Amidst the current march towards the playoffs, it’s become easy to lose sight of other important, off-field stories surrounding the Chicago Cubs – like TV ratings, for example. One such story, looming in the periphery, is the current contract status of President of Baseball Operations, Theo Epstein.
If you recall, Epstein inked a 5-year, $18.5M contract with the Cubs before the 2012 season, which runs through and expires after the 2016 season. While it seemed like the day would never come, Epstein will shortly be entering the final year of his five year contract, without an extension in place, making this a far more pressing issue.
At the end of last season, Brett began discussing a possible contract extension, when prompted by a few comments on the matter from Epstein, himself, though nothing ultimately came of the conversation. At the time, the key take away was that Epstein wasn’t focused on obtaining an extension, but discussions could happen sometime soon. Brett opined that getting an extension out of the way would help keep the delicate balance of long and short term goals in check – even if Epstein doesn’t seem like someone who would abandon the latter for the former.
At the beginning of Spring Training, we received a non-update update, when Tom Ricketts mentioned that there had been no extension discussions lately. While it’s certainly possible that a busy offseason and/or no concerns over eventually inking a deal were the primary motivation for the silence, it is certainly possible that enormous contract bestowed upon Dodgers President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman – $35M over 5 years, plus incentives – made things a tad bit trickier. Once the season began, and the Cubs were exceedingly competitive, then, we (expectedly) hadn’t heard much on the matter …
In a report at CBS Sports, Jon Heyman mentions the Epstein contract extension stuff lightly, and suggests Epstein is expected to receive one that will top the record-setting deal Andrew Friedman received with the Dodgers just last year – a deal that, for what it’s worth, toppled only Epstein’s as best-in-baseball for a front office contributor. Heyman mentions that the table is set for such a massive contract because of how well the rebuild is going.
Bruce Levine follows up with a report that also sees Epstein topping the contracts of all front office personnel around the game, in part because of the successful relationship and, more notably, because of the other “vacant positions” around baseball (Blue Jays, Angels, Mariners). While Levine notes that a departure from the Cubs is highly unlikely, he reminds us that those types of openings can and will be used as leverage. There’s no need to worry, though, because Epstein himself mentions to Levine that he couldn’t be happier or more committed to the Cubs and that an extension will be addressed when everyone has more time, as there are “a lot of more important things going on right now.”
Overall, this remains something to monitor closely, but probably not one to sweat too heavily. The massive deal Friedman got with the Dodgers will be used as a benchmark, and may have made negotiations more complicated, but I sincerely doubt anyone – including Epstein – wants to see this relationship fall through. The obvious success of the big league team and Tom Ricketts’ clear dedication to winning with the right people, no matter the cost – Joe Maddon, for example – makes a deal even more likely. My best guess is that we won’t hear much of anything on an extension while the Cubs finish out the season, and then a (very pricey) extension will be announced shortly after the season with very little run-up or rumors. That seems to be how these guys work, and, so far, it’s working for me.