CHICAGO -- After overseeing a golden era of baseball on the North Side of Chicago, where a World Series triumph was experienced for the first time in more than a century, Theo Epstein has decided to step down from his post atop the team's front office.
The Cubs announced on Tuesday that Epstein will depart the organization and his role as president of baseball operations, effective Friday. General manager Jed Hoyer, who is in discussions with the Cubs on a contract extension, will replace Epstein as the head of baseball operations.
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"I am so incredibly grateful," Epstein said during a Zoom call with reporters on Tuesday afternoon. "For the last nine years, it's been really a life-changing experience for me and for my family."
Epstein's decision came as he was entering the final year of a five-year extension, which put his future with the Cubs in doubt. Rather than plan for a transition next offseason, Epstein opted to step aside now, allowing Hoyer -- his longtime GM -- to usher Chicago into its next phase.
Epstein cited three primary factors in his decision for moving up the transition timetable to now rather than October 2021:
• This offseason will likely require decisions that could have a long-term impact on the franchise. Epstein feels it is better to have someone make those calls who would be with the Cubs for the foreseeable future, beyond '21.
• The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the Cubs' financial situation, contributing to layoffs across multiple departments across the organization. Epstein said the challenge of "temporarily reduced
resources" would be made more difficult by his staying on.
• Epstein firmly believes that Hoyer is prepared to move into the top job in baseball operations, given his extensive front-office background. That continuity was also important for Epstein when considering the transition.
"Jed is ready to take over -- he really is," Epstein said. "He's been a huge part of our success here. He's been a huge part of my success in my career. Jed has done the job of being a No. 1 in baseball operations before."
Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts echoed those concepts during the Zoom call.
"On a personal level, it's a sad day for me, personally," Ricketts said. "While I'm kind of losing a great friend and a great partner, I'm very, very excited about the transition and the continuity that that we have in front of us."
Epstein was in line to earn a reported $10 million in 2021, and he acknowledged on Tuesday that the financial component did enter into his thinking. By stepping down, he will not be paid by the Cubs in '21, so that money can be reallocated for a team dealing with financial losses.
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"The Cubs in the long run are in great shape, with tremendous resources," Epstein said. "But, of course, with the world changing, it creates some short-term challenges."
Ricketts insisted that Epstein's salary was not a factor -- at least from ownership's side of the table.
"Money had nothing to do with it," he said. "It really had nothing to do with what you're seeing today."
Both Epstein and Hoyer joined the Cubs prior to the 2012 campaign and began a daunting rebuild of the historic franchise. Their efforts culminated in the 2016 World Series championship, ending the team's 108-year drought. This came after Epstein and Hoyer similarly brought World Series glory to the Red Sox (2004 and '07) after Boston had not won since 1918.
Since 2015, the Cubs have reached the playoffs in five of six years, winning three National League Central titles (most recently in 2020) and reaching the NL Championship Series three times. Chicago's 505 wins in that six-year period are second to only the Dodgers in the National League.
Along the way, Epstein became one of just five executives in baseball history to win a World Series with two organizations.
"I have been so fortunate to work alongside Theo for 17 of the last 19 years," Hoyer said in a statement. "I could not have had a better mentor or a more loyal and trusted friend. He has already changed two storied franchises with his passion, creativity, intellect and leadership."
As Epstein has mentioned multiple times over the years, he is a strong believer in the 10-year philosophy of legendary football coach Bill Walsh. The idea is that leaders in the sports world should seek change after a decade for the benefit of both the organization and the individual.
Epstein served as the GM of the Red Sox from 2003-11 before moving on to the Cubs. Nine years later he is planning on a taking a break from being in a front office before pursuing a "third chapter" in baseball. He is not sure what or when that will be, but he feels strongly about taking the first step now.
"We did some some pretty epic things," he said. "And then, the last couple years weren't as impressive. And maybe what that tells me is what I think I'm great at and really enjoy is building and transformation and triumphing. Maybe I'm not as good and not as motivated by maintenance, so to speak.
"And as soon as you get to the point where it can start to feel that way to you, I think you owe it to yourself, and as importantly, if not more importantly, to your employer, to be open about that and seek to pursue change that's in the best interest of the organization and the individual."
Ricketts emphasized that the Cubs still have a solid long-term foundation, even with Epstein departing and the immediate picture including plenty of uncertainties.
"He's not leaving an organization in the lurch," Ricketts said. "We've been talking about this for a while. The organization is in great shape. And we look forward to the ongoing success of the Cubs.
"And I just want to, on behalf of myself, the fans, the family, I want to thank him for nine incredible years -- for delivering on the promise of a World Series, for creating that sustained success, for destroying the 'lovable loser' moniker."
Epstein said that his family has no plans to leave Chicago any time soon, and he plans on having season tickets down the road. He joked that he now has the freedom to get the full Wrigley Field bleachers experience. He would not promise not to send texts to manager David Ross or Hoyer after games or following any moves by the team, quipping that he has "free license to be grumpy" now.
Epstein also has a message for Cubs fans for when the world moves beyond the pandemic.
"And as soon as we're through this thing," he said, "every time a Cubs fan bumps into me at a bar, I'm buying from from here forward. Until Jed wins a World Series. Then it's on him."
Jordan Bastian covers the Cubs for MLB.com. He previously covered the Indians from 2011-18 and the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian.