Chicago Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein made himself available to the media yesterday, as he does from time to time, to address a number of pressing issues, the most obvious of which was the firing of hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo. But, while he was answering questions, Epstein was asked about a great many things, including the organization’s plans for the next month and a half.
- On the upcoming trade season: “It’s true that once the Draft is over with, there seems to be more of a focus on the trade market. There are more phone calls being made now than 10 days ago. Certainly, that’s something we’ll evaluate. We’re in a position where any opportunity to get better, any opportunity to improve our future is something we have to take seriously, even if it means making difficult decisions about the product that we’re putting on the field right now.” In other words, it’s time to start selling off pieces.
- A bit more on that point: “The reality of the game is that trades are made in June and July, and if didn’t fully investigate and execute [moves] that made sense, we would be doing a disservice to the organization.” Buckle up.
- On making a change at hitting coach: “Rudy’s not to blame for the results. That’s something we’re all accountable for. We put the roster together. It’s probably more on us than it is on him. I’m sure a lot of players feel accountable, too. It’s not based on results, it’s more trying to get a new voice with a new message. We have a certain hitting philosophy we believe in and we have a lot of growth that awaits us as an organization …. If you’re going to embrace a new message, you need a new voice to go with it. Rudy is so good with the mechanics of the swing. He’s excellent at that. I think sometimes it can be hard to shift into more of an emphasis on an approach, the mental side of hitting and other things we’re trying to emphasize. It just seemed like the appropriate time to make a decision …. It’s more emphasis than anything else. Rudy might be the best in the world at the mechanics of the swing. We’re trying to get to the point where we have a game plan for our hitters, emphasizing selective aggressiveness at the plate …. The goal is to get your pitch in your count so you can put an aggressive swing on the ball so you can drive it. We’re not asking our hitters to walk, we’re asking our hitters to make sure they’re selective enough to get a good pitch to hit so they can be aggressive.”
- What I’ve gathered about the philosophical difference is something like this – while both Epstein and Jaramillo are into “selective aggressiveness,” Jaramillo views that as ripping at the first good pitch you see, and Epstein views it as working the count to your favor so that you’re more likely to see that “good pitch.” It’s a subtle difference, but in a game of inches, it’s plenty of difference to make a change.
- Epstein has said that interim hitting coach James Rowson will have the job through the end of this season, at which time the Cubs will evaluate where they think things stand.
- On the Cubs’ record losing pace: “I haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about that. I’m more focused on where we’re going, how we’re going to get there, and yes, how fast we’re going to get there. But when you focus too much on how fast, sometimes you make compromises with exactly how you’re going to get there.”
- On top Draft pick Albert Almora’s comments that he’s focused on going to college: “He’s a great student and worked hard to get that full ride to a prestigious university, and he does have options. They should fully examine them. But the key is he loves baseball, too. We’ll sit down and talk about them.” I don’t think Epstein is too worried. He added that the Cubs have, indeed, signed a number of draft picks, which signings will be announced after physicals and paperwork are complete.
- On the reported Jorge Soler signing: “I saw those reports. I can’t really address anything until it’s official, and in this case, there’s usually a process where there’s an agreement and a term sheet and then there’s a immigration process in getting visas and then there’s a physical and once the physical is done, the signing can be official.” It sounds like it could be a week or so before things are finalized, which is convenient for the Cubs, who have to open up a 40-man roster spot anyway.
Cubs GM Jed Hoyer also shared his thoughts on the Jaramillo move, as well as the plans for the trade season.
- On Jaramillo’s departure: “Rudy’s a great guy, he works incredibly hard. But our approach at the plate is not what we want. A lot of first-pitch swings, not a lot of deep counts, not a high on-base percentage. Rudy’s great at the mechanical part, we want someone to talk about the approach.”
- On the Cubs’ performance to date, and how it might impact midseason moves: “From a pitching standpoint, we haven’t thrown strikes well enough yet. We’ve done a pretty good job of that in the rotation, but our bullpen has walked too many guys. We need more power arms that throw strikes. Everyone in baseball needs those guys, but we need a bunch of them and that’s something we’re going to be looking for.”