Today is the 43rd birthday of Chicago Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein, who is coming off his third World Series title as an executive. He's the mastermind who broke two of the biggest championship droughts in sports history, and will go down as one of the greatest executives we've ever seen. With this special day in mind, here are Theo Epstein's six smartest moves of all-time.
6. Signing David Ortiz
Despite having a pretty solid 2002 season with the Minnesota Twins, David Ortiz was released and became a free agent. Theo Epstein would end up signing Ortiz to a one-year, $1.25 million deal, and that became a bargain, as he belted 31 home runs with 101 RBI in his first season in Boston. And as we all know, Big Papi became a staple for the Red Sox and spearheaded three World Series runs, two of which came under Epstein.
5. Dealing Nomar Garciaparra
Nomar Garciaparra was the face of the Red Sox, but after not coming to terms on a contract in 2003 and dealing with an Achillies injury that affected his play in 2004, Epstein decided to trade the All-Star shortstop to the Chicago Cubs. The Red Sox would go on and win the World Series in '04 without Nomar, and it ended up being smart long term because Garciaparra never got back to being the player he was with Boston.
4. Trading for Curt Schilling
It seemed the Boston Red Sox gave up a huge freight of pitching prospects for Curt Schilling (Casey Fossum, Jorge de la Rosa, Brandon Lyon) when they made a trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks back in 2003, but none of them panned out and Schilling was awesome in Boston. In his first season in Boston, Schilling would win 21 games and anchored the Red Sox rotation to a World Series title.
3. Trading for Anthony Rizzo
After starting his career with the San Diego Padres on a bad note in 2011, Epstein would acquire Anthony Rizzo in 2012 for Andrew Cashner, and boy, did it pay dividends. From there, Rizzo blossomed into one of the best first basemen in the sport, starting in 2014 where he made his first All-Star appearance. Rizzo has become the team's leader and was a key part in the Cubs' World Series run this year.
2. Stealing Jake Arrieta From Baltimore
Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good. When Epstein acquired Jake Arrieta from the Baltimore Orioles, he was considered a reclamation project. Instead of becoming a solid middle-of-the-rotation starter, Arrieta vaulted himself into becoming one of the best pitchers in the sport and won the 2015 NL Cy Young Award. It's safe to say nobody saw that coming.
1. Hiring Joe Maddon
After bringing the necessary pieces together through trades (Rizzo and Arrieta) and the draft (Kris Bryant and Kyle Scwarber), the Chicago Cubs needed a manager that could bring the team together and put them over the top. Once Joe Maddon decided to leave Tampa Bay, Epstein jumped on him quickly and hired him to become the Cubs manager. That ended up being the best move of Epstein's career, as the Cubs broke their 108-year World Series drought this season and Maddon was a true difference-maker.