The Rundown: Seattle Could Be Ideal Destination for Theo Epstein, Winter Meetings Underway, Phillies Could Shop Bryce Harper

Now that we’re up to the tops of our waders trying to figure out if Jed Hoyer is going to reshape, retool, or completely rebuild the Cubs, we’ve kind of forgotten about our old pal Theo Epstein. Though I’m sure he’s happy to be out of the spotlight after two decades in Boston and Chicago, I’m also sure he’s carefully planning his next move and where it may take him. Given his friendship with Eddie Vedder, what about Seattle as Epstein’s next pet project?

The Mariners have never won the World Series in their 43 years of existence, but they looked like contenders in 2001. That Lou Piniella-managed team won 116 regular season contests before getting smoked by the Yankees in the league championship series by a 4-1 margin. That was the fourth and last time the franchise made the postseason since their inaugural 1977 season.

Seattle’s results have been consistently inconsistent Under current GM Jerry Dipoto, much like the Cubs before Epstein turned a conversation over coffee at Starbucks in 2011 into an eventual World Series championship. And though it was a little overlooked, perhaps because any Mariners executive opening doesn’t carry the same cachet as those with the Mets or Phillies, Jon Heyman indicated that Seattle was among the teams interested in Epstein’s services.

Right now, it appears that ownership groups in Philadelphia and New York are moving past any hope that they can entice the former Cubs executive to make a move. Things remain pretty quiet in Seattle, though, where Dipoto is near the end of the multi-year contract extension he signed in 2018 (believed to be for three years). That means the GM is somewhat in limbo right now regarding his future beyond this season, which is somewhat interesting.

The Mariners have had two winning seasons since Dipoto took over in 2015, and though they have a top-five farm system with enormous potential, Dipoto seems to struggle with any semblance of a consistent plan. He’ll trade prospects for proven players one year, and then trade proven players for prospects the next. Failure to stick to any one process usually results in middling results and the Mariners are nothing more than a slightly below .500 team over the past six seasons.

If anyone believes in processes, it’s the Cubs’ former president of baseball operations. Coincidentally, Dipoto worked as a scout for the Red Sox under Epstein in 2003-04, helping the BoSox break their curse in ’04. Theo could come in, retain or release Dipoto, and build a baseball operations department similar to the ones he built in Boston and Chicago. My guess is he would retain Dipoto in some capacity.

There are plenty of other reasons that might make Seattle an attractive option for the future Hall of Fame executive. For one, he’d have a chance to bring Seattle its first championship ever, not that his resume needs the additional sweetener. The challenge is very appealing and a 2022 payroll commitment of about $64 million, depending on what Seattle does this year, could have Epstein giddy with excitement. Oh yeah, some of his favorite ballplayers will be looking for new contracts in ’22.

And though it’s probably not that big a deal, being in the Pacific Northwest might reduce Epstein’s time in the media spotlight and his need to commit to personal requests.

Further, Seattle offers a number of amenities and geographical demographics that might appeal to a man whose next baseball position will take him into his mid-to-late fifties. There’s year-round temperate weather, a lively blend of cultural and ethnic diversity, and strong municipal support of the arts. Fremont and Belltown are neighborhoods where the Epstein family would thrive, and the SODO area, which includes T-Mobile Park, offers 500+ cultural and arts events annually.

Moreover, the best analytic and technical engineering minds make up a big chunk of the city’s workforce. Imagine how quickly Epstein could put to work a plan to reshape the Mariners into an annual championship contender if he has his pick of Seattle’s more brilliant analytic minds. It seems almost too perfect a fit.

Then add his friendship with Vedder into the mix, along with a number of historic venues suitable to hold his annual Hot Stove Cool Music events. With all of Epstein’s teenage grunge heroes now of a similar age and living nearby in an area with a rich history of charitable and philanthropic endeavors, the idea of Theo landing in the Emerald City is absolutely cosmopolitan.

Cubs News & Notes

Odds & Sods

I completely lost it when I saw this promo. You will, too.


Monday Stove

If you’re wondering how the Winter Meetings may look as a virtualized convention, Dayn Perry of CBS Sports provides the lowdown.

Scott Boras may not be the Winter Meetings centerpiece this year that he was last year when he represented four of the top five free agents, but he’s already wormed his way into the ears of league owners, stating “there’s no team that lost money in baseball last year.” The super agent also dismissed suggestions that the 2021 schedule might be shortened because, in his words, “owners have promised their local television partners a full season.”

If you’re looking for a tell so far this winter, it seems many clubs are interested in getting mid-tier starters on short-term deals. So far Robbie Ray, Charlie Morton, and Drew Smyly have signed larger than expected one-year contracts, while Marcus Stroman and Kevin Gausman accepted their qualifying offers.

There have been contradictory rumors regarding the availability of Phillies starter Zack Wheeler, and Babe Ruth is even mentioned.

The Philadelphia front office is also rumored to be exploring the idea of trading outfielder Bryce Harper.

The Twins are said to be interested in Dodgers free agent Kiké Hernández.

It has been reported that the Indians “would love” to do a trade with the Blue Jays that nets Cleveland Lourdes Gurriel Jr. in exchange for Francisco Lindor.

Toronto is bullish on making more than a virtual impression at this week’s meetings.

If the Yankees feel they have no chance of signing DJ Lemahieu, they could be players for Lindor as well.

Extra Innings

Please remember, no matter how bad you may have it, someone has it worse. One of the best things you can do to help others is to go through your cupboards and donate those non-perishable items you seem to always find unappealing. To a starving family they’re genuinely life support.

Also – donate your used sporting goods to impoverished families with children. Who knows? You could be responsible for giving the world the next Roberto Clemente.

They Said It

  • “I want this to be crystal clear. If Cub games were still on WGN or NBC Sports Chicago or Channel 7, I would still be doing this. I was treated like a king with the Cubs. This is 100 percent about a moment in time during which I could not pass up the opportunity of a lifetime.” – Len Kasper
  • “When you’re the thermometer, you’re not the turkey. We put the thermometer in, and the turkey tells us when it is done. That’s kind of how the winter meetings work. Sometimes the turkey is done rather quickly, because the heat is high early. If the temperature is low, then obviously the turkey takes longer to cook.” – Scott Boras

Monday Walk Up Song

Better Man by Pearl Jam – Not only did I meet Sue by singing this song one night at karaoke in Thiensville, WI (and I do a spot on impression of Eddie Vedder), it’s also very appropriate considering today’s topic.

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