Theo Epstein Speaks: How Much Losing is Too Much, Sveum’s Performance, the Potentially Ugly Future

Chicago Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein addressed the media on Friday, but, since I was doing the “play” part of all-work-and-no-play-make-Brett-a-dull-boy this weekend, I thought it best saved for today.

Among Theo’s thoughts …

  • On the terrible on-field results this year at the big league level: “No one wants to be associated with a 100-loss team. We’re going to try to win every game but if we can win enough to avoid 100, it would be a very, very small victory but certainly better than losing 100.” There’s a small, cynical part of me that wonders whether Theo really thinks that. As in, if the choice was 100 losses and the number 2 pick in 2013, or 99 losses and the 5th pick, I’m not entirely sure Theo would choose the latter (I’m not sure I would either).
  • On the team’s attitude in spite of the terrible results: “For a team that’s where we are in the standings, it’s been one of the best clubhouses I’ve been around. They show up to play every day, they like each other, they prepare, they work hard. With a few very rare exceptions, we’ve played really hard for nine innings every game and left it all on the field. Usually when you’re losing on the field, it starts to seep into the clubhouse a little bit but we haven’t seen that happen. I’ve been proud of the way we’ve conducted ourselves.”
  • Relatedly, on Dale Sveum’s performance: “We told Dale in the interview, we told him that based on where we are as a franchise, we’re going to try to win, but we’re not even going to evaluate him on wins and losses in the first couple years because it wouldn’t be fair. We knew we’d be putting out a team that had too much developing talent to evaluate him strictly on wins and losses. We’ll evaluate him on a number of other criteria that we shared with him and I think he’s done a fantastic job, to be honest with you.” This is, of course, the right approach. Casting Sveum out because a young, weak roster lost a bunch of games wouldn’t make much sense. Instead, you cast him out or keep him based on the development of those young players, the attitude they show, the fundamentals the team displays, the in-game decision making he shows, and perhaps the defensive improvement of the team as a whole. On those bases, Sveum is looking at least satisfactory in my book.
  • On the ever-present “plan” for the future: “Obviously, we really care about our fans and want them to have the best experience. But we try to be transparent about it. We have a plan and a vision, and it’s not going to happen overnight. Given the way of things, I think this is the best way to go. We’re not trying to hide the ball. We’re being honest with [the fans]. There might be another Trade Deadline in our future where we trade away 40 percent of our rotation. You do that because there’s going to be a day when you acquire two starting pitchers at the deadline to cement your club and go on a run. Our goal from the beginning is we’re going to do what we need to do to put ourselves in a position to be a contending team year in and year out and that means no shortcuts and taking the long approach. When you acquire young players and trade for prospects, it’s pretty obvious it’s not a quick road. I think it’ll be a rewarding journey.” There are no lines to be read between there: Epstein is saying, plainly, that the Cubs do not expect to be competitive in 2013. They do not expect to pursue big-time free agents (or expensive veterans via trade) this offseason. The nice thing about this front office is that they are willing to be flexible on “the plan” if the market dictates they should be (if those big-time free agents or veteran trade pieces became somehow undervalued, for example, maybe the Cubs change course). But, again, plainly: that is not “the plan.” The plan is to pick up some value free agents, and other rebound candidates, and to unload as many short-term assets for long-term assets as possible, while drafting well in 2013.
  • On no-seriously-the-plan-is-a-rebuild: “Obviously, I’ve noticed [the White Sox in contention, and the presumed competition for Chicago fans' eyes and dollars]. There’s a choice. You can say we’re going to Band-Aid this thing and try to polish it up the best we can and make it as presentable as possible to try to squeeze every last fan through the gates this year and we’ll deal with next year next year. Or we can say we want to make this thing right, no matter how tough the road is. We’re taking the second path, so it doesn’t matter how many teams are in the city, we’re going to take the path we feel is right.” As long as the Ricketts family has the intestinal fortitude to see this thing through, I’m on board for the pain. It seems like Theo is pretty explicitly saying the Ricketts family does have the gumption to absorb some hurt at the gates next year (and maybe another year still). And, here’s the thing: even if we’re just talking about the money side of winning, if the Ricketts family wants to realize the bounty that sits on the other side of a multi-year stretch of playoff appearances, short-term pain may be necessary.
  • On the prospect part of that hoped-for future: “The lower levels had a lot of cause for excitement, especially Boise. It was a lot of fun at the end of the year to [see] you literally had a prospect at every position, which is really rare. That was the youngest team in the league and came within four outs of proving they were the best team. A lot of good things are happening [in the minor leagues].” Something good on which to end.

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

229 responses to “Theo Epstein Speaks: How Much Losing is Too Much, Sveum’s Performance, the Potentially Ugly Future”

  1. jim

    I predict the cub koolaid will get much thinner next season. And, all bars left are for tourists so cant even drink sorrows away. Cubs r team of constant sorrows ;-)

    1. Spriggs

      And as a Cubs fan, I am a “Man of Constant Sorrows”.

      1. MichCubFan

        Dylan fan, there?

      2. Ogyu

        For a hundred five long years we’ve been in trouble
        No pleasures here on earth we found
        For in this world we’re bound to stumble
        We have no fans to help us now.

        We are a team of constant sorrow
        We’ve seen trouble all our days.
        We bid farewell to old Wrigley
        The only place where we was praised.

        1. N8theGr8

          These are the saddest of possible words:
          “Castro to Barney to Rizzo.”
          Trio of bear cubs, and fleeter than birds,
          Castro to Barney to Rizzo.
          Ruthlessly pricking our gonfalon bubble,
          Making a Giant hit into a double –
          Words that are heavy with nothing but trouble:
          “Castro to Barney to Rizzo.”

          1. CastrotoBarneytoRizzo

            What did I do????

  2. Da Cubs

    Very good article Brett!That’s why I come to this site for my Cubs news.

  3. Tommy

    Your last bullet point was beautiful. Couldn’t agree more. One thing I always appreciate about you is your optimism! And why not! It does no good to look at things from the worst case scenario, and honestly, I think this FO is turning us around from the bottom up (and rather quickly at that).

    Let’s see how Low and High A ballclubs look next year. If they improve drastically, and the rookie league and short league teams stay good, I’d say the plan is working.

    GO CUBS!

    1. Chris

      Exactly! The improvement has to be measured in these terms. They literally started from the bottom and are working their way up. Building a solid scouting organization and stockpiling the farm system with high draft picks and talented international free agents is the recipe for sustained success. That’s what we as Cubs fans should want.

  4. JulioZuleta

    It can be hard to hear that we’re in for another rough year or 2, but it’s good to know we finally have leadership with the patience and credibility to stick to a plan that I think we all know is good in the long run.

    1. Spriggs

      Yeah, 2 more years of this is going to be tough to take. But it’s the right way to go. I just hope I’m here to see the “long run”.

  5. phoenix0401 (Flashfire)

    I agree on the #2/#5 pick, and I’m sure Theo would, too. But, really, what is he going to say? After the Dempster listening in fiasco and the Kane County mess, what’s going to happen if he comes out and says: “Yup, we’re pretty happy with the losing. Soriano getting hot and driving in runs when we wanted him in San Francisco has me beating my head against the wall. Why is this stuff happening here?”

  6. Glenallen Hill's One Homer

    I can’t wait to watch another year of development next year. Even if it means absorbing a bunch of jokes from other teams, this is what needs to happen and I’m happy to see it actually happening.

  7. CubFan Paul

    I think the 2013 big league club will be more competitive than most assume

    1. JulioZuleta

      Ehh most people had that moment before this year where they thought it would be better than it ended up being. I think it will be slightly better than this year, but in no way competitive for a playoff spot.

      1. hansman1982

        I was very optimistic before the start of the season but I also knew that everything I was being optimistic about (Stewart, Soto, Volstad, LaHair, Barney) had to be damn awesome for contention to happen.

        The expectations for 2013 will be about the same just a different cast (Jackson, Rizzo, Castro, Soriano, Clevenger, Marmol, Shark).

        1. JulioZuleta

          I think there’s a chance Clevenger is either traded, or back at AAA next year. Between the 2, Castillo is clearly the better option down the road, and I think he would benefit from having a veteran catcher around to show him the ropes.

          1. ssckelley

            I would not give up on Clevenger just yet as a back up catcher. At least he is a better hitter than Koyie Hill.

  8. EQ76

    The plan is to pick up some value free agents, and other rebound candidates, and to unload as many short-term assets for long-term assets as possible, while drafting well in 2013.

    If you are a FA on the market, would you want to sign with the Cubs knowing that you will most likely just get traded at the deadline??

    1. Still Love the Cubs

      I would think that the FA’s aren’t going to have much of a choice. The ones that the Cubs signed this year, it wasn’t exactly like other people were beating down their door looking for them.

      I think they’ll be in the bargain bin, and give the guys that they think will rebound a little more than any other team. The FA would be stupid to reject more money from the Cubs. Then they can be traded if they out perform their contract.

    2. Tommy

      Let’s face it – most players are going to sign the best contract offer they get, regardless of who it comes from. If the Cubs offer the best contract, they’ll sign.

    3. Dave

      I agree. I have a hard time seeing a Maholm type pitcher signing with the Cubs this offseason.
      At best I would think you can get some guys coming off injuries looking to prove themselves for a year in order to position themselves better as free agents for 2014.

  9. cubsin

    I’ll be carefully watching the off-season moves this winter to see what Theo’s timeline is. If he wants to contend in 2014, he’ll be signing free agent pitchers with major league experience and trading for prospects at the AA and AAA level. If he’s signing reclamation projects and trading for kids in A ball, it’s 2015.

    1. hansman1982

      Very good point…some of it will depend on what they think the FA class of 2014 will do. If they know there are a couple studs hell bent on reaching FA then they may sit the sidelines a little more this winter.

  10. bbrave307

    I am kind of curious what kind of FA pitching we sign this offseason. Do we do a cheap two year deal like we did with Malholm or do we get a little better guy on a 3 or 4 year deal. Say for $8 million per year.

    We obviously need at least one starting pitcher. If we get too good of one will that just add a couple of wins and potentially move us further away from the number one pick in the draft. We are not going to the playoffs next year so signing too good of a pitcher(s) just ruins your draft but maybe puts a few more butts in the seats.

    We have the money and we have the room in the rotation to get a good longer term starter, but I wonder if we do it. We may just go for the draft pick one more year.

    It will be an interesting offseason.

    1. Chris

      I think if you read what Theo was quoted as saying, there isn’t much chance for an $8mil free agent signing for 2013. And looking at the free agency list, I’m not sure there is a pitcher similar to Maholm that will be available for similar money. There are always pitchers, but Maholm was the right mix of age and skill that made a 2 year deal at those terms worthwhile. My prediction is they will slow-play the free agency market, let teams spend their money, and figure out who’s left to be signed to short-term deals. 1 year deals, with options for a second year sound logical to me.

  11. Timmy

    It wouldn’t be impossible to do both, but perhaps Theo isn’t a very good multi-tasker. Maybe in 5 years we’ll compete…

    1. Chris

      There’s a method to his madness. Clearly he wanted to draft higher this year and next, especially with the new draft rules. Signing a bunch of free agents to get closer to .500, but not be playoff bound is shortsighted. This is the same tactic that the Tribune Company employed for so many years and it never really worked, except for filling the seats at Wrigley. While bottoming out isn’t appealing, we’ve already started to see progress. Arizona and Boise had good seasons. Both teams were comprised of many Theo/Jed acquisitions.

      1. Spoda17

        Chris, I could not agree more… why waste the money on a player that will get us a few more wins, but ultimately we still are a long way away…

        1. Timmy

          Yes but there are no guarantees that a few draft picks will change are luck on its own. I just don’t see how it’s sustainable to compete when we can afford 110-130 million dollars a year easily.

      2. Kyle

        Well, the first thing to note is that the Cubs *did* make the playoffs 3 times in 9 years under Hendry, slightly more than the average MLB team would make it. Enough to justify the resources they spent? No. But it’s not as if the strategy failed brutally.

        Second, the spending wasn’t the reason they were bad. A failure to draft and develop well was. The best organizations can simultaneously spend money and draft/develop well. Abdicating one or the other is a suboptimal strategy.

        1. The Dude Abides

          My man you are beating a dead horse with these guys they are convinced (just like I’m sure they were convinced two, four, six years ago) that we are on the right path. End of the day they don’t get why we should try to compete and rebuild at the same time I guess. If we only win six more games they will say what a waste of time to try to win, what was accomplished (that cost us five draft spots for a player who may make it in four years)? To your point there will be a day when Theo will be held accountable to what is on the field playing at the major league level (hopefully 2014).

          We will show the world and go from 90+ loses to 90+ plus wins in one season because it is a waste of time to try to win 82 games if that doesn’t win a division. I really don’t get why you don’t understand that thinking or don’t consider it realistic.

          By the way obviously that’s not how it’s going to happen because Theo is in charge and not the guys on this board and he actually knows what he is doing. I can’t wait for him to start moving prospects and signing FA’s I’ll make sure to check back here so I can fully understand if it was a good move.

          I get pimped every time for saying this but it is a great sight for up to date news and I read it daily but I don’t think I have every read a sight in any sport where the overriding theme is losing is good because that is how all winners are built, NO EXCEPTIONS!!!

  12. Ramy16

    Ervin Santana will be available.. I don’t think the Angels will bring him back.. I think a different scenery will help and he diffinately fits our rotation.. If he gets back to his old self he’s got dominating stuff! Go Get Him Theo!

  13. Seamhead

    Theo needs to stop aplogizing for the rebuilding and simply let people know that this is the quickest path to a World Series winner.

    Since the WS is typically won by the playoff team that gets hot durig the post-season (as opposed to the best regular season team), the best way to win a WS is to develop a team which will compete for the playoffs several years in a row. The odds dictate that somehere in that string of years, your team is likely to be the hot team that wins it all. But those odds are long indeed for the team that only makes the playoffs once every few years.

    So this complete overhaul is actually the method that requires the least amount of patience, since it is the fastest way to achieve the desired result.

    1. cubs1967

      ummm……….several years in a row; you mean like the 2007-2008 Cubs team that got swept 2 years in a row??
      waiting till 2016 is not the quickest way to a winner; it’s the longest and riskiest since none of these players we are hoping on are established; Baez-Almora-Soler-Lake-all could be busts.
      he does need to apologize for a shitty team that draws 3M fans at home and has 2nd highest attendance on the road. add on the 104 yrs of NO championship and Theo has lots of ‘xplaining to do………….wait till next year when the team again will be close to 100 losses and about an 85M payroll…………..yeah………Theo come wax my car along with that apology…….this is a joke.

      1. Njriv

        No cubs1967, you are the joke. You seem to be the only one that is not getting that the Cubs are rebuilding. Theo was brought here specifically to rebuild this team. Him coming here was a sign that this team was going to go through a rebuilding process. We knew from the beginning that this team was going to be bad, if you came into this season with high expectations, then you must not have been paying attention. Why should Theo and Tom apologize when they established that they were going to go through a rebuilding process last off-season and then apologize for rebuilding when the season is finished? Doesn’t make sense, does it?

      2. Spoda17

        uhm, Tho is the reason we haven’t won in 104 years… shit he is old…

    2. DocPeterWimsey

      Since the WS is typically won by the playoff team that gets hot durig the post-season (as opposed to the best regular season team), the best way to win a WS is to develop a team which will compete for the playoffs several years in a row.

      It that really true? I mean, why would one say that the Cardinals were hotter than the Rangers last autumn? Or why would one say that the Giants were hotter than the Ranger in autumn 2010?

      You can predict pretty well who will win the LDS by September performance. However, nothing predicts LCS performance very well, and the “they are hot” idea runs into the problem that most LDS are between two teams that were hot in September. (For example, the 2011 Ranger and Tigers had two of the best Septembers in the last decade, but only one could go to the WS.)

      However, your main point stands: the way to win WS is to reach post-season frequently. You cannot build a team to win in October, only to play in October.

      1. DarthHater

        why would one say that the Cardinals were hotter than the Rangers last autumn?

        Because they beat them. Q.E.D. ;-)

      2. MightyBear

        2006 Cardinals had a losing record in September and August and yet blew through the playoffs to win WS. September isn’t always predicter. Teams get hot.

        1. DocPeterWimsey

          Ah, but you are leaving out seven important parts of that story: i.e., the other 7 teams in post-season. The 2006 Cardinals pulled off the single biggest first round upset by beating the Padres. However, the ’07 Mets actually were much worse than the Cards at the end of the season: they actually had a negative run differential in September, and such teams almost always are eliminated in the LDS. So, given that the Cards run differential in September was over 20 better than the Mets, the Cards should have beaten the Mets.

          The Tigers were a similar story: they actually played poorly in September. Fortunately for them, all of the other AL post-season teams played poorly in September, too: the hot AL teams all came up short in the end.

          So, in this case, things did not deviate from September performance too badly.

  14. Bric

    The only issue I have with Theo’s comments are his reference to trading talent at the deadline to aquire younger talent. Why do these guys always feel the need to wait til the last 24 hours to trade for the future? Do they think the offers are seriously gonna get that much better? After all, you’re dealing with a team that is already winning as-is.

    Looking at how tight the races are right now. You gotta think that the GMs in contention would rather trade early, not wait til the last minute. Every start counts. Theo’s waiting game made no sense in July and it makes even less sense now. It’s not like the Cubs were in legitimate contention for anything except a high draft pick. Waiting blew the deals on both Dempster and Garza, as it did with Lilly and others before Theo took over. If he’s that serious about being honest and totally rebuilding, his motto should be “Trade early, trade often”.

    1. Norm

      He doesn’t say they are ONLY going to trade talent at the deadline.
      And I think you’re using “deadline” a bit more strict than Theo. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the last 24 hours, I’m sure Theo is talking about the weeks leading up to the deadline as well.

    2. Chris

      I think this is caused by having so many different teams in contention for wild card spots. Teams don’t want to make their best offers until the last minute, just to make sure they don’t fall out of the race. Case in point, Toronto this year. While they were in on Garza for awhile, once the injury bug hit them they decided to stay out of the Garza sweepstakes. While the Marlins traded for Carlos Lee early, and then promptly fell out of the race. Clearly, the Garza injury made the plan to hold him backfire. I’m completely in agreement with you though. The package for Garza wouldn’t have changed that much from early July through to the deadline. Still, negotiations are a dance, and waiting for the most leverage is not a bad idea. It just didn’t work this time.

    3. hansman1982

      Jim Bowden said once that if there were no trade deadline then no deals would ever get done. Remember this is a two way street and just because a team is willing to give up players X, Y and Z in the final hour doesn’t mean they would do the same on June 30th. Both sides are very much hoping the other blinks and they both want to wait until the best possible time to finalize.

      Also, nothing was blown by waiting on Dempster…in fact, Brett said numerous times he believed (and think this was based on Theo quotes/sources) that Theo wanted to clear Dempster out as soon as possible. Unfortunately, Dempster’s love affair with Lilly didn’t allow for that.

  15. Tommy

    And the Dempster deal wasn’t a bust by any means. We got the 7th rated player in our farm system in that deal (at least by Jonathan Mayo’s rankings).

  16. Kyle

    Cushiest job ever for Epstein. Giant payraise, no expectations, fanbase cheering wildly for losing. He can literally put no effort at all into the MLB club for multiple years and no one bats an eye.

    1. DarthHater

      and no one bats an eye.

      I take it you mean that you and the hundreds of others who regularly make similar comments are “no one.”

      1. Kyle

        Hundreds? Maybe. But we’re in the face of tens of thousands, much like when we mere hundreds were pointing out the damage that Dusty Baker was doing to the franchise while the tens of thousands said “shut up, he’s got a plan.”

    2. phoenix0401 (Flashfire)

      I was unaware the Anthony Rizzo, DDJ, and Paul Maholm were “no effort.”

      1. Kyle

        A long-term asset who would still be in the minors if they thought it was best for his development, a 1-year FA pickup made for the express purpose of flipping him at the deadline, and a bargain hunt on an OFer who will probably be flipped next year.

        Yes, that counts as “no effort.”

        1. phoenix0401 (Flashfire)

          So, essentially, “effort” means whatever can best used to tar and feather Epstein. Got it.

          1. Kyle

            Effort means resources expended on improving the current MLB club as a primary goal, not merely an ancillary effect.

        2. Chris

          Not sure I understand how you rate a GM’s performance. He’s not going to win Exec of the Year, but he’s clearly made a difference in a short period of time. And there’s something to be said for beefing up the scouting department and getting rid of the dead weight. Working to lock up your young star shortstop through his prime years isn’t a bad thing either. Wins and loses are an easy barometer, I suppose, but I don’t think the Yankees have made many moves this season. You have to take the long view a GM’s “effort”.

          1. Kyle

            He definitely did what he set out to do: focus all of his resources on improving the minor-league system and organizational infrastructure.

            But he took the easy way out by tanking the MLB team to do it. It’s not hard to acquire a bunch of decent minor leaguers when that’s all you are committing your resources toward, while the other teams are foolishly trying to win the World Series.

            In the long run, whether or not his plan succeeds or fails won’t be decided by what he does this year. This year was easy. At some point, he’s going to have to try to make the transition from “accumulating assets” to “winning baseball games,” and that transition is much harder than many seem to think.

            1. baldtaxguy

              I believe I understand where you are coming from, that this year he could essentially work the development side (as he has done) and at the same time “develop” the major league club through different transactions. And while you suggest he will be putting no effort in the major league personnel for multiple years, and that remains to be seen, don’t you think that assets were needed “to be accumulated” in this manner for Year 1? The cupboard just seemed so bare as more young players were added. I too would like to see him to begin that transition of winning ball games with one or two transactions this winter, and I’m not convinced he will go in the direction of 100 % signing players to flip, but didn’t this year seemed somewhat inevitable?

  17. Kyle

    “So, of the last 10 winners, only 2 had records with fewer than 90 wins. 7 were in the top 5 in league record. So 90% may be slightly too high. We’re talking somewhere between 70-80%. And my point still stands.”

    5 of the 10 came from outside the top 4.

    1. phoenix0401 (Flashfire)

      FFS. :Let’s make a bet. I get Nationals, Rangers, Reds. You get Orioles, A’s, White Sox. Any other winner is a push. What odds do you want to take that bet?

      1. Kyle

        Wow. You’ve gone from confidently proclaiming “90% for four teams against the field” to wanting to make an even-money bet on three vs. three. That’s quite the backtrack.

        1. phoenix0401 (Flashfire)

          There’s a point here. Those were your teams. I asked what odds you needed.

          1. Kyle

            In reality, I’m firmly against gambling (I have an addictive personality and no desire to get myself down that road).

            In imaginary internet money land, I’d take the weaker three at 2:1 without flinching, and that’s without knowing for sure that they’ll all make the playoffs.

            1. phoenix0401 (Flashfire)

              Okay, so 2 to 1 odds. That means that my 3 are twice as likely to win as your 3. As you point out, you have no idea if they’re even in. For simplicity, let’s assume that the 10 teams that are currently in the playoffs make the playoffs.

              Another simplifying assumption: All division champs and wild card teams are equally likely to win. We can figure out odds here: DC + 4WC = 1, and DC= 2(DC+ 2 WC). That simplifies to the chance a wild card wins the World Series is 3.6%. The chance a non-wild card wins the World Series is 14..3%. So, based on your odds — and assuming the White Sox are as likely to win as the Rangers has to be considered a generous assumption — my 4 teams have a 57.2% chance to win the world series.

              You could lower the Sox’s change and raise the WC’s chance and still get your 2 to 1 odds, keeping in mind the WC has to play an extra round. Here, we’ll be kindest to you. The 5 non-White Sox div winners have an equal chance of winning. The WC teams have exactly half the chance of the Div winners. The White Sox will be assigned a chance to win relative to the WC’s. One way to keep things two-to-one — and to hurt my teams the most — says the White Sox have to have the same chance as the wild card teams. That gives us: 5DC+ 5 WC = 1. Which implies 15WC = 1. So, the Wild card teams have 6.7% chance of winning, the Div winners 13.3%, which gives my 4 a 53.2% chance of winning the World Series.

              Let’s assume the White Sox have twice as much chance to win as the Wild Card teams. That gives my teams a 58% chance to win the world Series.

              Yes, you’re cutting my 70-80% number some. but, even given ENORMOUS favorable factors to your team, my four teams are well over 50%. That’s based on your odds.

              1. Kyle

                Okay. That all sounds reasonable enough.

                So better teams have a better chance at the World Series, but lesser teams have some chance. I’m not particularly convinced that “some chance” is worth giving up on just because you get theoretical future payroll flexibility, a better draft pick or can make some deadline deals for prospects.

                1. hansman1982

                  So would you rather trade 2-3 years of increasing from 5% to 10% chance for 2-3 years of being able to increase it from 50-75%?

                  1. Kyle

                    Of course not. But we’re not getting that.

  18. Kyle

    ““Yeah, that’s true that they will exceed the current budget, but they should just spend a whole lot more money than they have budgeted since everyone else is””

    What? No. You are just kinda making stuff up now.

    Brett asked me what I would do if the Cubs had an unlimited budget.

    Then he asked me what I would do if the MLB payroll was $130 million. I said that was probably higher than the Cubs were willing to go, and instead offered my plan for what the Cubs could do with a $115 million budget.

    1. Still Love the Cubs

      “The Cubs are a major-market team and baseball is on the cusp of an epic surge in revenues. There is absolutely no reason fielding a competitive team in 2013 should hamstring the 2017 Cubs financially.”

      I was rephrasing this quoted portion of your response when I said that, not making stuff up. By making this statement you are essentially saying that they should raise their budget indefinitely just because everyone else is doing it in baseball.

      Ricketts isn’t dumb. He bought the team and I’m sure he (as a fan) wants to see the Cubs win as bad as anyone. But he also is making an investment with this purchase. He can set the budget at whatever he wants it to be set at. Either way, at some point if all you are doing is buying, you are not going to be able to spend more when a truly good talent comes along.

      1. Kyle

        “Ricketts isn’t dumb. He bought the team and I’m sure he (as a fan) wants to see the Cubs win as bad as anyone. But he also is making an investment with this purchase. He can set the budget at whatever he wants it to be set at. Either way, at some point if all you are doing is buying, you are not going to be able to spend more when a truly good talent comes along.”

        Ricketts is not the first owner to want very badly for his team to win and have a plan. That alone is not proof that his plan is a good one.

        “I was rephrasing this quoted portion of your response when I said that, not making stuff up. By making this statement you are essentially saying that they should raise their budget indefinitely just because everyone else is doing it in baseball. ”

        You weren’t rephrasing. You were changing for the purposes of an argument you apparently thought I was making. Seeing as how I’m in good position to tell you whether I was or not, you should probably listen to me.

        The Cubs’ current payroll capacity could easily absorb several large contracts. The Cubs *will* be a part of several revenue streams that are significantly growing in MLB. It would be foolish not to plan around that. That’s not the same as saying they should “raise their budget indefinitely” (which I’m not entirely sure what that means).

  19. Crazyhorse

    The free Agent ship sailed away last winter. For the Cubs to go after high priced free agent this off -season would be throwing away money. The front office has proven that they can not field a major league team. At the start of the season the Cubs needed SP . They sign a bunch of talented casualties. They needed RP but traded away Marshall and received hyped up prospects that will never amount to anything . 3b is a glaring hole lets not mention the fragile wrist they recieved by trading Colvin and LeM- (i can play third base as well) to the Rockies. Although Dejesus was not a bust – his salary and presence was not needed on this teams current roster ( colvin could play right and Le M well he could have played third.

    The Cubs have had so many players on this years team that in itself is the mirrored image of a minor league team

    As Cub fans we can either wait and let Theo Epstein plan of rebuilding to bear fruit. (sorry old timers all of you guys and gals will go to your graves knowing the Cubs did it the right way)

    Everybody thought Big Theo would be the man this season ,instead the guy from Baltimore is doing good. Heck even the Redsox was able to unload contracts that Theo signed

    The Cubs ate all their contracts

  20. Frank

    1B Rizzo
    2B Barney
    SS Castro
    3B Vitters? Stewart?
    LF Soriano?
    CF Jackson
    RF DeJesus?
    4th OF Sappelt
    C Castillo
    SP Garza
    SP Shark
    SP free agent
    SP Wood
    SP Volstad/Raley/Rusin/Vizcaino/free agent
    CL Marmol
    Setup free agent
    BP Cabrera
    BP Beliveau
    BP 3 guys

    It’s really not an awful team. Not a world beater, but these guys need to give themselves a chance, and there are players out there than could be acquired via free agency or trade that would not compromise the future. If they want to pick up another Ian Stewart, Paul Maholm, or Chris Volstad as well, more power to them. Put together a .500 caliber team, and let them play. No more throwing shit at the ceiling and hoping for some of it to stick.

    1. Kyle

      That offense is really, really bad. Probably worse than this year’s, if that were possible.

      1. Crazyhorse

        Its a young team that had its worst year this season. The Cubs just need to get some pitching . The hitter will get a little better with time. 3b is the elephant in the room . .

        1. Kyle

          That brings up an interesting point?

          Should we assume that a young team will get better?

          Yes and no. Mostly no.

          It’s kind of interesting. Most of the time, when we study the aging curve, we look at MLB players and see a nice incline up through about 27, then a steady decline into the mid-30s.

          But that’s survivor bias. That’s the career path of players who turn into good MLB players.

          When you zoom out to all professional baseball players, it’s a lot uglier. *Most* of them peak very young. They hit a plateau at 18 or 19 or 20 or 21 or whatever, and never get any better.

          It remains to be seen whether guys like Vitters and Jackson will fit into the former group or the latter.

      2. ssckelley

        The lineup will not be worse but unless the Cubs pick up a couple of starting pitchers the starting rotation will be horrible. I think Castillo > Soto and Rizzo > LaHair with none of the other positions getting any worse. But there is no combination of starting pitchers currently on the Cubs roster that replaces Maholm & Dempster. If they were to trade Garza then it gets even worse. The Cubs will have to open up the pocket books and sign at least 1 free agent pitcher.

    2. EvenBetterNewsV2.0

      I just puked in my mouth Frank. Thanks for that.

      1. Frank

        Different Frank than me–just so you know. I may have to change the handle a bit–just to differentiate us . . . (nothing against you, Frank–I always appreciate a man with an honest name).

    3. Dave

      This is the same team thats going to lost close to 100 games this year, so it is an awful team.

  21. Fastball

    I don’t like the losing ways and can’t except that we are just going to suck again next year. i understand the rebuild. we think this will set us on a playoff run for years. i am not so sure the rest of the teams are going to sit on their butts and do nothing. the pirates are getting better every year and are years ahead of us with their rebuild. the cardinals will never suck and will always be in the hunt for the division or a wild card. the reds are loaded and keep getting better and they are young. so the the plan has merit but he isn’t competing with general managers who are stupid they will be getting better year over year. it will be difficult for the cubs to get get 30 wins better ir more in 2 or 3 years

    1. 40k2

      We will probably suck next year. But I see the sun comming up in 2014.

  22. Rooster

    The only good thing that happened this year is that I proposed to my fiancee on Wrigley Field this year. I couldn’t even think of proposing during a game so I did the whole thing on a Saturday tour when the team was in Arizona. That was my ONLY visit to Wrigley this year and I’m glad it played out like that. The scoreboard was great. Our names got thrown up there and all was good. Thanks Rickett!

  23. mudge

    this is the worst thread ever.

  24. Bill

    This is why I love this site, some very smart baseball fans. Kyle, great posts. I can’t understand the ‘throw in the towel’ sentiment by Theo and many fans here. I’d rather have a 5% chance to make the playoffs next season, than a zero percent chance. How many people thought, before the season, that Balt and Wash would be legit contenders for a playoff spot this year? The Cubs are a large market team, wih tons of money available. There’s no reason to go after some big FA’s if they can help the team. It was mentioned a few days ago about Hamilton. If the Cubs could sign Hamilton to a 4-5 year deal, Theo would be an idiot not to do it Granted, I think someone will offer him more years, but why throw up the white flag before you’ve started? I read where the Yankees were going to cut payroll this winter because they want to have plenty of money available to sign their own FA’s and other FA’s in 2014. The Yanks aren’t the only big market team who’s expected to cut payroll this winter.

    With the Cubs having big TV deal coming in a few years, Soriano’s contract off the books in 2 years, the Cubs should have plenty of money to spend this year and in future years.

    Who came up with this idea that you can’t spend money on the big league club AND continue to improve the minor league system? That may have been the case before the new CBA, or small market teams, but it certainly isn’t the case for a large market team under the new CBA.

    The other thing that frustrates me is the thinking that the Cubs must make the playoffs this season, or signing some FA’s was a bad move. Why? Let’s say the Cubs have 5 holes that need to be filled to be a playoff team. Now, say Theo is able to fill 3 holes, via FA. If the team wins 81 games and misses post season that doesn’t mean it was a bad investment. It means the following offseason Theo has 2 holes to fill, via trade or FA, and the Cubs become a legit playoff contender. It’s a process. How many teams go from last to first? It sure beats waiting 5 years for minor league prospects to reach the bigs, and then hoping they pan out. Prospects are prospects. Most don’t pan out.

    1. Richard Nose

      Show me a championship team comprised of all Free Agent acquisitions and your point might be validated.

      1. ssckelley

        You can’t, a strong farm system builds championship teams. Winning teams use the free agency to fill in holes their farm system cannot fill. But Bill is partially right as the Cubs do need to be active in the free agent market for the future. The Cubs have some outstanding position players coming up through the system but the pitching is further behind. I think the Cubs would be smart to go after free agent starting pitching now to start building that rotation. I think Josh Hamilton is just pipe dream, he is going to go for to much money for to many years.

        1. Richard Nose

          You’re right. I understood Bill as saying he was discounting the concept of building a foundation of prospects as a whole. I agree that FA moves need to be made as well, only the right ones of course (10 yr deals for 30 yr old players don’t make sense for the Cubs right now). The financial burdens left by Hendry have to be considered as well.

          1. ssckelley

            Soriano and Marmol I think are the only players under contract remaining from the Hendry years. They have to pay Soriano for 2 more years at 18 million each but Marmol is a free agent after next season and I think he is owed 9.8 million. But I really do not think the Cubs are strapped for cash but it is making good investments along with building your farm system is what’s going to make the Cubs a consistent contender year over year.

            1. Richard Nose

              My thought was more directed at why they didn’t do much in FA last year: they had to pay Dempster $14 mil, Zambrano $15 mill, Byrd $6 mill, a couple mill left on Carlos Silva. I don’t think they were in a bad place, but that’s $36ish million dollars that weren’t being spent in their best interest (aside from prospects acquired for Dempster) this season. Youre right when you say Sori and Marmol will be the only ones left next year, that shoud help.

              http://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/CHC/2012-roster.shtml

              1. Kyle

                There’s still a *lot* of missing money.

                The Cubs’ total major league commitments (including guys playing for other teams but being paid for by the Cubs, and the major league contracts of Concepcion and Soler) was at a shade under $110 million before the trade deadline dumps. Add in IFA and the draft, and it comes closer to $125 million.

                In 2010 and 2011, the Cubs averaged about $155 million.

                That’s $30 million dollars that meant missing. All the extra hires and organizational infrastructure that the Cubs have added wouldn’t account for more than a small fraction of that. So they left at least $20 million on the table.

      2. Kyle

        First of all, that’s an absurd oversimplification. You, and many other posters, keep wanting to pose the question “Should we develop our own player or should we sign FAs?” It is the very definition of a false choice. We should do both.

        Second, I present to you the 2001 World Series Champion Arizona Diamondbacks, who had precisely one farm-system product in a key role:

        http://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/ARI/2001.shtml

        1. phoenix0401 (Flashfire)

          You’re presenting it as though those of us who support not signing free agents this year believe we should *never* sign free agents. I think — for 90+% of us — that’s simply untrue. We want to sign free agents when we have enough pieces in place that they push us over the top. What if we signed Peavy over the offseason. He’s 32 next year, 33, in 2014, and 34 in 2015 — which really does look like the year. There is zero guarantee that he’s anything other than very expensive DL-warmer at that point. When we’re closer to competing, we can grab free agents to get better performance at that time.

          I know you think they should try to compete every year, and the above does not do that. But we do believe in signing free agents. Just not now — it doesn’t make sense. The Nationals big foray into free agency (Jason Werth) came a year before their push. And it was clear that prospects would be ready by then. The Gio Gonzalez trade is further proof that this year was planned, not accidental.

          1. Kyle

            Oh, I get that. I just think it’s a very bad way to build a baseball team.

            I’ll grant that it’s fun to dream on copying the Nationals’ blueprint, which requires hitting on virtually every high draft pick and hoping that a couple of the times you get the No. 1 overall pick there happens to be a generational talent there.

            But as you noted, even they did not wait for all those talents to be in place before they spent any money. And I recall a lot of people snickering at them for signing Jayson Werth to a bad team.

            But many of the people say they want this team to be competitive by 2014 or 2015 and also that they want to ape the Nats, but that’s not really realistic. The Nats’ stable of talent now was build on a long run of awfulness that began back in 2004. This was eight years in the making.

            1. phoenix0401 (Flashfire)

              That’s not entirely fair though, because the Nationals are continuing to win with one of their generational talents shut down and the second having a very average season. (He WILL get better, but at the moment Harper is just okay. A few days ago we had the “Rizzo will be better than Harper” fight — and indication of how average he’s been.) This is a team where every member contributes. Yes, the longer down time helps them, but the Cubs deep pockets will help them when the time is right. But, right now, just 3 positions are really locked down. (First, Short, sorta Catcher.)

              Once Baez/Soler/Almora sort themselves out and one or two makes the starting lineup, Villaneuva/Torreyes/Watkins show what they can do, and Pierce Johnson, Juan Paniagua, and (hopefully) Ryne Stanek sort out, we’ll have more pieces in place, and signing players complements that core. That really isn’t that different from what the Nationals did — although we probably will have to add more via free agency. But — and this is the key — why take merely okay free agents before we know who is going to develop internally? And why risk them sucking when the core is together?

              1. Kyle

                Harper has been much, much better than “okay.” He’s got a 4.0 WAR, good for third on their team and better than any player on the Cubs. He’s putting up a .342 wOBA as a CFer.

                If any “Rizzo will be better than Harper” arguments were had, it’s not because Harper has been merely okay. It’s because the supply of people wanting to talk about baseball far outstrips the supply of people capable of talking about baseball intelligently. The two players do not belong anywhere near the same conversation.

                The “core” you are imagining is extremely optimistic. First of all, even though I like Castillo, the useful career span of catchers is quite short, so you really can’t pencil him in for the long-term, especially not as long as waiting for draft picks. So you’ve got two, with no one else closer than three years away. And you’ve got virtually no pitching, so much so that all you could mention was a recent supplemental pick, a hoped-for pick next year and an IFA relief project.

                Why risk them sucking? Because you are baseball team trying to win baseball games, and the risk of them sucking is worth taking because the alternative is the certainty of wasting the cost-controlled years of several good young players.

                1. DocPeterWimsey

                  It’s because the supply of people wanting to talk about baseball far outstrips the supply of people capable of talking about baseball intelligently.

                  You can replace “baseball” with and I’m not sure that there is any possible “fill” for which the statement would be false!

            2. hansman1982

              You keep taking arguments to the extreme. The Nationals method really is just the Red Sox, Yankees, Giants, Cardinals, Rangers, and Tigers methods. That is, get a good farm system, trade away the guys you don’t think will amount to much but who appear to be good for proven guys who still have a couple years of control, acquire some free agents, use your good prospects to counteract the cost of the free agents.

              You like to think our argument is the Royals, Mariners, Twins, Pirates, Rays method which is draft a bunch of guys…hope you get right on 4-5 of them all at once and trade/sign guys who are middle of the pack. They do this because that is all they can afford to do. They can’t afford to keep their studs, sign the FA’s necessary to win…guess what, the Cubs can.

              Do you honestly think Theo’s ten-year plan is to do nothing but draft and develop with not one iota of free agency?

              Even without Strasburg and Harper the Nationals have a pretty good team. If you were to take those two and put them on the Cubs we would be hoping for the 5th overall pick, not the 2nd.

              1. Kyle

                “You keep taking arguments to the extreme. The Nationals method really is just the Red Sox, Yankees, Giants, Cardinals, Rangers, and Tigers methods. That is, get a good farm system, trade away the guys you don’t think will amount to much but who appear to be good for proven guys who still have a couple years of control, acquire some free agents, use your good prospects to counteract the cost of the free agents.”

                Completely disagree. For one thing, I think you are missing a lot of nuance in how those teams were built. You can’t compare the Nationals (who literally sucked for eight years and hit on almost all their top draft picks) to the Cardinals (who are consistently good and have done a great job of developing a good minor league system without having the flashy high draft picks).

                “You like to think our argument is the Royals, Mariners, Twins, Pirates, Rays method which is draft a bunch of guys…hope you get right on 4-5 of them all at once and trade/sign guys who are middle of the pack. They do this because that is all they can afford to do. They can’t afford to keep their studs, sign the FA’s necessary to win…guess what, the Cubs can.”

                No, but I think your argument depends on the idea that the Cubs need to throw away at least two years in order to build a good farm system, which isn’t the case.

                “Do you honestly think Theo’s ten-year plan is to do nothing but draft and develop with not one iota of free agency?”

                Nope. But I think his plan of tanking the team and waiting to add free agents later is an inferior plan to trying to put out a competitive team every season.

                “Even without Strasburg and Harper the Nationals have a pretty good team. If you were to take those two and put them on the Cubs we would be hoping for the 5th overall pick, not the 2nd.”

                The two have combined for 8.3 fWAR. The Cubs CF have been worth about -0.5 WAR and they’ve gotten -0.7 fWAR from their various fifth starter abominations. So those two players on the Cubs would be worth an estimated upgrade of 9.5 wins. They’d be drafting 10th overall with 10 more wins.

                The reason a 10-win improvement wouldn’t be enough to get them past that and into a good spot is because of Epstein’s own choices.

                1. phoenix0401 (Flashfire)

                  Serious question: if this plan works to perfection and the Cubs win the World Series in 2015, what will you say?

                  1. Kyle

                    “Woohoo!”

                    But that results don’t justify the decision. How would you react if I stole your wallet, bet the contents on a roulette wheel, then came back and shared my winnings 30:1 winnings?

                    1. phoenix0401 (Flashfire)

                      You’re committing a crime in your example. The only person whose wallet Theo is theoretically “stealing” is Tom Ricketts’s. He seems okay with it.

                      If you a reputation of going to Vegas and winning big, I may well choose to give you some of my money to gamble with in order to share the profits.

                2. The Dude Abides

                  Kyle checked back in and you are still taking on the room. Good for you don’t let them get you down. Regardless of what you say your point is solid why do we have to be so bad while we rebuild. Problem is it is too late to worry about that, we are bad and no talent on deck, unfortunately we will be in 2013 again. Hope for 2014, in Theo we trust (because he’s not going anywhere)!!!

            3. DocPeterWimsey

              The Nats also got pretty lucky with who was available. Most years do not have a Harper or a Strasburg: i.e., amazing talents who help within a couple of seasons.

              Moreover, it’s not like the Nats do not have free agents on the team; indeed, some of them have been quite important!

            4. JR

              I am a pretty simple dude. And in my mind this arguement is too complex. I think Thed will shell out money when they think they can make a sustained run at the World Series over a long period of time. And mix the expensive guys in with our young talented nucleus. That’s it, nothing more, nothing less. Otherwise the expensive dudes will be declining when the young guys are peaking, which makes no sense. We have the worst AAA team in baseball and absolute garbage minor league starting pitching. So it’s going to be awhile until we sign big time help..

              1. Ogyu

                ^^^^^^^^^^^ What he said.

              2. The Dude Abides

                I agree my man. Don’t like it but that is what we are looking at. In Theo We Trust!!!

    2. hansman1982

      A team doesn’t build a strong farm system hoping to solely build through the farm. That is only half of the reason you want a strong farm system. The other half is that you want to be able to trade for players as they become available. It is literally impossible to build a championship team by solely promoting prospects or solely signing free agents or even by doing a combination of the two.

      Since you need to trade to acquire some of the pieces you need that means you need to have a strong farm system in place so you can trade for a guy or two along with acquiring guys through free agency.

      Hendry’s contracts didn’t cripple the organization…the lack of impact talent in the minors crippled the organization. When you basically unload the farm for a Matt Garza type, there is something wrong there. We should be unloading the farm for Felix Hernandez.

      1. Sandberg

        This is a great point. I doubt these guys will sign any high priced, declining, free agents to long term contracts. That’s a fool’s game. What I think we will see on that front are shorter, higher per year offers like we did with Pujols and Fielder last offseason.

        Then, with our stockpiled prospects we’ll be much more aggressive in trades for young, proven mlb players and maybe we eat a couple years of a bad contract to throw our spending muscle around.

    3. Drew7

      “How many people thought, before the season, that Balt and Wash would be legit contenders for a playoff spot this year?”

      Nobody could have seen a team like Baltimore winning like they have been, since I think you’d be just as likely to predict the Great Chicago Fire. Washington? I’m not sure there was anyone who didn’t think they would at least be contenders

      1. DocPeterWimsey

        Washington? I’m not sure there was anyone who didn’t think they would at least be contenders

        Indeed, the 2011 Nats were a team that people said might compete if everything went their way. It didn’t, but they still wound up a 0.500 team. However, even then people said that they were within a year or two of being a solid competitor.

        So, people were saying that not only before this season, but before last season!

        As for the Orioles, they are a once-in-a-decade luck team. There is no predicting those.

  25. Stu

    At some point you have to spend the money. Theo has at least until 2014 to start showing something in the standings.

    Meanwhile, he will play the messiah role to all of the irrationals who come to Wrigley with 2 beer cups on their head and a straw. Oh how we are just so unwashed oh great one.

    1. ssckelley

      It would be hard to believe Theo would shrink the payroll and they have over 40 million coming off the books as contracts with Zambrano, Dempster, and Byrd will be ending. If you can get a quality arm or 2 via free agency for the right price I would hope the Cubs would make the move.

      1. DocPeterWimsey

        If you can get a quality arm or 2 via free agency for the right price I would hope the Cubs would make the move.

        Ah, but what is the “right price”? And who are these quality arms?

        Remember, the demand for good pitching far, far exceeds the supply, and although the Cubs have (potentially) deep pockets, the supply is less than that of the deep-pocketed, in-need-of-pitching teams, too.

        1. tim

          And why would a “quality arm” want to come to a fifth place team without the benefit of a “You guys are in last place next year” bonus?

        2. ssckelley

          Doc, there are a few good arms on the free agent list I am looking at:

          http://www.baseballprospectus.com/compensation/cots/?page_id=177

          tim, the players are not dumb and they see what the Cubs are trying to do. Players want to come to Chicago for the city, the money, and the prospect of doing something that has not been done in Chicago for a long time (world series).

          1. Norm

            Who?
            Greinke
            Edwin Jackson
            Jake Peavy
            Anibal Sanchez
            Dempster
            Haren

            Do any of those guys want to come to a losing team?
            Are you confident that any of those players will stay good for the next 4 years?

            1. DocPeterWimsey

              Indeed, most of the guys on that list are in the “I need to win now” phase of their career. They (probably) won’t be that effective in 3-4 years, and the teams offering them 3-4 year contracts will be doing so with the idea of winning in 2013-2014 and being saddled with a “bad” contract after that.

  26. Kyle

    “Stewart wasn’t a waste of roster space anymore than Maholm was at the start of the season.

    Unfortunately, acquiring bounce-back players is like taking a hot chick home from the bar…she might wake up in the morning and make you bacon, egg and cheese biscuits or she might be a Stage 5 clinger.”

    People keep trying to defend the Stewart acquisition (or more importantly, the handing the starting job to him) by lumping him in with guys like Maholm and DeJesus, but that’s just not a reasonable comparison.

    Maholm had a long, established history as an adequate MLB starter. He wasn’t even a bounceback candidate, he was coming off his best ERA in years. Using advanced metrics, he’d been a remarkably consistent pitcher for about five years now.

    That’s not remotely the same as Ian Stewart, who has been bad for almost his entire career and is likely to continue to be bad so long as there are teams foolish enough to give him a job hoping that his very brief period of being not that bad might be something he can regain.

    1. Norm

      “so long as there are teams foolish enough to give him a job hoping that his very brief period of being not that bad might be something he can regain.”
      -
      Why is this a bad idea?
      Even if its a one in a million chance, why not?

      1. ottoCub

        More importantly, in regards to Stewart… what choice(s) did the Cubs FO have in regards to 3B this last off-season?

        1. They could re-sign A. Ramirez, who wanted a 3-year contract (this would have been a big mistake)
        2. They could sign another free-agent to play 3B (the 3B free agent market was not strong last year, and other 3B’s would have wanted contracts similar to Ramirez)
        3. They could trade for a quantity 3B (i’m sure they tried this option! especially for Chase Headly! but trades are not easy)
        4. They could bring Vitters or another minor-leaguer up WAY before they were ready (another terrible idea)
        5. They could trade for a decent fielding, not-very-healthy, underperforming hitter like Stewart, and hope he makes it through the year and plays better than hoped.

        They went with option #5 — a risk, for sure. But possibly the best option they had.

        1. ottoCub

          All of these conversations about good trades, bad trades, hopeful trades, i-wish trades, i-told-you so trades… My advice to everyone is to remember to consider that often the options are limited and it becomes a best-of choice. Trust that the Cubs FO is exploring many different options, but sometimes has to pursue the one that is not the most optimum for a myriad of reasons, or sometimes chooses a riskier option based on risk-reward analysis. And realize that even the best professional managers are very lucky if half of their choices turn out perfectly.

        2. Kyle

          “1. They could re-sign A. Ramirez, who wanted a 3-year contract (this would have been a big mistake)”

          Ramirez at the contract he ended up getting from the Brewers would have been an epic steal. If you could convince him to waive his 10-5 rights, you could get a huge haul for him. If not, then you get an actually useful MLB 3b for money that was otherwise just going to sit there.

          “2. They could sign another free-agent to play 3B (the 3B free agent market was not strong last year, and other 3B’s would have wanted contracts similar to Ramirez)”

          Might I introduce you to Misters Betemit and Chavez, both of whom signed for peanuts and have had respectable seasons?

          “5. They could trade for a decent fielding, not-very-healthy, underperforming hitter like Stewart, and hope he makes it through the year and plays better than hoped.”

          I never get tired of explaining all the reasons Ian Stewart was a terrible bet.

          He wasn’t “underperforming,” he was just performing to his abilities.

          Three types of hitters you almost never want to take a risk on:
          1) High-K guys who have recently cratered. They rarely bounceback.
          2) Guys leaving Colorado.
          3) Guys with wrist injuries, especially if they depend on power for part of their value.

          Ian Stewart hit the trifecta, and was predictably terrible.

          1. Chris

            Stewart was a bad get. They saw something that wasn’t there with him. They dumped another high-k guy to get him, and that guy bounced back a bit for Colorado. Good for them. There were other options, but I think they were hoping to get a fairly young guy who was once a highly touted prospect and maybe he’d figure it out i Chicago. I can only speculate, but it seems like his age, 27, probably factored into the decision heavily. It’s done. Time to cut bait and run. If he wants to sign a minor league contract and compete in the spring, fine. Youklis on a 1 year deal. Even better.

      2. Kyle

        Because MLB roster spots have value, and you shouldn’t throw away that value for a one-in-a-million chance. Longshots who might have some talent get minor-league invites and AAA contracts. Handing them a starting MLB job is a wasteful use of resources.

  27. Kyle

    “Same reason the Yankees did — and they did — in order to see which of the draft picks develop and then complement them with FA’s. As it turned out, Jeter developed, and in 1996 they added Martinez, Cone, and Kenny Rogers and made a real push. The prospects (as it turned out, Jeter) weren’t ready before that. Your complaint would essentially be: “Why didn’t the Yankees sign a bunch of free agents in 1993 to compete?” They didn’t either.”

    Umm, they did sign a bunch of free agents. I’m not trying to be mean, but it’s annoying how often the historical discussions in these comments are taken up by people who don’t actually know what happened.

    Before the 1993 season, the Yankees signed Jimmy Key and Wade Boggs to significant contracts, and picked up Paul O’Neill in a partial salary dump.

    This continued several offseasons of spending for the Yankees. They never once said “Well, we’re terrible, so let’s stop signing good players.”

    1. phoenix0401 (Flashfire)

      Two players. Two. You were talking about 5 yesterday. The Cubs got DDJ, Rizzo, and Maholm. It’s really quite similar.

      1. Kyle

        Not remotely similar.

        I only mentioned those three because they were the significant financial outlays. All three were significantly better players than DeJesus or Maholm, and better than Rizzo right now. Those were three of the exact type of signings in 1993 that you just got done implying they didn’t make in 1993. They also signed Spike Owen to a decent-sized deall and picked up Jim Abbott in a trade, so there’s your five. The year before, they spent big money on Danny Tartabull and Mike Stanley.

        They never once “sat back and waited to see what they had,” which is what you tried to say they did. I’m sorry, but you are just factually wrong on this account.

        1. phoenix0401 (Flashfire)

          You win. I wish the Cubs had you as GM.

          1. Kyle

            I’m busy. They can keep Hoyer, they just need to listen to me and realize that this “tank everything” strategy is ego rather than need.

            1. phoenix0401 (Flashfire)

              For future reference, it would be nice if you could post what does and doesn’t count as an honest attempt to acquire talent for the major league team. Since that definition seems to change based on need. It’s impossible to kick at the goalposts when they keep changing.

              1. Kyle

                The goalposts have never moved. You are just sore because you were called out for being so wrong about the 1990s Yankees.

                The criteria is clear: using the team’s assets to acquire a player whose purpose is to help the team this year.

                Some further explanations, in case you are unclear:

                1) A player signed for a minimal salary to fill out the roster is not using up any assets.
                2) A player signed with the intent of flipping him later is not being acquired for the purpose of helping the team this year.

                Rizzo does not qualify because he wasn’t acquired to help the team this year. He was acquired to help the team in future years. He was kept at AAA for as long as possible, and he’s only in the majors now to help his development. If they thought he could develop normally with more AAA time, he’d still be down there.

                Maholm does not qualify because he was picked up with the sole intent of flipping him for prospects at the deadline.

                DeJesus could probably count, if you don’t think they intend on flipping him later too. So I amend my previous statement from “no effort” to “completely minimal effort.”

                1. Chris

                  I don’t believe it was decided at the time of signing him that Maholm was going to be flipped. The Cubs were able to work out a team-friendly deal for a decent starting pitcher, with short term implications. When the deadline came about, they made the determination that they could turn Maholm into a longer term asset by moving him, so they did that. I believe they should spend money on free agents this season, under the following guidelines.

                  1. Amount of salary is irrelevant in my mind. I don’t care how much they spend.
                  2. Players that are farther along in their careers must be given short term contracts. Youklis for $10mil on a one year deal with an option for a 2nd year is a good example.
                  3. Younger players, age 28 and below, could be considered for longer term contracts. I haven’t seen many worth, but there is the rule.
                  4. No player signed should cost you a draft pick. Not sure how many A-class free agents there are, but after “tanking” this season, it seems like a waste to lose a very high 2nd round pick. This rule can be overlooked if there is a one of a kind talent available via free agency. Felix Hernandez would be a good example of this.
                  5. Stay away from Zach Greinke. This only applies to this offseason, and not just because he’s going to get ridiculous money. He’s a head case. Not worth the investment it will take to sign him.

                2. phoenix0401 (Flashfire)

                  There’s not a thing they do you don’t look at in a negative light. Not one.

                  Fine, you’re right, the ’93 Yankees signed FAs.

                  But, seriously, there is not one thing the current Cubs FO has done that you don’t say, “Now why was THIS a mistake.” And, for a bunch of us who have been waiting for exactly this to happen. it’s not fun.

                  So, I’m gonna leave the board now, ’cause I’m just done with these fights. Laterz.

                  1. Kyle

                    “There’s not a thing they do you don’t look at in a negative light. Not one.”

                    That’s utterly false.

                    For one thing, I’ve been pretty effusive with my praise for the Marshall and Rizzo trades.

                    I don’t think arguing that their plan is “suboptimal” really qualifies as saying everything they do is negative. It’s a plan that can work. It’s just not the best plan.

                    “Fine, you’re right, the ’93 Yankees signed FAs.”

                    Thank you.

                    “But, seriously, there is not one thing the current Cubs FO has done that you don’t say, “Now why was THIS a mistake.” And, for a bunch of us who have been waiting for exactly this to happen. it’s not fun.”

                    I’d like to say that I’m sorry for ruining your fun, but I’m afraid I’m not.

                    But again: It’s simply not true that I think everything the Cubs have done is a mistake. Picking up Maholm for the purpose of flipping him was savvy. The Rizzo and Marshall trades were masterstrokes. DeJesus was an astute signing. I have high hopes for Almora simply because they wanted him, and I trust them when it comes to drafting and development.

    2. phoenix0401 (Flashfire)

      I’ve kinda had it. You know everything. You are right. The Cubs could win next year if only they would employ the strategies that worked so well for Jim Hendry.

      1. Kyle

        “This is what Jim Hendry would do!” has become some kind of bizarre rallying cry.

        Jim Hendry did a lot of things, some of them good and some of them bad. His individual decisions at the MLB level caused some problems, but his general strategy wasn’t bad at all. Where things went very badly for him was that he had a donut hole of very, very bad drafts in the early and mid-2000s that left the farm system without much to supplement his MLB decisions.

        There’s no reason why a smart executive shouldn’t aim to replicate Hendry’s vision at the MLB level, make slightly better decisions, and draft and develop much much better.

        1. JR

          Your last part in your statement there Kyle “draft and develop much much better” Isn’t that by FAR the most important thing? And that’s what Hendry sucked at. I know Hendry was good at certain aspects and made some solid trades, thing he wasn’t good at is the most important thing. That my problem with that dude..

          1. Kyle

            Agreed. My point was never that Hendry was good at his job. He wasn’t. He did a few things right, but more things wrong, and his access to big-market resources in a small-market division helped him paper over his mistakes.

            But “That’s what Hendry would have done” has become a weird mantra. I see it applied to things that Hendry never, ever did. I see it applied to the good things Hendry did in order to make them appear bad.

            It reminds me of when I was a kid and I could convince my young, male cousin to do anything by saying “Not doing that is what a girl would do!”

            1. JR

              OK, yeah I am by no means a Hendry fan and glad to see him go. But if a couple things went different the Cubs could have a title under his watch, which is obviously amazing. Things were just so bleak when he left, I think thats where the anger comes from.

  28. Kyle

    “4. No player signed should cost you a draft pick. Not sure how many A-class free agents there are, but after “tanking” this season, it seems like a waste to lose a very high 2nd round pick. This rule can be overlooked if there is a one of a kind talent available via free agency. Felix Hernandez would be a good example of this.”

    This is the only thing on your list I have a real disagreement with.

    Second-round draft picks are nothing special or important. They mostly suck.

    Basically, the MLB draft is about 15 picks deep, give or take, each year. Sometimes a little more, sometimes a little less. After that, you enter into very deep pool of projectable longshots that lasts into about the 15th round or so (maybe a little later with the new CBA and teams picking nobodies with their later picks in the first round).

    We’re used to thinking of draft picks like the NFL, where a second-round pick is a great value and an important asset. It’s more like the NBA draft, where if it’s not a first-round pick, it’s pretty close to worthless.

    1. Chris

      I fully understand the differences between the NFL and NBA draft versus the MLB draft. And I also agree that there are only so many good picks at the top of the draft. My argument should be spelled out a little more clearly. They should not sacrifice a single draft pick unless that player being signed is truly a star that they are locking up for an extended period of time, mostly in his prime years. By and large, 2nd round picks rarely make it. True. Greg Maddux was a 2nd round pick. Sometimes they do make it. Looking at the free agent class, I just don’t see a player worth losing a draft pick in 2013. And with the draft changes, all draft picks are worth more than they used to be. With a limited budget, it’s much harder for a team like the Cubs to draft Jeff Samardzija in the 5th round and overpay him to sign. That scenario is just not going to happen under the new CBA.

      1. Kyle

        Greg Maddux was also the last Cubs 2nd-round pick to have any sort of impact in the major leagues, and that was almost 30 years ago.

        If a player is worth having at all, he’s worth giving up a 2nd-round pick for.

    2. Drew7

      ” No player signed should cost you a draft pick…”

      I have to agree with Kyle on this one.

      If we take out the last 2 drafts (’11 and ’12), here is how the players from each round have produced since 2003:

      1st round (with a LARGE portion of the WAR coming from the top-15 picks)

      775.2 WAR

      2nd Round

      225.1 WAR

      Really, the only way I even think about not signing any FA is if it costs me a top-10 pick in the 1st round.

      1. Chris

        Drew, a free agent signing will NEVER cost you a top 10 pick. I’m with you on your point. What I’m saying is, given this year’s crop, it isn’t worth losing any draft pick. Not any free agent going forward. Just 2013. I can’t justify losing a pick, regardless of what round, for signing BJ Upton. Honestly, I don’t see a ton of guys that should be considered type-A free agents, so this might be a moot point. I just feel like they need to spend wisely in general. And if they determine there isn’t a free agent available that will accept a contract that is wise for the team to pursue, then don’t sign anyone. I’m not preaching abstinence. Any investment has to be weighed against it’s impact to the long-term goals of the team. I believe they are moving down the road with this in mind. I think they made a serious run at Yu Darvish and Yoenis Cespedes. Had those 2 signed with the team, maybe we’re having a different discussion. There just aren’t any free agents worth that kind of investment going into next year, so the money must be spent wisely, if they are going to spend at all.

        1. Drew7

          I understand that you meant 2013, but I still disagree.The forfeiture of a 2nd round pick shouldn’t hold you back from adding a player like Upton – a 2-5 WAR player, with a career .757 OPS from CF, that’s in his prime – to a short-ish deal.

          IF he would take 3-4 years at $10-12 mil per, why not do it at the expense of a 2nd round pick?

          1. KyleNovak

            That is a big IF my friend. . .

            Of course you do IF he does 4/40-48 *and* wants to come to Chicago.

            Do you honestly think he’ll settle for that? I sure don’t, that’s for sure.

            He’ll get overpaid. The question is, by how much? And more importantly, do the Cubs want to pony up, or just throw him a lowball offer?

            1. Drew7

              I was really just throwing out numbers, so it definitely is a big IF.

              With payroll at it’s current level,I don’t think how much you give him is an issue. The point I was making (and the topic being discussed) was, if you have the opportunity to sign him, why let a 2nd round pick stand in your way? I don’t see a reason why you should let it.

  29. JB88

    The dialogue in this thread is fascinating and illuminating, but seems to be missing one extremely salient point: All of the examples of teams built through the draft (or, to Kyle’s point, supplemented through the draft while maintaining good teams along the way) operated in an unrestricted draft, where no limit was set in drafting good players and no penalty existed for drafting overslot talents.

    To me, I sincerely expected the Cubs to sign big time FAs until the new draft rules came down. At that point, I basically expected the Cubs to do what they are doing now. You just can’t acquire the most likely impact talent in the 20s with budgetary restrictions in place. The days of guys talking about not signing with certain teams and then being paid like they were top 10 picks are over for the next four years, at least. Once that restriction existed, teams either needed to be amongst the worst teams in baseball or exceptionally lucky to find generational talent beyond a certain point in the draft.

    Put it this way, before the rule changes, I would be all for Kyle’s approach. After the rule changes, I don’t know of a way to significantly upgrade a team’s minor league system without tanking a few seasons.

    1. Jim L.

      Excellent point, JB.