Together with the introduction of his first signing as Chicago Cubs President of Baseball Operations, Theo Epstein spoke to the media on a wide range of subjects. Among the notable subjects discussed:
- On the Cubs’ plan to build from within through drafting and scouting, in the face of a CBA that greatly restricts their ability to spend freely on the amateur side: “We are still processing [how the CBA impacts the strategy]. We look at it as how it’s going to impact our drafting strategy, how we build our scouting department and international scouting department. I think there are still ways to get very aggressive in the new system. I think the new rules make it more of a scouting contest.” Good thing the Cubs started beefing up in the scouting area. Epstein would not concede that the changes would alter the Cubs’ plans for free agency.
- On rumors about the Cubs pursuing big names like Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder: There are always going to be things said about the Cubs, because we are a big-market club, and there’s a lot of interest. We are thrilled about that. That’s a reflection of the passion, the fans [and the media] have. If there’s something going on and we just made a trade, you guys are going to talk about that. That’s good for us. [But when] there’s not much going on, and information is not readily available, there’s going to be more speculation. That’s fine. That comes with the territory, but I can only be truthful with you in outlining what our approach is. No. 1 is to build this thing the right way. That’s for the long haul, mainly through scouting and player development through the acquisition of young players. The second thing is to take advantage of every opportunity that you have. That’s short-term for us. That means building the 2012 club, hopefully the smart way, maximize our chances of winning. So we are not going to do anything to serve the second priority that disrupts the first.” That’s all fine, but let’s be clear: Epstein is not going to openly concede a pursuit of a big-time free agent right now, because that can only hurt the Cubs.
- On the Cubs’ biggest needs this Winter: “We need starting pitching. You can’t take your chances very seriously as a club if you go into a season with not just five guys you can point to but six, seven, eight guys. You better know who your ninth starter is going to be because you’re going to need him. The numbers show you’re going to need your ninth starter through the course of the year.” Obviously, after a year in which the Cubs lost two of their top five starting pitchers in the first week of the season (and a year in which the starters were, on the whole, terrible), the need for pitching is clear.
- Speaking of pitching, Epstein called Matt Garza “exactly the type of guy we’d like to build around.” But, at the same time, he acknowledges the need to “be honest about where you are as an organization and when your opportunity to really win comes.” In other words (that is to say, my words): yes, he’d consider trading Garza in the right deal.
- On the importance of next week’s Winter Meetings: “It’s one of the few times that all 30 clubs are actively engaged in talking trade, which is nice. There’s a perception out there that the job of a GM or club president is always on the phone with the 29 other clubs talking about trades and it really doesn’t happen that often. You have to seize those opportunities at the GM meetings, at the Winter Meetings.” Jed Hoyer recently said the same thing. Sounds like the Cubs will be extremely active next week – which doesn’t necessarily mean moves will happen, but they’re sure be working on it.
- On Sean Marshall’s role in the bullpen, versus in the rotation: “If you have the best left-handed reliever in baseball, it’s hard to think about taking him out of that role.”
- Similarly, on the starting/relieving chances of Andrew Cashner and Jeff Samardzija: Epstein said only that they’re both valuable pieces for next year, that he was encouraged by Cashner’s time in the AFL (which was limited, only in relief, and not overly impressive, I should say), and that Samardzija had a great second half last year. On Samardzjia, Epstein said next year will be a big year for Samardzija.
- On impact of David DeJesus signing on Brett Jackson: Epstein said Jackson is “the type of guy we want here and he’s got a bright future here,” but he’s not sure of the impact quite yet. He did note that some guys need more “finishing” time in AAA. I suspect Epstein simply doesn’t want to tip his hand on the plans for the outfield in case he isn’t, for example, able to move Alfonso Soriano.
- Epstein also said that he’s impressed with the developing facility in the Dominican Republic, as well as the scouts down there. He sees it as a big strength in the organization.