Theo Epstein Speaks: Talent Level, Winning Timetable, Media Attention

Chicago Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein addressed the media yesterday, and touched on a number of topics as we await Opening Day.

  • On the timeline for Cubs’ success: “I can go ahead and write your stories for you now if you want. At some point you’re going to wake up and write about ‘Oh, the honeymoon is over. We’re not seeing enough progress.’ I don’t know when that’s going to be. It might be two years from now, it might be three years from now, it might be two months from now, it might be two weeks from now. But because progress as an organization isn’t linear, that’s coming, and we just don’t let it bother us. I think it’s important to just focus on what we’re doing internally and understand that everything outside is really, no offense, just noise. Whether it comes from [the media] or even comes from some fans who are deservedly upset at a given point, it’s really just noise and if we let it affect our decision-making, shame on us. So as [Bill] Parcells said, ‘If you listen to the fans in the stands, pretty soon you’ll be sitting with them.’ Don’t take that the wrong way. I care more than anything what our fans think. But I also operate with the belief that ultimately the only way to make them happy is to be able to provide for them baseball in October on a consistent basis, and a World Series championship eventually.” Do I really need to say that, once again, Epstein is knocking the message out of the park?
  • On the Cubs’ chances in 2012, when viewed in concert with the long-term plan: “If you listen to the prognosticators, if you look at it on paper it’s probably an uphill battle. It’s very clear what the plan is, and how we’re going to execute and try to accomplish that vision. Hopefully we’re disciplined and no matter what happens around us, we stick to that plan to accomplish that vision.” In other words, long-term plans will continue to trump short-term wins and losses.
  • On the current state of the Cubs’ Minor League system: “We need more talent; we lack impact talent. We have a number of interesting guys, especially at the lower levels, but every organization has a number of interesting guys at the lower level …. We need some more impact talent, and we need some guys who have ability and can break through. It would be really nice to get a breakthrough player this year and have somebody move from that interesting prospect category to that potentially impact category. So we’ll see. There’s a lot of work to do.” It could be a huge year for the Cubs’ farm system, as hopefully some of the expensive prospects added to the system over the past 12-15 month step forward, as Epstein says.
  • On listening to the media each day: “I think that was part of the Red Sox problem for many, many decades – focusing too much on the next day’s sports section and what people thought, and focusing a little too much on the Yankees and other factors and not on just building something and keeping everybody’s internal focus on progress and building. We’re not going to be deaf to the concerns of fans and what’s going on around the [Cubs]. We’ll recognize that, with respect to the media, it’s just noise and we’ll focus on what we’re trying to do despite the occasional cacophony.”

Brett Taylor is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation, and can also be found as Bleacher Nation on Twitter and on Facebook.

133 responses to “Theo Epstein Speaks: Talent Level, Winning Timetable, Media Attention”

  1. Kyle

    The price of getting Theo Epstein was apparently that Theo Epstein doesn’t have to be accountable for results for as long as he wants.

    If he’s everything he’s cracked up to be, then it’s worth it, but it still sucks to just give up on so many seasons just because he doesn’t feel like trying.

    Also, I think the two statements are a bit more connected than even Epstein wants to admit. “We are going to be patient, and we need impact talent.” He’s not just not trying to win in 2012, I’m beginning to suspect they are actively tanking the season in hopes of getting an impact talent in the 2013 draft.

    1. Brian

      You don’t like Epstein, fine. A lot of people do, though.

      1. Kyle

        I didn’t say I don’t like Epstein.

        I like him quite a bit and look forward to his tenure with the Cubs.

        I do, however, strongly dislike the decision he made to reneg on his “parallel fronts” promises and give up on several big-league seasons. I believe that was based more on his personal desires (burnt out from his Boston years) than the actual needs of the organization.

        1. Luke

          I don’t think he’s given up on several seasons. I still think the Cubs should be competing for a wild card next season, and should be in a position to consistently compete for the division title on an annual basis after that.

          1. Kyle

            I hope so, but I’m *really* having trouble seeing it right now. The potential 2013 available talent pool has really, really dried up, especially at positions we need the most.

            Obviously, we have to wait and see how a lot of the 2012 projects turn out. If a lot of them hit, then that helps quite a bit.

          2. DocWimsey

            I think that the truth is somewhere between you and Kyle. My guess is that Theo and Hoyer have spent a lot of time wondering how Hendry missed the memo about the 1990′s and 2000′s. They simply did not draft or sign many players of the sort that abound in the Cubs system.

            Again, we can look to Boston for an example. Theo took over in 2003. A team largely put together by his staff made post-season in 2007. Yes, they made post-season 3 times in the prior 4 years: but that was with players of the sort that Theo likes (high OPS batters, high K, low BB pitchers). That really masked the time it took Theo & Co. (including Hoyer) to assemble a playoff-calibre team.

          3. Dave

            If the system lacks impact talent and with the new CBA in place I don’t see how they will be competing next season or even the season after unless they are will to spend in free agency.

    2. Fishin Phil

      Wow Kyle, you read that entirely differently than I do. Your glass is not only half empty, it is busted into jagged shards that are hovering near your wrists.

      1. Kyle

        lol. It does make me a little cranky to be opening a baseball season with absolutely no chance to succeed, while the Cardinals are divisional co-favorites as they defend their second World Series title in a decade.

        “Every chance to win is sacred,” a wise baseball executive once opined. It’s not good to just be giving up on a season.

        1. Norm

          The Cubs don’t have a chance, so it’s moot.
          I just don’t see how signing a big dollar free agent is going to move the team closer to a World Series. I think it moves them further away. Theo probably does too or else he would have gotten different players.

          1. Kyle

            Good baseball players do not move you further away from winning baseball games.

            1. SirCub

              Yes, but you have to consider the Cubs’ window of competitiveness. They want to get players whose prime years will match up with their window. That was not the case with the longterm deals that the big time free agents were getting this past offseason.

              1. Kyle

                The Cubs are a major market franchise in a small-market division. The Cubs’ window for competitiveness should be “always.”

                1. Norm

                  And that’s what Theo is doing. He’s making it “always” but he can’t just start it in 2012.

                  1. Kyle

                    “Always” means “Always.” It doesn’t mean “Once I’ve had a few years off to unwind from the pressures of Boston.”

                    1. SirCub

                      The Cubs have a shitty team with a 100M dollar payroll. Not a whole lot of room to play with.

                    2. Norm

                      Who says it has anything to do with pressures of Boston? That’s out of left field.
                      It has everything to do with the foundation he inherited in Chicago.

            2. Norm

              No, but they can move you further from winning a World Series.
              I don’t care if Albert Pujols can win the Cubs win 7 more games; from 72-79.
              No thanks if the cost of those 7 wins in 2012 is to be stuck with a 36 year old 1B with $150M left on his contract.

              1. Kyle

                The 2013 and 2014 Cubs are going to need a middle-of-the-order bat, too. And there doesn’t seem to be one coming.

                1. Norm

                  Unless you can see the future somehow, you cross that bridge in 2013 and 2014 when the picture is a little more clear…What if Rizzo is that middle of the order bat?
                  Well too bad, because, congratulations, you decided to pay a 1B over $20M/yr until he’s 40.

                  1. Kyle

                    No one expects Rizzo to be an elite bat. His upside is a pretty good, but certainly not elite.

                    I can’t see the future, but I can certainly see the possibilities. Here’s one I particularly don’t like:

                    2012: We can’t try to win because we were so bad last year and we’re scared of long contracts.

                    2013: We can’t to win because we were so bad last year and we’re scared of long contracts.

                    2014: We were a little better this year, but there’s only one free agent who can fit our needs and put us over the top, and he wants a long-term deal that only the Dodgers will give him.

                    2015: We can’t afford any impact free agents because revenues have gone down in the face of so many bad seasons in a row. But at least our farm system is ranked No. 4 by BA!

                    1. Norm

                      No one thought Pujols would be an elite bat either when he was drafted in the 13th round.
                      No one thought Votto would be an elite bat.
                      No one thought Matt Moore would be the best pitching prospect when he was drafted in the 8th round.

            3. MaxM1908

              So, if the cubs sign Pujols or Fielder this offseason, where does it place us for wins? 80 games? 85 games? We still probably don’t make the playoffs, and we spent a buttload of money for modest improvement. Then, as they start declining and our young guys start reaching the Majors, we’re stuck with the contract and don’t have the mobility to sign the pieces that would make us a winner. I just can’t see how that is preferable to the current plan.

              1. Kyle

                “I just can’t see how that is preferable to the current plan.”

                Because you are looking at it the wrong way.

                1) 85 wins is a chance to win the World Series. The 2006 and 2011 Cardinals probably had 85-win talent.

                2) The Cubs are a major-market team with huge potential revenue streams. They can afford a few players at the end of big contracts and still add more pieces. Boston certainly did.

                We don’t have the young guys currently in the system to make a playoff team. We have a decent minor-league system, but it’s nothing special and is seriously lacking impact talent. And you can’t just assume the impact talent will be there to be signed when you want it in a few years.

                1. MaxM1908

                  1) 85 wins may be a one shot chance at the world series, but it’s not a sustainable system. Epstein is trying to create a sustainable system. If you have a free agent who performs great one year but steadily declines, you won’t be getting 85 wins the next year or the year after. You need constant talent waiting in the wings to fill positions. Where you have holes, you fill with free agents. I don’t think you start with a free agent and then try to build around that, especially if the free agent is on the decline.

                  2) The cubs are a major market team that for many years was owned by a declining corporation. Bad, self-serving media contracts destroyed the revenue potential of the Cubs. I blame the Tribune company as much if not more than Hendry for the current state of the Cubs. They leveraged the future for short term profits and to up the team’s value for sale. But, that’s the situation, which means limited resources that have to be allocated effectively.

                  You are right we don’t have the talent at the lower levels. We need good drafts and player development, and where possible talent acquisition through trade. If we can put together a team with a chance, but a few holes, I will wholly support big spending on free agent talent to fill those holes. To do that now though, would be foolish.

                  1. Kyle

                    “1) 85 wins may be a one shot chance at the world series, but it’s not a sustainable system..”

                    And again: There’s nothing that Epstein is doing that couldn’t have still been done while trying to win in 2012. All this fantastic organization building he’s doing is great. I love it. But tanking 2012 wasn’t a requirement for it to happen.

                    1. MaxM1908

                      Going back to resource allocation. Acquiring a free agent today would leverage against the future. It only makes sense if it’s a worthwhile investment. Epstein & Co. likely crunched the numbers and didn’t like what they saw in a Pujols or Fielder contract being on the books in 2015.

                2. Beer Baron

                  “The Cubs are a major-market team with huge potential revenue streams”

                  Potential is the key-word, because as of now they can’t really take advantage of a lot of the revenue streams that other teams get. The ball park has limited revenue options (signage, in-game advertising, boxes, etc), and the TV deal is well below market value. The good news is they are making progress — story today in Crain’s saying Rahm Emmanuel and Rickets are close to a deal to remodel Wrigley, and the WGN contract expires in a few more years opening them up to a much more lucrative deal. But until both of those can be fixed the Cubs can’t be throwing money around like the Red Sox, Yankees, Angels, etc and are best-served to develop from within, using free agency to supplement and fill-in the gaps.

                3. Tim

                  you my friend have a few loose screws in your head

          2. DocWimsey

            A couple of years ago, one of the statheads documented that the single biggest source of “win-shares” and WAR for pennant winning teams has been free agents. The 2nd biggest has been guys acquired in trades. The farm came in 3rd. Now, they didn’t break down trades into “took a big contract off a team’s hands (Schilling, ARod, etc.) vs. “bought with prospects” vs. mixture (e.g., Beckett and Lowell for HRam) vs. veterans for veterans (Halladay for CLee). I do not recall if they lumped guys acquired as minor leaguers as part of the farm or as parts of trades. Regardless, adding veteran talent really has been key to championship success.

            1. OlderStyle

              “the farm came in 3rd”?!
              but, but (sputter, cough) that can’t be? that’s not building a team “the right way”
              (end sarcasm)

              1. DocWimsey

                Well, in fairness, WAR from players bought with the farm was not separated from WAR acquired for payroll relief. However, you could keep going with this: a lot of times signing a free agent pitcher means that you can keep an OF prospect instead of trading him for a different pitcher. In other words, maybe the Sox’s WAR from Elsbury was possible because they could sign Dice-K instead of trade Elsbury for a different established pitcher.

                1. OlderStyle

                  understood. farm system and payroll allocation are two forms of resources for MLB players. my beef is with folks that see the question as an either/or.

        2. baseballet

          “Follow the money,” a wise source once opined. Kyle, your parallel fronts argument works if the Cubs have Angels/Yankees money to spend on payroll. I know Theo promised parallel fronts, but I think that’s a smoke screen for what’s really going on: rebuilding smartly on a midmarket team budget.
          I think if Ricketts allowed Angels level payrolls then Theo would have gladly spent big money on free agents this season (and we’d all have Darvish to scapegoat this summer!)
          I suspect that the budget is tighter than they’d like to admit publicly and will continue to be limited in comparison to the big spending teams until the Cubs can redo their TV contract (the source of the Angels’ Pujols money). So get used to TV Dinners because steak won’t be on the table for a while.

          1. Kyle

            The Cubs are most certainly not a midmarket team. They can’t keep up with New York, but there’s no reason they can’t keep up with Boston and L.A. They don’t have the billion-dollar L.A. deal just yet, but they aren’t nearly as poor as people are making them out to be on this thread.

            It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. Keep acting like you are poor, attendance goes down, and suddenly you are.

            1. baseballet

              So do you think that Theo has Ricketts’ permission to sign top money free agents and just decided he didn’t want to? And that signing players like Darvish and Fielder would not hamper their budget going forward, even if they had to replace them in a few years if they didn’t work out? I realize I’m painting a worst-case scenario here, but it is the Cubs we’re talking about: the worst-case scenario is always on the table. Next to the TV Dinners.

              1. Kyle

                I think Epstein was burnt out in Boston and the idea of a few years without pressure appealed to him, and I think Ricketts offered him that.

                1. baseballet

                  All of your arguments are really interesting and plausible to me, except for this one about Theo burning out and screwing up in Chicago. It just doesn’t seem like that’s the case to me, although it’s impossible to know, at least this soon.
                  I think that if Theo had the top level money to spend on big free agents (and to cover for his mistakes if those same FA’s didn’t work out), then I think he would have gladly spent it. But all signs seem to point to a budget at least one tier beneath the top level teams.

      2. MichiganGoat

        I think a puppet needs a drink

        1. Fishin Phil

          Always. Fetch me a Founders Goat Boy! :)

    3. MichiganGoat

      I think the media will be frustrated by him because he won’t be the open armed man Hendry was and be more secrective and clearly prepared with his responses. This will upset people because he doesn’t give the writers “quotes” they can spin into stories. As for not being accountable – he is accountable to the plan and vision he set with Ricketts not to the fans and media “do something now” mentality. He won’t let that rabble changes his vision.

      1. Kyle

        The rabble, unfortunately, is cheering wildly for his plan. They bought the media-fed claptrap that overpaid veterans were the reason the organization was in such bad shape.

        1. DocWimsey

          To be honest, I do not think that the “rabble” know what Theo’s tactics are, or what he actually did in Boston. Indeed, he gave the Boston media fits: they kept trying to shoehorn Theo’s explanations into old-school lingo!

          1. MichiganGoat

            ^^THIS^^ that’s what I was saying when talking about the “rabble” – the impatient fans and media outlets that what a story, intrigue, something to discuss. I promise you that in a few short months there will be more and more confusing/frustration from the fans and media over why Theo is doing or saying specific, sound-bit, debatable news. This FO will be in lock-down about discussing anything specific, and that will frustrate the “rabble.” – oh wait that is already happening

            I am fully enjoying how quiet Theo and Co. have been, they are talking with specific yet vauge points- it’s surgical and quite impressive. The product on the field and sustained success will be what Theo and Co. will use to discuss how they do business.

            1. BeyondFukudome

              Yea. Smug, pretentious, self-important cracks about “rabble” really make a great contribution to both the tone and the substance of the discussion.

              1. MichiganGoat

                I do what I can ;)

        2. MaxM1908

          But, Kyle, how is that not the case? Hendry had the “Win now!” mentality and look where it got us? We traded away prospects. We spent way more money on “big name talent” than we ought to have. We had a few stellar seasons, but no title to show for it. We leveraged the future for the present and we lost. We are worse off then we were before the Tribune company’s spending push to throw together a winner. Epstein recognizes that’s not the way to build a perennial powerhouse.He recognizes that you invest now for the future. You build up facilities. You spend heavily on scouting. You draft and develop players effectively. That kind of change doesn’t happen overnight. It has to be built from the ground up. It takes money and time. To waste resources on pursuing big name free agents to try to “WIN NOW!” sacrifices the long-term plan. There may be a day when we have enough home grown players that it makes sense to spend here and there on a top free agent. We’re not there yet. Hopefully, some day soon, we will be.

          1. Kyle

            This is a perfect example of how the average fan has just completely misunderstood the recent history of the Chicago Cubs.

            “Hendry had the “Win now!” mentality and look where it got us?”

            Three division titles.

            “We traded away prospects.”

            The Cubs came out very much on the better of all the “prospect for talent” trades they’ve made lately. Off the top of my head, we got Aramis Ramirez, Derrek Lee, Ted Lilly, and Matt Garza that way.

            ” We spent way more money on “big name talent” than we ought to have. ”

            Every good, big-market team does this.

            “”We had a few stellar seasons, but no title to show for it. We leveraged the future for the present and we lost. We are worse off then we were before the Tribune company’s spending push to throw together a winner.”

            That’s true, we are worse off. But not because we tried to win.

            We’re worse off because the Hendry organization was one of the worst in the league at drafting and developing young talent. Our farm system more or less had a lost decade.

            A good organization should have produced at least three or four more Starlin Castros and Geovany Sotos. If that had happened, we wouldn’t be talking about how bad the organization got.

            Paying money for good baseball players had nothing to do with Hendry’s horrific drafting and development.

            ” Epstein recognizes that’s not the way to build a perennial powerhouse.He recognizes that you invest now for the future. You build up facilities. You spend heavily on scouting. You draft and develop players effectively. That kind of change doesn’t happen overnight. It has to be built from the ground up. It takes money and time. To waste resources on pursuing big name free agents to try to “WIN NOW!” sacrifices the long-term plan.”

            I agree with everything but the last sentence. All of those things that are needed to build up long-term organizational success can be done *without* giving up on the 2012 season. “Parallel fronts,” remember?

            1. MaxM1908

              I guess where you and I fundamentally disagree is that I believe there is an opportunity cost in spending on free agents. It’s the old “have your cake and it eat too” dilemma. Every dollar that goes to that takes away from what you can spend on scouting and development. I recognize that Hendry sent the farm to crap. I think that came about because he didn’t understand what makes good players as Doc notes, but also because he disproportionately devoted resources away from the player development side into the talent acquisition side. You seem to think it’s possible to do both well, and in a world of endless resources, I’m sure it is possible. But Hendry focused resources in the wrong places. I don’t think Epstein is willing to make the same mistake.

              1. Kyle

                There’s a significantly diminishing return on what you can spend on scouting and development.

                The cost of a one-year deal for a decent middle reliever should be more than enough to cover the entire scouting budget and then some. The budgets are on two such vastly different scales that they don’t really impact each other.

                Scouting and development programs thrive based on the expertise of those involved, not on the money. And that’s doubly true
                under the new CBA.

                1. MaxM1908

                  Expertise of scouting costs money. If teams get that then they are willing to spend on top scouts (and many of them at that). It’s a market just like the player market.

          2. DocWimsey

            But Kyle is right in this: Hendry’s “WIN NOW!” mentality is NOT the cause of the Cubs problems. What caused the Cubs problems is what Hendry *thought* made good players for winning. Look at the prospects that the Cubs traded: *none* of them ever amounted to anything. (If HYLee does, then he’ll be the first.) Hendry was enamored of Sori’s speed when he should have been worrying about OBP. When he did get OBP, then the managers misplayed it.

            Where I disagree with Kyle is the idea that Theo could have put a decent team out there this year. Yes, he’ll list the guys that he thinks would have been better than Stewart, LaHair and DeJesus. However, almost any trio of those “better guys” would still have made a lousy team (in my opinion). Theo might have patched the ships holes with cardboard, but most of the options were for cardboard of different thickness, not Krupp steel.

      2. Kyle

        Speaking as a low-level sports journalist, Epstein is *exactly* the kind of manager who makes my job easy.

        He gives you *tons* of quotes. And they are nice and generic and meaningless, so you can fit them into whatever story you felt like writing anyway :)

        1. DocWimsey

          Well, the Boston media had a hell of a time figuring out what he was doing in 2009. He let Jason Bay go and spent the money on Cameron & Lackey. He explained that winning is about run-differential, and that the runs scored that the Sox would lose from Bay would be made up by runs-prevented from putting Cameron in CF, Els in LF and replacing the #5 starter with Lackey for less money than keeping Bay.

          Now, never mind that Cameron and Lackey flopped, and that the injury that ruined Cameron took out Elsbury for the season, too. (Bay also completely flopped after getting beaned!) Nobody could have predicted that at the time.

          What was telling is that the Boston and national media scratched their collective heads, turned and wrote: “The Sox are going small ball in 2010!”

      3. ty

        Theo says the media is just noise and he will ignore it. Hell yes Theo, it is noisy in Boston with that F***** up organization you left just a few months ago. It appears that it will be years and years before they can recover from some of the worst deals in history. Two world series wins due to the most extreme use of steroids in all of baseball. Other than that go gettem cool daddy!

    4. DocWimsey

      I see those statements as inexorably linked! You don’t win without “impact talent.” However, the Cubs have no obvious Pedroia’s, Youk’s, Elsbury’s, Lestor’s, Buchholz’s, HRams, etc., down there. There are not going to be many big free agents to be acquired over the next couple of off-seasons. This is going to make it very difficult to acquire the sort of players who can turn this team into a contender.

      1. Kyle

        “Pedroia’s, Youk’s, Elsbury’s, Lestor’s, Buchholz’s, HRams, etc., down there”

        2nd rounder, 8th rounder, 23rd overall, 2nd rounder, supplemental 1st rounder, IFA.

        If Epstein and Company are as good as we hope, they should be able to draft and find that impact talent without needing to tank seasons to do it.

        1. CubFan Paul


        2. SirCub

          Point being though, that it takes a long time for players to get from the draft board to being an everyday player on the big team.

        3. Cubs505050

          @Kyle. I think Theo knows what he is doing. Lets put you in his place and see how good you would be. I bet yor not better than Theo.

          1. Kyle

            “@Kyle. I think Theo knows what he is doing. Lets put you in his place and see how good you would be. I bet yor not better than Theo.”

            I bet I could have put together a team that won more games than this one will :)

            But again: I like Theo long-term. I just think that tanking 2012 was a bad decision that he made for personal reasons and not organizational.

        4. KCubsfan

          That was before the New CBA. Things are very different now.

          1. Kyle

            Few, if any, of those players were overslots, so I’m not sure why the new CBA would be changing things.

            1. Cubs505050

              I wouldn’t say that he was trying to tank the team. Also I understand that fans want a good season right away. But I would rather take a few years and develop some good players. Then would bring some impact players in to top everything off. Then your set for years to come.

              With the quick fix some years you going to have good year some not so much.

              Wouldn’t you rather have a long string of good years, rather than just have some good and some bad years?

              Just my thought

    5. Dane

      I have no problem with them throwing this season to put themselves in the best position for future drafts. That’s how you build sustainable success. I think the reason some teams continue to struggle is because they consistently finish in the middle of the pack, which means their draft picks aren’t as valuable as the teams below them and they aren’t good enough for a few pieces in free agency to make much of a difference.

      1. Andrew

        I think that may be the case for sports like football and basketball, where there is generally a consensus of who all the top players are to be drafted, but in baseball, scouting actually makes a huge difference and makes it possible to find great players in lower rounds, let alone lower picks in the first round. This isn’t football where you know that the first pick is going to be Andrew Luck and he is going to be a star player in the next couple of years.

        1. DocWimsey

          Aluminum bats and the lack of any analog for those in high school & college basketball or football are big reasons for this. However, a lot of the things that Theo & Hoyer covet (batting eyes, control) are independent of aluminum bats. That might be why the Sox did “less worse” (or however Theo put it) than other teams.

    6. Mike

      Doesn’t feel like trying? LOL

  2. Dave

    Its great to have a plant in place but I am not too crazy about the we will take our time regardless of what the fans feel attitude.
    I’m assuming Ricketts is not too concerned about the falling attendance that has and figures to continue as the rebuild drags on.

  3. Swaz46

    I think we need to remember that this guy’s only been in place for about 5 months. What else should he do? Should have have signed Pujols for 10 years? The Cubs tried that once; he’ll be playing LF tomorrow. That’s the same mentality that the Cubs have had for years. They’ve never had anyone with the stones to redo the entire organization, top to bottom. That can’t get done in 5 months. Give him a chance. If two years in nothing’s changed, then there’s an problem.

    1. Kyle

      Oh man, the day before the season begins, let’s rehash all the offseason arguments :)

      No, the Soriano signing and the Pujols signing are not remotely comparable. Nobody thought Soriano at the time was anywhere near one of the best players in the game.

      ANd no, it’s not the “same mentality the Cubs have had for years.” The Cubs have rarely, if ever, tried to sign elite talent. If you want to include Soriano as an attempt, fine, but before that the last one was Dawson, and he sat right into their laps.

      1. Dave

        I agree. It seems the problem was not that they spent money it’s that they gave it to the wrong players.

        1. Swaz46

          Right Dave. That’s the mentality I was talking about. And I think giving Pujols that kind of money at his age is the wrong move. The right move is building your organization. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Neither can a Major League organization, top to bottom. Sacrifices have to be made.

          1. Kyle

            Why not build your organization *and* sign good players. Epstein did it in Boston, so I know it’s possible.

            1. CubFan Paul

              If you build and sign good players the ML payroll would go over $110M ..Ricketts doesnt like that

      2. SirCub

        Soriano is not nearly as elite, and his contract is not nearly as crippling as Pujols’. So, it can be comparable, but on different scales.

      3. Tim

        Pujols is what 32? signed for 10 years hes not done until hes 42. and those latin players, you never know if they are actually the age everyone thinks they are. he could be 35 now for all we know. hittings not like pitching. he wont be like jamie moyer and still the rockies number 2 starter. hahaha

  4. Fishin Phil

    “I think it’s important to just focus on what we’re doing internally and understand that everything outside is really, no offense, just noise.”

    He’s right, we are a noisy bunch!

  5. OlderStyle

    All Hail Theocracy! None dare question the dogma of Theocracy. (chant with me)

  6. Andrew

    I would not want to be the Angels in 5-10 years where, because of Pujols’s backloaded contract, they’re payroll commitment will continually increase even though pujols production will decrease. Add in CJ wilsons huge contract, and all of a sudden the angels will be driven into a corner financially even with their big tv contract. The Cubs offseason was fine, they managed to possibly make us better for this season as well as in years to come. Next year, I would not be surprised to see the cubs in the playoffs with Rizzo and Jackson playing full time.

    1. Kyle

      I would desperately love to be the Angels.

      They have a chance to win the World Series this season. They have much better major league talent. They have a comparable farm system with more impact talent. They have much better revenue streams.

      You’d have to be crazy not to want to trade places with the Angels organizationally right now.

      1. hansman1982

        Then again, the Angels on Nov 1 were vastly superious to the Cubs. I greatly disagree that Theo is tanking the season on purpose for any reason.

        If you want to look at the Angels, then fine. You have a Manager that is pretty good, a team built with a few farm guys, guys acquired for farm guys and then to put them over the top – they signed CJ Wilson and Albert Pujols. They didn’t start with the big dollar free agents, they started by building a good team.

        Deride Theo all you want, but I trust that he came in with a plan, why do I trust this? Maybe its the fact that he and Tito got ran out of Boston after a 90-win season. The amounts that the free agents got this winter didn’t fit into those plans so he moved ahead. Hell, maybe he didn’t dive in to the FA market because of the CBA. Let the fools rush in. It may be that in 2-3 years the contracts that were handed out this winter will look ridiculous.

        All that aside, looking at the roster of the Cubs on Nov. 1, we were several hundred million dollars away from a competative team. Could they have traded away Brett Jackson, Matt Szczur, DeVoss, Baez, etc… to get upgrades at 2nd, RF, SP? Sure, then we would have had a $150M payroll, no money for the facilities, no money to upgrade the information systems, a crappy farm team and another 3 year window followed by a 3 year period of suckitude. I will take the Boston model for success (and the 90-win seasons every year) every day of the week, even if that means that the 2012 Cubs literally come to my house and crap on my face. We tried to contend in 2011 with this roster and it sucked all around – at least in 2012, we have some rebound candidates to watch.

  7. Myles

    I want to know the magic contracts the Cubs could have given out this year to make us competitive this year. Let’s say we signed Albert Pujols to that bonkers contract. We go from a team that figures to win 72 to 80 (still not a contender, so we need more help). We’ve also added over 240 million dollars in obligations to a not-limitless payroll. We need more help, so we have to sign Reyes and move Castro to 2nd. There’s another 106 million gone, and that brings us to 84 wins (and we’re assuming he stays healthy). Still not competitive, so lets grab CJ Wilson to, at another 77.5 million. We’re finally there; that’s a, what, 88 win team that MIGHT get there? For 413.5 million dollars that is spread out over 6-10 years? I’d rather save the 40 MILLION dollars in obligations this year, use it to repair the incredibly inept development system we’ve got, and then spend that money when we have a better supplemental core.

    Every chance to win is sacred- that includes the chances we’ll have in 2013, 2014, and beyond. Let’s not mortgage those for the ephemeral chance we have this year.

    And don’t get me wrong; I’m actually not opposed to the idea of getting an impact player for the here and now, if the contract makes sense to us. I don’t think paying 75+ for a glorified #2-3 starter, an injury prone player at our strongest position at 17mil per or a contract that pays a 40 year old 30 million dollars were in our best interest – and this is all assuming that they even would have signed here for the contracts they signed for!

  8. Dave

    “I would not want to be the Angels in 5-10 years where, because of Pujols’s backloaded contract”

    Will you say that if they win a WS or two while he is still one of the best hitters in baseball.
    The Angels will have accomplished what we hope to with Theo’s plan.

  9. Kyle

    “No one thought Pujols would be an elite bat either when he was drafted in the 13th round.
    No one thought Votto would be an elite bat.
    No one thought Matt Moore would be the best pitching prospect when he was drafted in the 8th round.”

    Rizzo isn’t a draft pick.

    But that settles it. Because some players improved after they were drafted, we don’t have to try to project players. We can just plug in anyone we want, because nobody has any idea how good players will be in the future, so they are all equally likely to be good.

    That explains how Joe Mather ended up with a roster spot, at least…

  10. Featherstone

    I actually have a legitimate question for everyone here. How many of you would honesty accept the next 3 years of being considered a world series contender for 5 years of being loaded with back-loaded contracts on players well past their prime? I mean no disrespect or ill-will towards either opinion I am just genuinely curious to know.

    1. Cubbie Blues

      Count me in the NO column on that one. I would rather be bad on the front end and be perennially in contention.

    2. Kyle

      That’s too vague to be answerable. How good is the World Series contender? Guaranteed playoff team or something like Tampa Bay in a tough league and division?

      How good is my overall organization? Backloaded contracts coming due shouldn’t hurt you if you have a good organization cycling in young talent.

    3. MichaelD

      I would possibly be ok with it, but as Kyle says it does depend on the situation. However, three good years for five bad years is a pretty poor ratio of return on a contract. I would think the reverse would be the norm.

      How about this, would you be willing with perfect hindsight to accept the Soriano contract if it had ended last fall? In other words would you have signed Soriano for five years looking back?

      I would because he was absolutely essential to winning the division titles in 2007 and 2008. The down side of the last three years would have been worth it.

    4. Featherstone

      Ok, A little more information on what the parameters of my scenario. The contender is someone like Angels or perhaps even the Phillies (although they are proven to be playoff contenders, the Angels still are unknown). So a team that will almost undoubtedly make the playoffs and compete in them, but your window of which your team is built around is closing fast with your newly signed FAs to be just past their prime.

      Overall the organization has pushed all its chips in to compete during this window (like the phillies) and the farm is barren as it has been used to compete now. So we are talking a bad farm (not WhiteSox bad), but bottom fifth in the league.

      Do you under these circumstances accept this situation knowing that after 3 years of competing you have 5 years of harsh rebuilding as your farm is barren and your FAs are under contract and not performing nearly consummate to their pay?

  11. MichaelD

    “‘Oh, the honeymoon is over. We’re not seeing enough progress.’ I don’t know when that’s going to be. It might be two years from now, it might be three years from now, it might be two months from now, it might be two weeks from now.”

    Doesn’t this quote seem to imply that Epstein thinks the Cubs are not going to look like a contender three years from now (“… it might be three years from now)? I’m ok with this year being wasted, but what I find so distressing is looking at still being in rebuilding mode going into 2015.

  12. Stuart Williams

    Baseball still comes down to starting pitching. Look at the Giants. They won it a couple of years ago with a dreadful hitting team.

    I like the approach of starting with the rotation and continue to add depth and talent. That will make you a good team eventually. Then focus on defense. That will make your pitching better. Then improve OBP to add some more runs which will take some pressure off of your pitching. Then add some more power to take it to the next level.

    The problem with the Cubs in the past is that they were always looking to fill the seats with SOSA, DAWSON, etc. and had no depth in pitching. Even 2003 exposed the lack of depth when Baker blow out the arms of Prior/Wood. Why didn’t the Cubs ever come that close again?

    I would have been more pessimistic if we built the team with over-priced hitters again.

  13. Dave

    “I’m ok with this year being wasted, but what I find so distressing is looking at still being in rebuilding mode going into 2015.”

    I feel the same way. This isn’t just about not spending for an impact player this year but probably not for the next 3 years or possibly ever.
    Theo and Jed have said over and over they are not going to spend for past results. My question is how often does an impact player make it to free agency whose not going to get a contract that goes past his prime?
    I don’t see where their plan differentiates itself from the way small market teams operate.

  14. Cubdiehardsince75

    Unfortunately I have to agree with most of Kyle’s comments. If trying to hit the free agent market was such a horrible thing to do, there would be no hearsay about Theo making any offers. I think the bottom line is that he wasn’t given the leaverage to match offers in terms of money and years that were signed. With that said, all he can do is prepare us for the worst. With teams locking in there players before free agency along with the new CBA rules capping the draft and international markets it’s going to be even more difficult to get impact players. So sadly we are looking at a 3-4 year window where even if we catch lightning in a bottle is not going to be the so called “sustained” success which under the circumstances won’t come for 5-6 years down the line. With that forecast it makes it a little more harder to swallow, that in a division that has the best possible scenario for us to win the division, we chose not to be competitive by making low ball offers that would not have taken away from the farm system.

  15. daveyrosello

    I don’t get the criticisms of Theo on Cespedes. The news accounts were that the Cubs were the top bidder, until Oakland swooped in at the last minute and offered the same money for two less years, and free agency once the 4 years are up. Hard to fault Theo on that.

    1. Kyle

      They knew what Cespedes wanted, they chose not to give it to him at the risk that someone else would.

      It’s not about any one specific player. Yeah, you can excuse each of them individually. But the pattern is clear: Epstein wanted no part of actually good baseball players on the 2012 Cubs.

      1. DocPWimsey

        If Theo & Hoyer had want no part of Cespedes, then they would not have wound up making the 2nd best offer. It is possible that Theo & Hoyer turned down the opportunity to go 36/4: but they were on the hook for 36/6 given what Cespedes (or his agents) later said, and that is a long way from “wanting no part.”

        1. Kyle

          The other alternative is that they were trying and just suck at it. That’s not really better.

          1. FromFenwayPahk

            There is more than one other alternative. They may have been driving up the price on a player to burden a rival financially.

  16. cubchymyst

    I read most of what was above, I did not see this point but it might be in there somewhere.

    Look at the number of people that are currently being signed to extensions before they hit free agency. If teams start doing this more often then there will be less players in their prime available for free agency. That effectively limits your ability to build a team through free agency and leaves the draft and trades as the more viable option. The new CBA looks to be making the draft even more important. To trade for those last pieces to win you will need prospects to trade. If I recall correctly, Theo and Co. were upset about the new CBA because they probably realized that it meant a few years of losing before they had the farm in place to make the necessary trades and find the players worthy of extensions.

  17. Dan Fredrickson

    I’m on board with Theo Epstein’s plan for the Cubs. I’m drinking the Kool-Aid. And I understand why the Cubs would want to not promote Anthony Rizzo and Brett Jackson to start the season. It makes sense to me, and I’m hoping that several years from now I am glad that Theo/Jed played the cards that they are now playing. I’m an optimist. The glass is always half full. But I’m wondering: Is there a specific date when the Cubs can recall these guys from the minors? Should I be circling a date on my calendar and saying, “Okay… now!! We now have that extra year of team control. Call them up now!!” ?

    1. Kyle

      Sort of.

      For free agency, someone could probably calculate the exact date, but it’s different for each player. Rizzo already has 68 days of Major League Service time, while Jackson has none, so Rizzo would have to stay down 68 days longer to get that extra year.

      For arbitration, it’s a moving date that depends on all the other players in the league, but two months or so should be enough.

  18. Chris

    Quite honestly I’m not thrilled with the comments or general attitude I see from Epstein. Listen, it’s early but I don’t see why you can’t build a farm system and field at least a relatively competitive team in the short term. Also I love it when people say “Hendry traded all our prospects for DLee, Aramis, Lofton, Etc.” which prospects did we lose that turned out to be even average MLBers. Willis was good for 2 yrs and that’s about it. To me it is very difficult to win in MLB without relying heavily on free agents and i hope we dont go back to being the cheapest major market team in baseball. Our farm system stinks but it has long before Hendry. I just don’t get to excited about prospects because more times than not they don’t pan out.

    1. DocWimsey

      In fairness to Willis, his career probably was ruined by the heavy workload that Jack McKeon put on it. He was every bit as bad as Dusty Baker: you might recall him trying to explain to the media that maybe these pitchers would be the ones not affected by high pitch counts! And you are correct that the Cubs farm system has been bad for a long time: Soto was the first farmhand position player to make the All-Star team since Joe Girardi, but he only made the team because there was an injury and he was in town. Palmeiro and Grace were the last “real” All-Stars.

      Now, Kyle might be right that this would be a 0.500 team if it keeps ARam and Pena. Kyle definitely is right that a 0.500 team can win 88 games by chance about one year in 6. However, the same team loses 73 games by chance one year in 6, too!

      1. Kyle

        Sure. I think the 2011 Cubs are a pretty good example of a .500-ish team that came in a lot worse than that due to various examples of variance and poor planning (I keep coming back to that stat that they were .500 when Garza, Dempster, Wells or Zambrano started. All that team really needed to be respectable was starting pitching depth).

        1. DocWimsey

          If a team that wins 45% of its games is 0.500 with it’s top 4 starters, then it obviously was getting a lot of starts from starters 5 through X. (That seems to be what I remember, too, but I was ill a lot last year, so my memory isn’t all that clear.) People like to talk about teams needing depth, but absolutely no team can survive that much loss of starting pitching. For context, it took losing 2 starters to keep the Yanks out in ’08 and the Sox out in ’11. You can design a ship to take a torpedo, but you cannot design one to survive having it’s hull torn out from under it.

        2. KCubsfan

          Here is the funny part about what you are saying Kyle. As the team stands it is a below .500 team as you say. Lets look at the players you wanted to resign Ramirez and Pena. I believe you truely want lose the numbers replacing them with Stewart and LaHair/Rizzo. They only hit 52 HR between the 2 and Stewart hit 25 in less then 500 PA in 2009 and still hasnt had more then 441 PA since then. you also wanted Cepesedes to me he is just as much a wildcard as Lahair maybe more. I just wanted to add one more thing the year the Rays went to the WS they were picked to finish last in the Division and the DBacks were picked to be one of the worst teams in baseball last year. What happened with both was the Kids came up (some didnt even start the year with the Clubs) and pushing the team to excel!

          1. DocPWimsey

            The DBacks were actually a fairly lucky team last year, in a couple of ways. Given their basic stats, they really were not much better than a 0.500 team: but, as Kyle notes, in a sample size as small as 162, a coin will flip heads nearly 90 times fairly frequently. The DBacks also benefited from playing an unbalanced schedule in a bad division: the Giants were getting lucky for a while with atrocious offense, but the Pads, Dodgers and Rockies were train-wrecks. It was nothing like having to deal with the Cards, Brewers and Reds. (Of course, getting the Astros makes up for that a little….)

            As for the Rays, they were not picked to come in last in ’08: by then, the Orioles were the annual picked-for-last team. True, the Rays had lost 96 games the year before, but they had a lot of young talent. People expected ’08 to be the year that they stepped up to being a 0.500 team. Of course, that assumed that some of the talented youngsters would step up that year whereas others would step up in ’09 and ’10. Instead, the Rays got a little lucky in that nearly *all* of their pieces took steps forward. That’s not an option for the Cubs this year. (The Rays also won more games than you would expect given their peripherals: but, as they discovered when they lost more games than you would expect in ’09, half the time you do, half the time you don’t.)

          2. Kyle

            So as long as Stewart does exactly what he did in his best season three years ago, which he’s shown no sign of doing since, it’s not that bad?

            There’s a *reason* he hasn’t gotten more than 441 PAs since then. It’s because he hasn’t earned them. The homerless streak is at 58 games and counting.

            The Rays were most certainly not a last-place team their World Series year. Baseball Prospectus had them at something like 88 wins and was roundly mocked for it.

            Anyways, I actually don’t think this Cubs team is as bad as most people do. There’s 95 loss potential, but I think there’s also 81-win potential if everything breaks just right.

            1. Kyle

              You know what, though? This is an offseason argument. Today, we are in season, and I’m bowing out of the Stewart/Theo bashing for now.

              Bring on the Nationals!

              1. DocPWimsey

                The Nats should be a fun team to watch. I live in DC now, and people got a little to excited last year: young players and a “winning attitude!” Well, half the youngsters didn’t progress as much as hoped, 29 other teams had winning attitudes, the division was pretty tough, and (of course) the hopes were based on the injury-free year that happens once a generation.

                However, another year of progress from their players and (hopefully) healthy season for a couple of key players and the Nats could compete. The Braves were a bit lucky last year (until the end), the Phils are declining (but still very potent), the Marlins over-rated (in my opinion) and the Mets are another train-wreck.

                My challenge: how to make sure that my son grows up rooting for the Cubs instead of the Nats!

                1. Kyle

                  This is my third straight year picking the Nats as my sleeper team to make the playoffs. Third time’s a charm?

                  1. DocPWimsey

                    For their sake, I almost hope not. Strasburg and Zimmerman are recent TJers. If the Nats are close, then they will feel compelled to “go for it”: and instead of sticking to the innings limits that they now plan, the Nats might go Dusty McKeon on their arms…..

            2. Norm

              The over/under on wins for the Cubs seems to be right around the 74 mark at most places, so your 81 win potential and 95 loss potential seems to be a good guess (+-7 W/L)

              1. Kyle

                Yeah. I was a little more optimistic earlier in the offseason, something closer to 76 or 77. But right now, 74 sounds about right.