Editorials

The Pros and Cons of Hiring Theo Epstein

As the Seattle Mariners begin their search for a new President and/or CEO, one name is generating most of the buzz. But if Theo Epstein wanted to work for the Mariners, would he even be a good fit?

Theo Epstein and the Seattle Mariners. A pipe dream just a few months ago now feels almost possible. Well, at least to a large portion of the Mariners fan base. Epstein is currently working in the front offices of MLB and has expressed desire to take a year off from working for a team to spend time with his family. He may also be looking for an ownership stake in his next venture, which could create some issues. But let’s assume both of those things are taken care of. Would it then make sense?

We’ll, its a bit more complicated. Obviously, John Stanton would be foolish not to at least take the temperature of Epstein, but it doesn’t mean that he should hire him. There are obvious benefits to the hiring, but there are some serious flaws as well. Let’s go down the list

Pros

  1. Theo is the best baseball executive in the game. He’s smart, insightful, and has a lot to offer any team that would hire him.
  2. He brings instant credibility to the front office.
  3. You can change the national story surrounding your team. Reporters and fans alike will applaud the team for “doing whatever it takes” to change the narrative surrounding the organization.
  4. Epstein carries the label of “curse breaker”, ending the World Series droughts of both the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs.
  5. Good with the media.

Obviously, the first point is the one that matters most. Epstein’s track record makes it impossible to suggest he’s not great at his job. But the credibility and national prominence do come into play for Stanton. The best way to change the narrative about a team who only cares about making money is to hire the best baseball mind on the planet and pay him whatever it takes to make it happen.

Cons

  1. If you’re not a fan of service time manipulation, you won’t like Epstein. He’s notorious for doing this, most notably with Kris Bryant and Javier Baez.
  2. The hiring of Epstein will almost certainly require serious changes to the baseball ops side of things. Theo likely won’t be receptive to not being allowed to bring in his own people. Jerry Dipoto and his staff have done an excellent job thus far and a serious regime change on the part of the organization that is actually working isn’t ideal.
  3. The concern of too many chefs in the kitchen is a real one. Epstein would play a significant role in the roster decisions made, something Dipoto currently has full autonomy of right now (according to Stanton).
  4. Epstein has no experience running mid-market teams. Both Boston and Chicago are significantly bigger markets than Seattle and as a result, can run higher payrolls with less risk of losing money (something we don’t care about, Stanton does).

In a debate that is often black and white, there is a lot of gray in this discussion. We need to make a lot of assumptions to have a serious conversation. And both sides of the argument have legitimate merit. Ultimately, I don’t think Theo is going to be all that interested in the job. Yes, it is a great town and ballpark, and a lot of the groundwork has already been laid. But he’s also unlikely to be allowed to make major changes to the baseball operations and that could be a deal breaker.

If Seattle wants a baseball guy to be the President, while hiring a numbers guy to be CEO, then a promotion of Jerry Dipoto makes more sense. He is bright, articulate, honest, and is seen around the game as an overall good man. In other words, the anti-Kevin Mather. But there are benefits by going outside the organization, and Theo Epstein is tough to ignore.

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