the Yankees?
Epstein switches from the American League East to the National League Central. Will it be easier to deal with the Pirates than the Yankees?
"With the Red Sox, the way we looked at it was with [the Yankees'] resources and their baseball smarts, we're going to assume they'll win 95 to 100 games every year," he said. "That helped us elevate our game, because it set the bar really high. I thought that served us well, taking that approach.
"If you look at what the Cardinals are doing and the Brewers did this year, I think we can take the same approach and assume these teams will be really, really good over the next few years and that, in term, raises the bar for us."
The Red Sox were famous for their computer program, known as "Carmine," which Epstein created five years ago to analyze player statistics and tendencies. Epstein said he doesn't rely solely on spreadsheets, but also wants a balance between the statistical analysis and what traditional scouting provides.
"We developed in Boston a program that was simply an information management system," he said. "Every team in baseball has an information management system of some form or another.
"With the Cubs, we're in the process of sitting down and seeing what they have. Information is everything. In the Draft, for example, information is the single most important currency."
Epstein will discuss with the Cubs' baseball operations staff about what they are currently using and try to improve on that.
Epstein is well aware of his star power.
"I've come to grow more comfortable with the realities of the fact that unlike 20 years ago, general managers are part of the public face of the franchise," he said. "Not only the game has changed, but the fan experience has changed. People relate more to GMs, everyone thinks they can be a GM or president of baseball operations. That comes with the territory."
He does like to protect his privacy and his family's privacy, and finally confessed that it was him in a Chicago Starbucks earlier this month. A fan recognized Epstein when he stopped to buy coffee.
"When I'm somewhere where I don't want to be recognized, and someone recognizes me, I have a couple standard lines," Epstein said. "I usually say, 'Oh no, that's not me, but I guess I look like him,' or I say, 'Theo Epstein? Who's that?'
"I was so excited to be in Chicago and so surprised to be recognized that I dropped both lines on this guy without stopping to think they really don't work well in concert with each other," he said. "My mistake. I'm a little more of a Dunkin [Donuts] guy, and now that I learned that Dunkin supports the Cubs, that's a good thing."