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Theo Epstein Expects To Remain With Cubs For 2021, But It Could Be His Last Season

CHICAGO (CBS/AP) -- In Theo they trust. It sounds like Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein will be sticking around at least one more year on the North Side.

Epstein's deal expires after next season, and he's always been clear that 10 years the magic number before a change in executive leadership is necessary for any organization. Next year will mark a decade for Epstein with the Cubs, and a contract extension seems like a long shot.

"Given the things I'm on record with about, you know, the benefits of change at a certain point, it just means that you have to be smart in discussing the timing and nature of the transition, because it's inevitable at some point," Epstein said Monday. "I'm not going to run away from those feelings, but I also am as invested in the Chicago Cubs as our leader in baseball operations today as I was at any point in the last nine years. My expectation is that I'll be here."

Epstein will meet with Cubs owner Tom Ricketts this week. There's plenty of work for the Cubs to do this offseason.

Epstein is happy with his pitchers and coaching staff, but the offense needs to be fixed after scoring a total of one run in two playoff games. It was an ugly case of postseason déjà vu.

"We have not lived up to our expectations the last three Octobers, and ultimately that's something we have to own as a group, and i have to own that as a leader," Epstein said. "These players have a lot of great baseball left, and are clear assets. For many of them, I look forward to seeing them write some more history for the Chicago cubs, and others ultimately will end up having productive years elsewhere."

Epstein has transformed the long-suffering Cubs. They've reached the NLCS three times in his nine seasons and won a World Series championship in 2016, ending a drought dating to 1908. This year, they won the NL Central at 34-26 under rookie manager David Ross.

But they got swept by Miami in their wild-card series, scoring one run over two games.

Since winning the 2016 World Series, they've struggled in the playoffs. Although they returned to the NLCS in 2017, they lost to the Dodgers, scoring a grand total of eight runs in five games. In 2018, they lost the wild card game, and in 2019, they failed to qualify for the postseason. And that 10-year mark is approaching for Epstein.

General manager Jed Hoyer is the most obvious successor for Epstein.

The two worked together in Boston when the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004 and 2007 and reunited when Epstein took the job in Chicago in October 2011. In between, Hoyer led San Diego's baseball operations.

"We've only had general discussions about the potential transition, whenever that may be — nothing specific," Epstein said. "Obviously, now's the time to be thoughtful about it. You do have to start getting more specific and making some more decisions. Jed is someone who's been a huge part of the success here at the Cubs and at the Red Sox before that."

Epstein didn't rule out big changes to the roster this offseason. The Cubs ranked among the worst in the majors with a .220 average.

Kris Bryant (.206, four homers, 11 RBIs), Javier Báez (.203, 8, 24), Anthony Rizzo (.222, 11, 24), Willson Contreras (.243, 7, 26) and Kyle Schwarber (.188, 11, 24) all struggled. The Cubs have an option on Rizzo, while Bryant, Báez and Schwarber are entering the final year of their contracts.

"Clearly, some change is warranted and necessary," Epstein said. "We've not performed up to our expectations offensively, especially at the most important times of year, and simply hoping for a better outcome moving forward doesn't seem like a thoughtful approach."

It's also possible Jon Lester has pitched his final game for Chicago. At 36, he posted a career-worst 5.16 ERA. The team holds a $25 million option with a $10 million buyout on the five-time All-Star, who signed a six-year, $155 million deal before the 2015 season.

"Whether he leaves or stays, this is an appropriate time just to acknowledge the profound impact that he had on our organization," said Epstein, who plans to speak with Lester over the next few days. "It's rare when someone joins an organization with some clear goals in mind to win a World Series, to change a culture, to show up in October just about every year and pitch really well in big games, be a great teammate, to be someone our organization can be proud of, to make an impact on his teammates and in his community, and accomplish all those goals in such an admirable manner."

(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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