Chicago Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein addressed the media via conference call (yo, Cubs – shoot a blogger a dial-in number next time) shortly after the Sean Marshall trade, which netted the Cubs young lefty starter Travis Wood, as well as outfield prospect Dave Sappelt, and infield prospect Ronald Torreyes, was finalized and announced. I’ll have more on Wood’s future with the Cubs, as well as more on the two prospects in the near future. For now, here’s what Epstein had to say on the three new members of the Cubs’ organization, on the loss of Sean Marshall, and on the possibility of dealing Matt Garza.
- On the trade, in general: Theo called the move exemplary of what the organization is trying to do, and said that it fits with the “general direction” in which the team is moving. Namely, to turn short-term assets (Theo noted that Marshall could have walked away for nothing at the end of 2012) into long-term assets. “I don’t think we are done,” Epstein said of the move and ones that may follow. “I do think we still need to build more depth on the starting pitching front, both in the big leagues and minor leagues. But it doesn’t happen overnight. You have to make sacrifices. Just like moving Sean Marshall, who was certainly an asset for the 2012 club.”
- On Travis Wood: “He caught the eye of a lot of people and a lot of clubs had interest in him,” Epstein said. “He’s a really athletic package. Very athletic, his arm works very well. More than enough velocity to succeed as a left-handed pitcher. Some days you can see him, he has 3 or 4 above-average pitches. Those are the ingredients you need to be successful as a starting pitcher.” Theo noted that, if Wood pitches like he did in 2010, the Cubs could have improved for 2012 in this move.
- On Torreyes and Sappelt: Theo called the youngster Torreyes a good defender and baserunner, and added that “When you’re young for your level, and you’ve hit everywhere you’ve ever been, that’s a good sign.” Theo also joked about the last small second baseman he had, Dustin Pedroia. In general, Theo was excited to add some more depth to the farm system.
- On losing Sean Marshall: Theo conceded that the bullpen was now weaker, and said that guys like James Russell will have to help fill the void. Theo also mentioned minor league lefties Scott Maine, John Gaub, and Jeff Beliveau (the latter of whom was the Cubs’ minor league pitcher of the year in 2011).
- On the possibility of now trading Matt Garza: Theo conceded that the Cubs will listen to offers on Garza, and anyone else. “There’s always an active trade market for starting pitchers,” Epstein said. “But we don’t take lightly what it means to have a top-of-the-rotation guy in the house …. It’s hard to find top-of-the-rotation guys, so if you have them, and if there’s way to keep them around, that’s always compelling for the club. With that said, we’ve been honest. We are in a mode where we have to listen on everybody. And if there’s a way to improve the long-term outlook for this club in a significant manner, we can’t look past opportunities.” To me, that’s another of Theo’s excellent coded messages, like what he said about Marshall being the best left-handed reliever in baseball. Here, Theo is saying: Garza is available, but he’s going to cost you plenty. The Cubs’ starting point in negotiations will absolutely be the kind of packages Gio Gonzalez and Mat Latos recently netted, even if the Cubs cannot ultimately secure packages quite that good (Garza is probably the third most valuable of the three pitchers).
- Theo left open the possibility of extending Matt Garza, instead of trading him, but that seems more like a matter of preserving leverage in trade talks than a sincere desire to extend Garza. “In the case of Matt Garza, perhaps nothing happens [in terms of a trade],” Epstein said, “or perhaps we can turn him into a long-term asset by extending him on a deal that makes sense for everybody.”