Chicago Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein spoke to the media yesterday about a variety of things (see here, here, here, here, and here), though surely he knew what we all really wanted to hear about …
- On the trade market as we approach the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline: “It’s always good to have the market dynamic on your side with more buyers than sellers. It’s nice to have leverage on your side. The potential of doing nothing and being fine with that is always a nice option to have. We’ll see. The trade market is still developing. As you get closer to the trade deadline team’s desires and the intensity of those become clear.” The art of saying nothing. Epstein understands this better than most.
- On the Cubs’ preference for the return in deadline trades: “In certain deals, it is [pitching]. You can express a preference for pitching, but if you’re dealing with a club that has better position player prospects and you feel the position players in a certain system are a safer bet or offer higher upside, I don’t think it’s smart to pigeonhole yourself in to one situation. [But] we need to add a lot of pitching to the system. It’s not enough to have a handful or one or two. You need to have waves and waves of pitching coming through your system and we don’t have that. We don’t hardly even have one wave coming so we need to rebuild a lot of pitching depth.” The Cubs came into the season thin in pitching depth, and attrition plus ineffectiveness have only thinned it further. As bright as the future is on the positional side, it is that bleak on the pitching side. Epstein’s right, though: you never want to say no to an A+ positional prospect in favor of a B pitching prospect, no matter what your system looks like.
- On the Cubs’ window for competitiveness: “Hopefully, we’re very competitive very soon. Just sitting here and wanting to be so doesn’t make it so. You have to build an organization. You get sick of me saying this, but there are no shortcuts.”
- Relatedly, on the building process, and where the Cubs stand: “I think building is a working process. We’re trying to get better every day as an organization and there are a lot of different things that go into building a championship caliber organization. The emergence of young talent in the minor leagues is important, scouting is important, things that happen in the big leagues are very important … most important. We want all our players to progress, get better and solidify the roles they are in and maybe look to the future to play an even bigger role. Like we said at the beginning of the year, we could always use more impact talent and we still feel that way. You don’t get satisfied when one, two or three players break through and start to emerge. You want to try to get as many as you can.”
- On when the Cubs will supplement that building process through free agency: “Sometimes that works out for you, but more often than not, it doesn’t. There’s a price to pay for that type of thing. If you get tempted and you get impatient and you try to solve your problems through free agency, there’s always a price to pay. Usually, it happens pretty soon toward the end of that deal. Free agency is definitely a nice way to add talent to an organization without giving up talent, but you cannot make an organization that way. We have a lot of steps ahead of us we have to take care of before we’re in position to add a finishing piece or two through free agency. We’ll always look to free agency. We’ll always be on every free agent and see if it’s the right player or the right value. If we sat around and drew up a plan that had free agency as the answer to most of our problems, we’d be on a fool’s errand there. We need to build a foundation based on scouting we believe in, player development we believe in, a steady flow of prospects.” Although that’s all reasonable, it’s also a lot of fluff – Theo knows as well as we do that the dynamics for acquiring talent has changed thanks to the new CBA, and one of the few remaining oases in the desert for large market clubs is to outspend everyone else in free agency. I’m not saying the Cubs are going to do it this Winter, but it’ll have to happen at some point.
- On helping the Cubs secure public funding for Wrigley Field renovations: “If they need help, yeah. It’s not what I do on a day-to-day basis but we sit in meetings and talk about it. Obviously it’s of fundamental importance to the organization and affects some of our baseball plans. So any of us are willing to give our best effort to make it happen.” When Theo says it impacts the baseball plans, what he means is: until the deal gets done, and on terms at least modestly favorable to the Cubs, the baseball ops department isn’t going to have as much cash to work with as they might otherwise.