Theo Epstein’s Black Magic

Phil Velasquez/McClatchy News Service
Phil Velasquez/McClatchy News Service

I believe it was the great Winston Churchill who once said, “Gather all the prospects you can.” Though I may be mistaken. Nonetheless, Theo Epstein, current Chicago Cubs general manager, has done a pretty nice job since assuming that role in 2011.

When he became the GM of the Red Sox in 2002, he was, at 28, the youngest in Major League Baseball to ever hold that position. Two years later, the Red Sox broke the Babe Ruth curse and won their first World Series since the Civil War. Okay, it was since 1918 but it felt like it was that long. He resigned in 2005, but was then rehired in 2006; they won the World Series again in 2007.

Was he some sort of wizard?

Had he suddenly gone from “Theo the Grey” to “Theo the White?”

He resigned from the Red Sox again in 2011, and took the same job with the Chicago Cubs. He had already reversed on curse with Boston; could he now reverse the Cubs’ “curse of the goat?” It’s certainly looking that way when you consider the moves that he has made.

Let’s take a look.

The Texas Rangers made back-to-back World Series appearances in 2010 and 2011, and were looking for that one pitcher in 2012 who could help them like Cliff Lee did two years earlier. The Rangers made a deal for Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster, who was having a pretty good year playing for Chicago. Rangers fans were excited…for a few minutes. Dempster struggled in the American League, and Texas choked (no thanks to a struggling Josh Hamilton), losing the AL West to the Oakland Athletics.

In 2013, the Rangers saw themselves in the same position, and gave up prospects Mike “I love to strikeout” Olt, C.J. Edwards and Justin Grimm for Matt Garza. Garza was a guaranteed addition to the Rangers starting rotation who would surely help bring another division title. Once again Texas slipped and the A’s won the division.

Now go to the current season where the Rangers have been plagued with injuries unlike any team in the history of the game. The Oakland A’s spent the majority of the season in first place, and made some pretty significant moves at the trade deadline, which seemed to assure them a third division title in a row.

So who did they trade with?

The Chicago Cubs.

The A’s landed pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel for top prospect Addison Russell, outfield prospect Billy McKinney and pitcher Dan Strailly. The A’s later went on a collapse of epic proportions, and are currently hanging onto a wild card spot by the thinnest of threads after losing the division title to the Los Angeles Angels.

Meanwhile, the Cubs are loaded with prospects and looking forward to a division title run in the next couple of years.

The lesson here: don’t trade prospects for Cubs’ pitchers. Theo Epstein is a mad genius and is working magic on his side.

James Holland is a Contributor for The Scoop. Follow him on Twitter at @JamesHollandMLB.

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