CHICAGO — As the Chicago Cubs and Baltimore Orioles discussed a trade that would bring pitcher Jake Arrieta to Chicago’s North Side in 2013, Jed Hoyer pushed for more.
“Jed kept on pounding the table that we could get a throw-in and it had to be this guy named Pedro Strop,” Theo Epstein recalled during a conference call Tuesday. “Even though he … was seemingly lost at the time as a pitcher (with a 7.25 ERA), Jed kept pounding the table, saying not only can we get more, but he’s the right guy.
“You talk about a throw-in to a deal, Stropy ended up being one of the most consistent and successful relievers in modern Cubs history. There’s no doubt, if it weren’t for Jed being insistent on that and driving that, we would not have gotten Stropy in the deal, let alone maybe complete the deal. And then without Jake Arrieta, all of the history here is different.”
The Cubs announced Epstein will step down after nine seasons as president of baseball operations, effective Friday. Hoyer, who joined the Cubs in November 2011 as executive vice president and general manager, will succeed him.
“I am thrilled that this leadership transition will provide continuity to a department that has had tremendous successes over the past six seasons,” Hoyer said in a statement. “Ultimately, this transition is about the future, and I look forward to constantly pushing the Cubs to evolve and grow to ensure that there is sustained success at Wrigley Field.”
Hoyer, 46, will enter his 20th season in baseball operations and his 10th with the Cubs.
“Jed is ready to take over,” Epstein said. “He’s been a huge part of all our success here. He’s been a huge part of my success and my career.
“In short, Jed is his own man. He’s been a loyal and outstanding right-hand man, but he has his own opinions, his own perspective, his own leadership style. He really, truly does not need me over his shoulder this next year while we finish off a transition that, in a lot of respects, has been years in the making. He’s going to do an outstanding job, he deserves this opportunity and the Cubs are lucky to have him.”
Epstein said the driving force for the timing of his departure was the “period of transition” ahead for the Cubs. Many major decisions await for some of the team’s stars, including third baseman Kris Bryant.
“There are a lot of important decisions to be made that will have long-term consequences,” Epstein said, speaking generally of the team’s future. “Jed is ready, willing and able to make those decisions, along with our talented front office. That made the timing right.”
There’s also the task of operating during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Jed knows these are going to be interesting, uniquely challenging years,” Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts said. “Obviously this year was one, next year will be very difficult. We don’t have a lot of information. We’re not sure if we’ll have fans in the ballpark. We’re not sure when the season’s going to start. There’s a lot of variables.
“But with respect to the situation, I think Jed’s on top of it. He’s extremely well-qualified and ready to go, and we’ll just work through it together.”
Hoyer was general manager of the San Diego Padres in 2010-11 before joining the Cubs. The 2010 Padres won 90 games despite having one of the lowest payrolls in baseball.
He worked for the Boston Red Sox in Epstein’s baseball operations department from 2002 to 2009, a span that included World Series titles in 2004 and 2007.
Epstein said Hoyer was “instrumental in the restructuring and reimagining of the Cubs scouting and player development departments a couple of years ago.”
He also lauded Hoyer’s growth as a leader and said Tuesday’s move is “rare in professional sports.”
“It’s not too often that you have a seamless transition from one regime to the next in this matter,” Epstein said. “That speaks to the work that Jed and everyone in the front office has done over the last nine years that Tom is willing to bet on them and put his faith in them.
“The peaceful transfer of power is getting rarer in this country, let alone in the sports world these days,” Epstein added with a laugh. “I’m proud that we’ve pulled that off.”
Ricketts said he’s excited about the transition and continuity.
“He’s going to be an incredible leader for this organization, just as Theo was,” Ricketts said. “Just about every single GM opening in baseball, I think Jed has had a chance at. He’s had lots of calls, lots of offers over the years, but he’s always been loyal to the Cubs and stayed with us and helped us continue to win.
“So while we’re losing one of the best leaders in all of baseball, I feel like we’re also gaining one of the best leaders in all of baseball.”
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