If the Philadelphia Phillies lose out on Theo Epstein — which is the expected result — it won’t be from a lack of trying.
According to NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Jim Salisbury, the New York Mets’ divisional rival will “check in” on Epstein, who stepped down as president of the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday afternoon. The hope will be that he can assume the role of Philadelphia’s president of baseball operations after the departure of general manager Matt Klentak last month.
It’s a new role for the Phillies’ front office, one that would have the executive reporting directly to team owner, John Middleton.
Upon Epstein’s decision to step down from his role with the Cubs, it was quickly revealed that the 46-year-old will take the 2021 season off.
“Next summer will be my first in 30 years not clocking into work every day at a major league ballpark,” Epstein wrote. “I do plan on having a third chapter leading a baseball organization someday, though I do not expect it to be next year.”
It quickly squashed any rumors of him going to the Phillies or the Mets, who are also searching for a president of baseball operations after the arrival of their new majority owner, Steve Cohen.
It remains to be seen if the Mets will follow the Phillies’ suit and reach out to Epstein to at least kick the tires, but they have requested permission from the Cleveland Indians to speak with Mike Chernoff for the president of baseball operations role.
Epstein is already being perceived as a Hall-of-Fame executive for the redemption efforts he pulled off with both the Cubs and Boston Red Sox.
He built World Series champions with each organization, ending lengthy title droughts that spanned 86 years in Boston (1918-2004) and 108 years in Chicago (1908-2016).
Such a resume warranted his exorbitant price tag of nearly $10 million per season that he was making with the Cubs after signing a five-year contract extension following their 2016 World Series triumph. It is expected that he would call for that same kind of compensation in his next endeavor, which wouldn’t bode well for the Phillies based on the transmissions coming from Middleton.
Considering the financial toll taken by most MLB teams in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Phillies will have to find a way to secure the services of All-Star catcher, JT Realmuto, who is baseball’s marquee positional free-agent this offseason and a potential Mets target.
Middleton’s comments from October, looking ahead to the 2021 season, doesn’t inspire much confidence that the Phillies will be flexing their financial muscles this winter — even if Epstein made the decision to start his “third chapter” earlier than expected.
“Can you tell me what the governor and the mayor of Philadelphia are going to allow us to have next year in the way of fans?” Middleton said at the time. “Because if you do, you know something that I don’t. So I have no idea what we’re going to be allowed. Obviously, that will determine our revenues, and revenues determine what you can do and what you can’t do.”
That would bode well for the Mets if such a scenario were to materialize. Though a source confirmed with amNewYork Metro that Epstein making his way to Queens is “highly unlikely,” though he was quick to add that “money talks.”
A version of this article first appeared on Metro Philadelphia