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Chicago Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein addressed the media at length yesterday, the day after his club finished a 101-loss season, the first of his tenure. As usual, Theo was simultaneously candid and cagey, committing to nothing but sharing something. (Quotes can be found, among many other places, here, here, here, here, and here.)

This is dense stuff, but it’s all good. So keep up. Away we go with the highlights …

  • On the future: “I’m not going to sit here and say, ‘Don’t worry about 101 losses because we have a magic plan to win the World Series in 2013, and it’s going to happen — be there now.’ I think what we’re trying to communicate is there is a plan, there is a vision. It might be a little bit longer term than we all want it to be but we’re committed to it. There’s great reward at the end. You can’t guarantee results. But I’ll tell everybody, we won’t be satisfied unless we’re in the postseason year in and year out.” This is the reality, folks. It’s best to accept it, compartmentalize it as the front office has, and learn to be excited about the progress, rather than the result. I said it this time last year when these guys first took over, and it remains true today. We can be hopeful for a positive result in 2013, your heart may be safer hoping for more progress.
  • More on the future and the time line for competitiveness: “I haven’t considered 2014 or any specific year. I just know that we have to continue to push the organization forward. I’ll say this: I’d be incredibly disappointed if our baseball operation, as a whole, is not much, much healthier by then and is in a position where we can see what contention is going to look like here. In other words, where our core of young players is getting to a point where it’s well defined. And I don’t know what that timetable is going to be and how quickly they’re going to develop, what moves we make, whether it’s then, whether it’s earlier than then, whether it’s later than then, but I would hope that we would have some real definition to our core of young players and then seeking out to really compliment it and winning some ballgames.” We call that tap dancing. There’s no sense in committing to a particular year at this point, but Epstein made sure to emphasize at every turn that he feels like the Cubs owe the fans an obligation to do things the right way (i.e., the total rebuild way), even if it means more pain in the near-term.
  • On the whole of the 2012 season, and the positives in spite of things: “Having not been here previously, I think there was a real improvement in the culture around the team and the mood around the clubhouse. Despite being a losing club – and we can’t get away from that, we were a losing club – there was a real professionalism, a real spirit of unity, a real effort to play hard every day, to have each other’s back, to prepare. We had our lapses. We had plenty of bone-head plays on the bases and things that shouldn’t happen, but on a whole, it was more of a winning atmosphere than you typically see around losing clubs. That’s something we can build on, that’s something we’re going to expect, that’s going to be the standard, that we can continue to build on.”
  • On Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters: “We’re going to build the team as if [they are] going back to AAA. But we’d be very happy for them to knock the door down for us and make the adjustments.” In other words, they’ll be starting out at AAA next year.
  • On Brett Jackson’s call-up, and his struggles: “He was brought up for very specific reasons …. we sat around in Dale’s office for a long time and said, ‘You know this guy’s swing is not ready for this level,’ but we felt like there were things we could teach him up here.” So, his struggles probably weren’t a surprise to the Cubs, and Sveum’s comments that Jackson needs to revamp his swing this Winter is probably something the entire organization is behind. Heck, it’s possible that those struggles were exactly what the Cubs feel like Jackson needed in order to be fully motivated to change what he needs to change.
  • On free agents’ desire to come play for the Cubs (despite the fact that this front office may be just as likely to spin them off as keep them): “I’ve also heard that players want to be part of the solution here, and want to be part of the club that ultimately wins a World Series here. We have an opportunity as well. With a certain tier free agent, we can sell opportunity. I think Paul Maholm would tell people he’s really glad he signed here …. I think he feels good about his Cubs experience, and would come back here in a second if he got the opportunity.” Talk about taking an issue on head-first. Theo anticipates the questions he’ll face – either from fans, reporters, or prospective free agents – when it comes to signing guys that have the look of a future trade asset (as was clearly the case with Maholm).
  • On the reduced value of the dollars you spend on free agents: “The dollars you spend in Major League free agency provide the lowest return on investment of any dollars we spend in baseball operations.” Totally correct and totally fair. But let’s continue to keep in mind: only so many dollars can be spent on the draft and in international free agency anymore. Those dollars have to be spent somewhere, and ML free agency is going to have to be a big part of the picture.
  • On Alfonso Soriano’s season and value: “Coming in here, I actually had a little trepidation of how we’d handle him and the contract and if his skills declined, how we’d handle playing time. I’ll be honest, it wasn’t something I was looking forward to. Those concerns proved to be completely baseless. What a pleasant surprise he turned out to be …. If teams pursue him in a trade, we’ll consider it. If we trade him, we’re losing something, so we have to get something back in return to justify that.” Two parts truth, one part gamesmanship? I think Theo is right, though. Soriano proved this year that he can still be a productive player, even on a playoff-caliber team. He’s not worth $18 million per year, but he’s certainly worth more than the $1 or $2 million teams were willing to give up before the season. Theo made sure to emphasize how valuable Soriano has been in the clubhouse, as well.
  • On Pat Listach’s dismissal: “I think Pat is a really good coach and will have a lot of success elsewhere. When a new manager comes in, sometimes he has a certain way he likes these jobs done, and occasionally there can be differences in the approach to the job. It doesn’t mean he’s doing a bad job, it’s just quite not the way the manager conceives it. I think it was one of those situations where it was subtle stylistic differences and nothing major substantive.” Sounds about right.
  • Fred

    Brett, do you think there is a chance that the Cubs could deal Soriano and let’s say a prospect such as Vogelbach (not Almora, Soler, Baez, or Johnson) to the Rays for Chris Archer? This, of course, pending Soriano’s approval and the Rays’. Maybe Sori and Wood for Archer. I like the flashes Archer showed this season in limited innings.

    • DarthHater

      Magic 8-Ball says: “You’re joking, right?”

    • Kyle

      Doesn’t seem like that’s in Tampa Bay’s MO. That’s not the kind of return they usually look for, and they don’t make trades unless they are sure they are getting the better end of it.

    • fortyonenorth

      Boy, if we had a prospect like Archer in our organization, we’d never deal him away. ;0

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Not inconceivable, but Archers are the kind of kids the Rays value like gold.

    • BD

      I would think we would get more of like a Wade Davis type in that scenario. The younger the pitcher, the higher the price tag; especially for Tampa.

      • Kyle

        Wade Davis would look good in our rotation, and even better in our bullpen, and there have been rumors that the Cubs have asked about him.

    • ssckelley

      You have a better chance to get the Rays to trade James Shields than you would Archer. The Rays are entering into a couple of expensive option years with Shields so I would think they would listen to trade offers. David Price is going to get expensive as well as he enters into Super 2 arbitration. I would rather see the Cubs go after either of them in a trade with the Rays than try to pry Archer away.

  • The Dude Abides

    Seems about what you would expect and it fits what has been happening. Like I’ve said as long as Theo is here you won’t always agree but he has a legacy to build on and nothing would be bigger than winning a World Series for the Cubs.

  • Kyle

    I almost have to look to find anything I didn’t hate in all that. :(

    ““I’m not going to sit here and say, ‘Don’t worry about 101 losses because we have a magic plan to win the World Series in 2013, and it’s going to happen — be there now.’”

    No, you’re going to say ‘Don’t worry about 101 losses because we have a magic plan to possibly win the World Series in some vague, unspecified future.” That’s not really better.

    “It’s best to accept it, compartmentalize it as the front office has, and learn to be excited about the progress, rather than the result.” – Brett

    Balls to that, I’mma rage every second of it.

    ““I haven’t considered 2014 or any specific year.”

    Looks like you are going to be throwing it away, just like you did 2012 and 2013. Without much more urgent action than Epstein intends to take, we are going to be throwing away multiple seasons. The pitching needed in 2013-2015 is not just going to magically appear.

    “The dollars you spend in Major League free agency provide the lowest return on investment of any dollars we spend in baseball operations.”

    That’s a loaded statement. While true, there is also a severe diminishing return. After the first… $40 million or so… there’s nothing left to spend it on (that includes scouts, scouting costs, and signing bonuses). Every team can spend that $40 million. Your only competitive advantage right now, besides the possibility that you are better at scouting and development, is bludgeoning the rest of the division with the lower-margin but still valuable free agent dollars.

    Same old, same old. We’re getting to live out Theo’s fantasy of playing Farm System Hero. He always wanted to do the thing in Out of the Park Baseball or Puresim where you take over a team, dump it all for prospects, fast-forward through a bunch of seasons, then dominate. Except real life is harder than video games, and you don’t get a fast-forward button nor can you reset all the years you’ve wasted.

    • Featherstone

      Ok Kyle I think everyone here has a pretty good grasp of your opinion on the state of the Cubs and its Future. So can you and I make a deal right here and now. You get to blame and scoff at all the mistakes and mis-queues the Front Office makes and the results it has on the organization, but in exchange you no longer get to enjoy the benefits and upside (should there be any) for as long as the current FO is in place. How about that?

      • Kyle

        Nope. Because my opinion has never been “there won’t be any future benefits.”

        My opinion has always been that the benefits will probably be less than what we could have gotten if we’d actually followed the parallel fronts plan.

        • Featherstone

          Sorry bud, can’t have your cake and eat it too. If you are going to blast the Front Office for its actions you also cant celebrate any success they may have either. You just dont have any room to navigate with that sort of mentality.

          Do I agree with absolutely everything Theo and Co. have done? No, not at all, but I do believe they are taking the best approach and mistakes will be made along the way.

          You on the other hand blast just about everything they do and that’s fine. You are welcome to hate the Front Office for what they do or dont do and you may be proven right a few years down the line. At the same time you can’t take any credit for things they do right either.

          • Kyle

            “Sorry bud, can’t have your cake and eat it too. If you are going to blast the Front Office for its actions you also cant celebrate any success they may have either. You just dont have any room to navigate with that sort of mentality.”

            Sure I can. I can pretty much do whatever I want.

            Especially because, despite some people’s attempts to turn me into a caricature, I’ve always said there was a possibility of some success. Just not as much as we could have had with a better plan from the beginning.

            “Do I agree with absolutely everything Theo and Co. have done? No, not at all, but I do believe they are taking the best approach and mistakes will be made along the way.”

            And I’m just the opposite. With the exception of the Garza fiasco and Ian Stewart, I think they’ve pursued their plan with brilliance. But I think it’s a provably suboptimal plan that wasn’t chosen based on the needs of the Cubs organization when they took over.

            “You on the other hand blast just about everything they do and that’s fine.”

            Again, turning me into a caricature, not actually based on my posts.

            ” You are welcome to hate the Front Office for what they do or dont do and you may be proven right a few years down the line. At the same time you can’t take any credit for things they do right either.”

            Take any credit? How would I take credit?

            “Nice job developing Almora, Theo. Well, actually nice job Kyle. I totally did that.”

            • Featherstone

              I don’t have to turn you into a caricature, you make yourself into one. You continually pound the pulpit about how everything the FO does is wrong, ad nausem.

              You do take credit, you said so yourself, “My opinion has always been that the benefits will probably be less than what we could have gotten if we’d actually followed the parallel fronts plan.” What they are doing is wrong, my plan would work better.

              • Kyle

                ” You continually pound the pulpit about how everything the FO does is wrong, ad nausem”

                That is simply false. I think I do a pretty good job of maintaining politeness in all these discussions and try to keep it lighthearted, but I will ask that you do not lie about me or what I’ve said.

                The front office is pursuing the wrong plan. They have done many things right, even brilliantly, within that plan. The Marshall trade was a thing of beauty. Stealing Anthony Rizzo was the kind of move that proves just how good they can be when they want to be.

                “You do take credit, you said so yourself, “My opinion has always been that the benefits will probably be less than what we could have gotten if we’d actually followed the parallel fronts plan.” What they are doing is wrong, my plan would work better.”

                That’s not what “taking credit” means.

                • bbmoney

                  you don’t have to copy and past the previous posts into your post, we can see what you’re replying to.

                  • DarthHater

                    What? You mean Kyle could actually make his posts shorter??? I’m shocked at such a suggestion!

                  • Kyle

                    I like to go point-by-point. It’s more fair to the people to which I’m replying.

                • Featherstone

                  I have never lied about you or anything you have said. I say everything here with the utmost of civility. Perhaps I read what you wrote differently than as you intended.

                  I just feel as though its easy for people on the sidelines to criticize moves that were made or not made, but ultimately we really dont have the expertise to say if things would be better or not.

                  I would never discourage your right to voice your opinion on anything, but you cant take a side in an debate and reap the benefits when you are proven wrong.

                  • Kyle

                    “I have never lied about you or anything you have said. I say everything here with the utmost of civility. ”

                    You said that I have said the following:

                    ” about how everything the FO does is wrong”

                    I have proven that wrong inside this conversation, let alone all the times I’ve posted outside this conversation what I think the front office has done right.

                    You are not entitled to your own interpretation of such a simple fact. I have not, nor will I ever, post that everything the front office does is wrong.

                    • Featherstone

                      To borrow a line from you. Sure I can, I can pretty much do anything I want.

                    • stillmisskennyhubbs

                      ZZZZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzz, Kyle.

            • TWC

              Not to interrupt the anti-Kyle’s opinion rants here, but I’ve been meaning to ask you for clarification on this point:

              I think they’ve pursued their plan with brilliance. But I think it’s a provably suboptimal plan that wasn’t chosen based on the needs of the Cubs organization when they took over.

              You’ve been consistent that build-only-from-within/farm system approach that it’s been suggesting that the Cubs are following has no successful precedent in MLB, and I think you’ve rather deftly parsed the differences in possible parallels that others have suggested (KC, Oakland, the Yankees of the late ’80’s/early ’90’s).

              What isn’t clear to me is why it can’t — or won’t — work. Don’t the greater resources available to the Cubs allow for advantages in scouting and development (both within and outside of the team’s system) that were not available to other teams that have attempted a rebuild from within? It just seems to me that for a variety of reasons Kansas City is an inexact parallel to anything the Cubs do.

              • Kyle

                “What isn’t clear to me is why it can’t — or won’t — work. Don’t the greater resources available to the Cubs allow for advantages in scouting and development (both within and outside of the team’s system) that were not available to other teams that have attempted a rebuild from within? It just seems to me that for a variety of reasons Kansas City is an inexact parallel to anything the Cubs do.”

                It can work. Just not as well as the parallel fronts approach.

                If one plan has an 80% chance of working, and one has a 65% chance of working, then the second plan is a bad one, even though it has a better than even chance of working.

                Given the Cubs’ financial advantage over a generally bad division, there’s no reason Epstein couldn’t have been pushing for a consistent division winner that began winning in 2013 at the latest.

                Instead, he’s choosing a plan that apparently has us “knowing what contention might look like” or something after 2014, which means he’s wasted three seasons, and two more seasons than he had to.

                • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

                  Just because he isn’t promising a contender is 2014 does not, I think, mean he has already decided that he will punt 2014. Let’s not read into his comments what isn’t there.

                  He isn’t promising anything in 2014 at all. The farthest we can realistically chart his intentions is 2013. I doubt even he knows for sure what his plans for 2014 are quite yet.

                  • Kyle

                    Putting together a contender is difficult and requires effort and resources. The Oakland A’s not withstanding, you can’t just neglect your MLB roster and hope it happens.

                    If he’s not planning right now on how the 2014 Cubs can be contenders, then they almost certainly won’t be.

                    • Myles

                      The problem with what you’re saying is that you have no idea whether or not he’s planning on 2014 to be contenders.

                      Theo Epstein’s goal is to make the Cubs a better team overall. This year, that was by turning short-term assets into long-term assets. Next year, it’ll probably be more of the same, but with the added possibility of just buying some long-term assets (and thank goodness he didn’t do that last year, when he would have squandered whatever he spent – that money adds up). As the years go by and the quality of the Cubs organization is such that we are constantly a contending team, it makes more sense to just find the best values.

                      I guess what I’m saying is, why would we have pursued big-time FA last year when it would only have cost us money (very little shot of contending)? That math is more or less the same in 2013, we aren’t appreciably better at the ML level (our minors are much better). We’ll obviously get closer to contention this year, and we absolutely should use our financial muscle for contracts that make sense, but until we do otherwise, I wouldn’t assume we aren’t going to be much more active in FA than we were last year.

                • Chris

                  But how do you come to the realization that one plan has a higher percentage than the other? I’m not aware of any statistic that spells this out. I know your 80% and 65% figures were hypothetical, but my point is while those are the percentages in your opinion, if I disagree with your assessment, how can you say I’m just wrong? I do appreciate your humorous commentary on Farm System Hero. Very funny.

                  • Kyle

                    It is simply a matter of judgment and opinion.

                    Epstein has said that he considers his shelf life in an organization to be 10 years. Throwing away 2 or 3 of them is simply too much to overcome.

                    • Chris

                      I think the 10 year shelf-life stuff is more Theo-speak for, “I can’t get along with Lucchino anymore, so I should just leave.” Rather than deal with him and crazy owner Henry, he walked. My feeling is his shelf-life in Chicago might turn out to be longer than that, unless Ricketts turns on him unexpectedly. The only way that happens is if the rebuild takes longer than even Ricketts might expect it to. I think that’s where the 5 year contract will come in. If there isn’t some sign of the promise he made by that time, he’ll be gone and we’ll be back to where we started. Your points will be validated and next thing you know we’ll be celebrating the 125th anniversary of not winning a WS.

                • Mike

                  Are you ignoring the changes in the CBA? Because the way you keep saying “there’s no reason Epstein couldn’t have been pushing for a consistent division winner” makes me think that you are.

                  • Kyle

                    “Are you ignoring the changes in the CBA? Because the way you keep saying “there’s no reason Epstein couldn’t have been pushing for a consistent division winner” makes me think that you are.”

                    I don’t think I’m ignoring them. In fact, I think the changes in the new CBA make it even more important for the Cubs to be competing at the MLB-level every season. That’s the only place the Cubs can use their financial advantage over their divisional opponents.

        • BT

          Actually Kyle, how about you wait until any of the nonsense you gripe about actually comes to pass, THEN start bitching about it? Because frankly, I see little reason to listen to you moan about our lost 2014 on October 5, 2012. You haven’t foggiest effen clue what the front office is going to do now that the new amateur spending rules are in place, so how’s about we wait and see, rather than rail against your bleak imaginary future?

          • Kyle

            Why would you come to the comments section on a post about Theo Epstein talking about his plans for the 2013 and 2014 Cubs if you didn’t want to hear people’s opinions on his words about his plans for the 2013 and 2014 Cubs?

            I’m sure you don’t have a problem with *any* comments. Just the negative ones. That’s okay. I got a lot of “shut up, he’s winning” when I complained about Dusty Baker halfway through 2003, too.

            • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

              I know BT well, and I would pay good money to see you two go at it verbally.

              (For whatever it’s worth, I’ve been thoroughly enjoying Kyle’s posting spree the last few days, even if I haven’t always agreed with it. Like it or lump it, the dude pretty fully and clearly backs up his opinions. Sure, some of them are totally stupid, but he does his part.)

              (I kid about the stupid part.)

              • ssckelley

                I am starting to think you are paying the guy to generate more hits. ;)

              • King Jeff

                I agree. Kyle, I know you are catching some flak here, but I really enjoy your posting. I don’t mind people looking at the possible negative sides of things as long as they aren’t just spewing random hate. You make a lot of valid points, and you back them up with more than insults. Anyway, keep it up Kyle, I enjoy reading articulate posts from people who have a different view point than I do.

            • BT

              I’m not saying don’t talk about 2013/14. I’m saying stop complaining about mistakes that you are certain he is going to make 2 years down the line, when he hasn’t come close to making them yet. It’s silly.

              • Kyle

                I don’t know for certain. I still kind of hope all this talk is just a smokescreen for his true intentions, just like “parallel fronts” and “every season is a sacred chance to win” was last offseason.

      • Stinky Pete

        No go. When success starts happening, it will because Theo is doing all of the things Kyle thinks he should be doing. Probably stealing ideas from BN comment sections.

        • Kyle

          If we do have any of that success, it will be because Theo and his front office’s brilliant tactics overwhelmed their deficient strategy.

          • BT

            Way to cover all sides.

          • David

            Oh for heaven’s sake. Now you are acting like a troll. Even if they win quickly you’re still right. Good grief, I think your ego is getting the best of you.

            • Kyle

              I find it difficult to discuss things from the point of view that I’m wrong. If I thought I was wrong, I’d change my mind so that I thought I was right again.

              Arguing that we could have had success more quickly doesn’t mean I’m arguing that we can’t have success later under this plan, so I’m not sure why I’m supposed to admit that I was wrong if we have success later.

              • stillmisskennyhubbs

                CubFucious say to Kyle:
                “Ego has two jobs and only two jobs:
                1) Always look good;
                2) Always be right.

                • Tommy

                  Perfectly stated.

                • Kyle

                  Well, at least I’m getting it half right, then.

                  • Stinky Pete

                    Dahling… I got to tell you something…. It’s not how you feel. It’s how you look.

    • hansman1982

      you know Kyle, your ranting has swayed me…Theo really is the dumbest Exec ever and I am really pissed that as soon as he joined the Cubs he gave up any and every desire to win the WS just so he could take a few years off.

      DAMN YOU THEO!!!

      • Kyle

        Glad you’re on board. But for clarification, our opinion is not that Theo is dumb. It’s that he’s too smart for his own good and has convinced himself that what he wants to do is what’s best for the organization, just like when he convinced himself to overspend on free agents that didn’t make sense in Boston to keep up the Yankees.

        • Cubbie Blues

          lulz

        • DarthHater

          But for clarification, our opinion is not that Theo is dumb.

          “Our” opinion? We are not getting a wee bit full of ourselves, are we?

      • DarthHater

        I find your lack of faith, invigorating. Everything is going according to plan. Soon the Dark Side of the Force will be triumphant.

    • DarthHater

      Same old, same old.

      Speaking of “same old, same old” . . .

    • EvenBetterNewsV2.0

      Dude you need to start your own blog if you have this much disagreement with the overall state of the Cubs. Love the discussion, but man reading your novels is getting old. Maybe you could attract the audience you want to attract. You are on a small island and it will get bigger over time. But, this won’t happen overnight.

      • Pat

        Or you could, you know, not read those posts.

        • EvenBetterNewsV2.0

          Well, when it takes about 30 seconds to scroll past his theorem of recurring knowledge, that becomes difficult from time to time. Believe me, I think everyone from Wrigley to here knows Kyle doesn’t agree with their plan and they are taking things under consideration to please fans that want a quicker fix.

      • ssckelley

        I agree, his walls of text basically saying the same thing over and over again is getting tiring.

        • Drew7

          I think that’s because he’s getting the *same* responses over and over.

          I feel that posts like Kyle’s should be be a relief to most people who are pro-Theo, and were tired of the baseless, incoherant rants from some people on the other side of the fence; it’s hard to see the other side of the argument when the person presenting it identifies the FO as “little Theo”, and is telling people to stop drinking the “Theo-lade”. Kyle’s posts are very well thought out, mostly fact-based, and free of the garbage we’ve been used to seeing from others that don’t believe in the direction the organization is headed.

          I personally find his debates very refreshing, and they are part of the reason I became hooked on this site a long time ago. His disagreements being met with animocity only create the appearance of the “blind-following and kool-aid drinking” that the trolls accuse so many commentors of.

          I guess what I’m saying is, keep it up, Kyle. While I still consider myself a believer in what the FO is doing, there are many points of yours I agree with. Those of you who don’t agree, continue to present points backed up by facts – its what makes this site among the best.

          • ssckelley

            I do not mind a pessimistic view point but give me something new. I got his view point on the FO, over and over. But reliving the past will not change anything, at some point you need to move on. I am tired of hearing about how bad the Stewart deal was or the lack of a Garza deal. It happened, it sucked, but now let’s fix it.

            • Drew7

              “I do not mind a pessimistic view point but give me something new.”

              That’s my point: I see these exchanges differently than most I guess, but here’s what I see:

              Kyle: This is why I don’t agree with move-X

              Member A: How would you have made this team competitive?

              Kyle:

              Member A: MOAR! Rediculous!
              _________________________________________________

              Kyle: This is why I don’t agree with move-Y

              Member B: You just never agree with anything. Tell me, what would you have done to field a contender in 2012?

              Kyle:

              Member B: OMG! Maybe Theo should just come to you for advice then, since you’re so smart.

              • Drew7

                * Kyle’s responses in my example should read, ” – Insert step-by-step plan here – “

                • ssckelley

                  I am wondering if Kyle is someone who applied for a job with the Cubs but Theo failed to even give him an interview. :D

                  • Kyle

                    That comes up one in awhile.

                    I am afraid that my current job is very, very important to me and I am not available to give Epstein anything more than passing advice at this point, should he be inclined to take it.

                    • DarthHater

                      Yep. Those burgers don’t fry themselves.

                    • ssckelley

                      righhhhhhhhhhhhhht! Which is why you spend the better part of the day on this site arguing with everyone.

                    • hansman1982

                      Basically the only reason I would NOT take a job from the Cubs is if I had my dream job…which, incidentally is a job with the Cubs.

    • Sandberg

      I just want to say that you really have convinced me. The Cubs *should* be moving on parallel fronts, although I don’t want to see Greinke for 8/200, I wouldn’t mind seeing Hamilton for 3-4/100-125 or whatever, but there are ways to improve the club in the short term that won’t harm them in the long term. I believe they tried with Pujols and Fielder, less years/higher per contracts, and I’m ok with this.

      That being said, it’ll be interesting how the drafts pan out with the new spending rules. The international free agent advantage may be too tempting for the FO to pass up.

      • mudge

        actually, they *are,* and have been, moving on parallel fronts.

        • Kyle

          They’ve made it absolutely clear that one front (unfortunately, the most important one) is severely subordinate and will always have to be pushed aside in favor of the other. They’ve used the MLB roster as a feeder for the minors rather than the other way around.

          • Featherstone

            I wasn’t aware that one year now also constitutes “always”

            • stillmisskennyhubbs

              Touche’.

            • Kyle

              We’re commenting on a blog post where Epstein makes it very clear that’s his plan for next year, and likely the year after.

              But fair enough. Three years does not mean “always.”

              • Featherstone

                I will agree that 2 years is very likely, but 3 years is still up for contention as to what actually occurs. We could also be wrong about his intentions this off-season (But not likely.)

    • Tommy

      Wow. Kyle has something negative to say. That’s so unusual.

      • Chase S.

        I don’t normally comment on things, mainly because my knowledge of statistics and most things front office related is fairly minimal compared to most of the people here but I feel a little frustrated at the moment and need to voice my opinion for a second. I forgot the part of the blog that says you can’t disagree with anything Cubs related. I mean would we really be happier with (like someone mentioned before) the baseless angry rants that aim to just piss people off rather than having a legitimate evidence-based argument? God forbid someone disagrees with anything this front office does. I disagree with most of the things Kyle says but I certainly see where he’s coming from and he’s responded to each person’s response with a thought-out argument and has stuck to his guns to boot. I love coming on this blog because of these discussions, as it makes us all view each angle rather than the extremes.

        Let me give you all some advice, though. If you’re tired of reading Kyle’s “rants” then simply stop responding. It seemed to have worked with others who shall remain nameless (diehard).

  • Stinky Pete

    ah so king theo speaks…… so we won’t be good by 2014……….what is it now theo god? 2018?……….sounds like more raw sewage on the northside…….theo is just here to make this team bad……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….zzzzzzzzzz

    • TWC

      Stinky Pete = Cubs1967?!?!

      • Cubbie Blues

        Glad I refreshed before commenting. I was going to say the exact same thing. Stinky has much more gooder English then dat.

        • Stinky Pete

          Just goofing around because we all know it’s coming…

  • EvenBetterNewsV2.0

    The one thing I am curious of is how much we will be in on Upton from TB this offseason. With the new rules and we only lose a 2nd rd pick, can and will we be more aggressive since he is younger and has plenty of upside left?

    • DocPeterWimsey

      Look at Upton’s walk rates before you say that he has plenty of upside left. They’ve dropped precipitously and actually significantly over the last few years. So far, it has only nuked his OBP. However, it suggests that he’s been forced to accelerate when he starts his swing: and that’s going to start increasing his (already very high) K rate soon.

      BJ is only 27, but humans do not age like clockwork: he might be a case of relatively early senescence of batting eye and/or wrist speed.

      • Kyle

        “Look at Upton’s walk rates before you say that he has plenty of upside left. They’ve dropped precipitously and actually significantly over the last few years. ”

        Let me ask you this, Doc.

        We know that baseball players have an underlying skill, which their performance reflects imperfectly.

        Would you say that if a player’s walk rate declines three straight years, his underlying ability is likely to be above or below his most recent BB rate?

        • DocPeterWimsey

          Whoops: I should have written that they’ve been declining over 5 years! Over that time, BJ has averaged a walk rate of .107 BB/PA. It started at 0.152 BB/PA and dropped to 0.071 BB/PA.

          Given a simple model of linear decay where BJ’s BB/PA drops by 0.02 per year, BJ’s walk totals per year are over 210 times more probable than just random flucutation around the best mean. We expect about 1 player in 1000 to show this simply by chance alone.

          Now, as I note, it should happen to one player in 1000, and there are lots of players: so, this is going to happen just by chance to somebody about once or twice a decade. But it’s going to happen a lot more to someone who’s skill sets are actually declining.

          And it could also be that BJ has an unusually high rate of BB/PA fluctuation. However, that again is betting on the unusual.

          So, that’s why I’m so leery of BJ. The simplest and most informative idea is that his walk rate has been in decline for a few years now.

          • Kyle

            I didn’t ask whether you thought the decline was real. I asked whether you thought it would continue.

            Because even at his current walk rate he’s a very valuable player, and when I hear “X straight years of decline,” my first thought is “plexiglass principle.”

            • DocPeterWimsey

              Sorry! That was my way of saying, yes, I think that there is too great a chance that the decline will continue to risk signing him. Perhaps more importantly, I am very worried that the root of the decline (be it eyes, hands, whatever) will continue to deteriorate. Historically, this has been a prelude to loss of power as well.

              (Of course, historically, the guys are much older than BJ when this starts, too.)

        • hansman1982

          Here is the thing with upton…his BB rate was at or above 11% for 4 of the last 5 years before 2012. There was a 9.1% year and a 15.2% year. Last year it was 7.1%. In that same stretch of time his HR% went from 4.4% down to 1.4% and has climbed back up to 4.4%.

          His k rate has basically fluctuated from 28% to 25% with two dips below that to 21 and 24%. High but it hasn’t drastically increased as he has added that power.

          His BA has settled into the .240 range which (until this year) has given him an IsoD of .070-.080 – even this year being terrible it is still .050.

          The only question is, how much of his value is tied to his legs…are we a pulled hammy away from Soriano/Crawford part 2?

          • Kyle

            If Soriano or Crawford were in line for the contracts that Upton is likely to get, I’d be all over it.

            Part of Upton’s appeal is that he should come at a mid-tier price. If the bidding gets to top-tier levels, bow out.

    • Cubbie Blues

      BJ? No thanks. Justin? Yes please.

  • Dave

    After all Theo’s talking since he came here I still have no idea if hIs plan includes ever signing a big time free agent.
    The high ticket prices just make this whole thing more insulting. I now I have a choice not to but tickets and that’s exactly what I have chosen to do.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      I think he will.

      I know there is a conspiracy theory floating around that says that the Cubs really, secretly didn’t want anything to do with Pujols, Darvish, or Cespedes and that the front office was cunningly planting offers and / or rumors of offers that were designed to look like the team was interested even though they weren’t, but I just don’t buy it.

      According to a wide array of high-profile industry sources, the Cubs went after Pujols on a 5 year deal that would have made him the highest paid player on a per year basis. Pujols wanted a longer contract, but I still see that as the Cubs being serious about signing him.

      The Cubs went after Darvish and wound up finishing second in that stupid blind auction posting process.

      The Cubs went after Cespedes and, according to many accounts, had a higher dollar offer on the table. Oakland won by promising to turn him loose after four years. At the time I thought that was a bad move by Oakland, but Cespedes has proven to be major league ready immediately, something I did not expect.

      And then there is Puig. Several reports said that the Cubs actually had the highest offer to Puig, but that he chose LA anyway.

      Unless you chose to conspiracy theory all of that away, the evidence, from my perspective, points to the Cubs being willing to sign at least some big names to contracts that will keep them under the Cubs control until the Cubs are going to be good. I think we will see that again this winter.

      What the Cubs aren’t going to is chuck dollars around willy nilly whether it makes sense or not. For example, I don’t think they will offer a five year, high dollar deal to a 35 year old pitcher just to keep the fans happy. They shouldn’t be pursuing any more shortstops or first basemen (unless they want them to switch positions, I suppose). But that still leaves plenty of room for additions. There are some attractive names in the outfield this winter, and I think we’ll see the Cubs offers some 4-6 year deals to some of the best of them.

      We’ll get more into that as the winter progresses.

      • Kyle

        “According to a wide array of high-profile industry sources, the Cubs went after Pujols on a 5 year deal that would have made him the highest paid player on a per year basis. Pujols wanted a longer contract, but I still see that as the Cubs being serious about signing him.”

        This is what I’m talking about when I say confirmation bias.

        That’s simply not how I remember the offseason. I remember one report to that effect, and maybe a few repeating that report. I actually remember a lot more high-profile industry sources saying the Cubs had no interest whatsoever in Pujols.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

          There is some muddle-ness on any offseason report. If ESPN reports something at 8 PM, and then CBS reports it at 8:30 PM, and then a half a dozen local writers tweet the same thing between 9 PM and Midnight, is that 8 sources or is it 7 guys all repeating whatever Buster said?

          I think in the case of the Pujols talks that there were enough seemingly unrelated reports to reinforce the solitary big report, but I’ve no intention of trying to convince anyone of that a year after the fact.

          I’m not sure confirmation bias is the right term in my case, though. I’m on record in multiple places as being not a fan of the idea of signing Pujols or Fielder. I reluctantly came around on Fielder… eventually. Then the Rizzo trade got me off the hook, and I was very happy.

          • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

            Also, keep in mind: these guys are savvy enough to make an offer without making an offer.

            • Kyle

              I’ll table my skepticism for the forseeable future because it’s counterproductive.

              I would classify the offer that the Cubs reportedly made for Pujols as “non-serious.” Wasn’t it rumored to be 5/150? He ended up getting 10/260.

              There’s a difference between being willing to throw in the occasional “You will never accept this, but just in case, here we are” sort of bids and actually trying to get free agents to help the team.

              • hansman1982

                the 5/150 offer was when the bidding was around 10/240 (remember, the Angels outspent the Cardinals by around $40M overall). I remember some rumors that placed the potential contract at $35M a year (some said including incentives, some said before)

        • Chris

          I have to agree. I don’t have any recollection that there was any serious interest in Pujols. I think I heard that they talked to his agents, but they wanted a much more team friendly deal than he would ever have taken. He wouldn’t take a 9 year deal from the Cardinals. He wasn’t going to take a 5 year deal from the Cubs. I do have the same memories regarding Darvish and Cespedes.

          • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

            We have so many debates around these parts that center on words that have different meanings to different people. We might all be saying the same thing, and yet not realizing it because of the flabby nature of words like “serious interest.”

            If he would have taken 5/$150M, the Cubs would have been happy to sign him. Is that not “serious interest”? Maybe it isn’t. It’s a higher AAV than the Angels offered, but it’s far, far less money.

            But what do you have to do to reach this imaginary threshold of “serious interest”? That’s an entirely different discussion, and one that really isn’t about the veracity of reports that the Cubs were interested in Pujols.

            The Cubs would have been open to signing Pujols for 5/$150M, and credible reports said the same. That’s what we know. The rest is just ephemeral, semantic debate. (Which is not without its own value, of course, but let’s focus the discussion if we’re going to have that one.)

            • Kyle

              Well, it’s a sliding scale.

              If the Cubs had overbid the Angels, we know that’s serious interest.

              If the Cubs had called Pujols and offered him a non-roster invite with a chance to make the league minimum, we know that’s not serious interest.

              The line is somewhere in the middle.

              A short-term, high AAV contract to a player very clearly wanting a career-ending, record-breaking contract, strikes me as clearly on one side of that line.

              • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

                “a player very clearly wanting a career-ending, record-breaking contract”

                You really should have reached out to me during those negotiations. I could have used a reporter on the inside.

                • Kyle

                  I’d be happy to rectify my absence in the future.

                  For all future 30+ free agents who have the possibility of raking in a 10-year deal, presume that my insider knowledge is reporting that they aren’t interested in a short-term, high-AAV deal, precisely for the same reasons that teams would be interested in giving them one.

                  • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

                    Now if I can just get four more sources to say the same thing, I’ll believe it!

                    • Kyle

                      Have you met Lyle, Syle, Byle and NotKyle?

                • stillmisskennyhubbs

                  Touche’ 2.0

      • hansman1982

        The theory is either that Theo and Jed actively sought to spend more time last winter making it look like they did something than actually doing something and craftily built a team to suck just bad enough that it would keep fans coming until September

        or

        Theo and Jed suck at their jobs.

        Nowhere is is said that maybe the 2011 Cubs just sucked really bad and getting them to contention (outside of 2 of Pujols, Fielder, Wilson, Burhle) was dang near impossible outside of WAR and WPA calculations.

  • jim

    Kyle has read sun-tsu! Yep, first things taught in military are situation and terrain. Neither looks good for cubs right now. Have to be smart and lucky–tuff combo!

  • Frank

    Tr

  • Frank

    Translation: We will not be good next season. I mean it. Seriously. If you want to tell yourself we’ll be goo next year, you can, but you’ll be lying to yourself. Because we won’t be good. Hopefully we won’t lose another 100 games. Perhaps 90, but we’ll try to avoid 100.

    We plan to be active in the free agent market, and by active in the free agent market we mean we’ll claim more 27 year old relievers with middling at best AA stats as well as AAAA middle infielders who can’t hit.

    I have another 4 years on my contract. Hopefully, by then, the team will be shaping up into what I can say was my plan all along. If not, at least I can say that I did it on my terms, and move on to a new town in hopes of selling them on a boy’s band.

    Seriosuly though, I like Epstein, and I trust him. I love what he’s done with the lower levels of the farm. Assuming that enough guys pan out, as well as Castro, Rizzo, and Jackson still in their mid 20s by the time the prospects start making their way to the big leagues, we’ll have a lot of money to spend on the right pieces to fill whatever holes remain.

    This being said, I don’t see why they can’t build a top farm system and attempt to be competitive via free agency and trades. A 4/45 contract here, a 5/60 contract there, and sprinkle in some 3/20 and 2/15 type deals for the right players. By the time enough of the guys now in the lower levels are ready to become the foundation of the team, those contracts will be winding down.

    Otherwise, they’re asking fans to pay some of baseball’s highest ticket prices to watch a horrible team. How many companies can come out and say that they’ll be producing a poor quality product, but charging the same price, but fear not, in 5 years, we’ll have a respectable product on the market?

    • DarthHater

      If you want to tell yourself we’ll be goo next year, you can, but you’ll be lying to yourself.

      Actually, I think there is a high likelihood that we’ll be goo next year…

      • Frank

        That’s the PG term for it.

  • hardtop

    “The dollars you spend in Major League free agency provide the lowest return on investment of any dollars we spend in baseball operations.”

    huh? crane kenney? oh, thats right, they moved him to “business operations”…. just so they could make statements like these ;)

    honestly, im tired of hearing they have a plan, and im ready to hear the details and scheduled milestones associated with that plan. so far, “the plan” looks suspect (after 101 loses, how could it not). i do not believe they have no idea what kind of product they plan to have on the field in 2014. you have to set goals in order to achieve them and i just dont believe for theos salary he gets to use the “wait and see how it goes” excuse. i know its hard to predict prospects development and output but there has to be some reasonable statistical range they can forecast within. this information is not encouraging.
    go bears

    • baldtaxguy

      “honestly, im tired of hearing they have a plan, and im ready to hear the details and scheduled milestones associated with that plan.”

      Do you ever get details and milestones from a GM? In any sport? If you do, do you believe?

  • MichiganGoat

    So we are in the playoffs right? Or should I put my head back in the sand?

    • Cubbie Blues

      You may go back into your cave.

  • http://Bleachernation.com Ramy16

    Sean Figgins wants out of Seattle, and he’s made it public! Possible fit for the Cubs.. I remember when Hendry wanted him and was going to give him a big money deal.. Now he could resurrect his career in a Cubs uniform and he can play 3rd! Otherwise Theo Give Junior Lake a chance!

    • TWC

      You mean Chone “Worst Hitting Position Player in all of Baseball” Figgins? Yeah, why wouldn’t we want him?

      • DocPeterWimsey

        heh, I was bummed when the Cubs didn’t sign him after 2009 or whenever it was. Many people considered his signing to be the best of the off-season, with the Sox’s signing of John Lackey being the 2nd best! (Jason Bay was another big signing that winter….)

    • Cubbie Blues

      Seattle might want Chone out of town too. wRC+ the last three years? 90, 36, 54. Only played in half of the games this year.

    • Drew7

      “Sean Figgins wants out of Seattle, and he’s made it public!”

      And MLB would like to rid itself of Chone Figgins.

  • Katie

    Quick question: who the f*ck is Kyle?

    • Myles

      One of our more thoughtful and intelligent members, IMO, even if I frequently disagree with him

      • Featherstone

        Agreed, he certainly adds to the discussion around here even if he is a bit prone to hyperbole and pessimism

        • Katie

          That’s cool. I realize I’ve not been around these parts much recently but I could remember his posts in the past.

          • Katie

            *couldn’t. Sorry, can’t type today.

          • terencem

            A lot of the regulars from here and BCB post a lot at prosportsdaily. I’m not trying to drag people away from Bleacher Nation, which is an excellent community, but that is another place you can find a good community. I hope some of them are reading and responding here, too.

            • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

              PSD is a good place for discussion, too. NSBB, as well. And SOI.

              (I like acronyms … )

  • http://Bleachernation.com Ramy16

    There’s no way San Diego let’s Chase Headley.. He can get 7 mil this year in arb.. And then walk.. I dont see Stewart back with the Cubs.. Which I still think the Rockies got the better deal! Valbuena did a great job at 3rd this year… I would like to see Junior Lake to get a shot! I am also saying that Figgins on a 1yr deal still mite better than what we currently have

    • TWC

      I am also saying that Figgins on a 1yr deal still mite better than what we currently have

      No. No, it’s not: Chone Figgins is the worst hitting position player in the major leagues.

      Anyone and everyone is a better option than him.

      • Frank

        If Figgins was outright released by the mariners, I’d sign him to the same type of AAA deal that we gave Amezaga, Tolbert, and A Gon’s brother. That’s about it.

        • terencem

          I think, if they Cubs want something other than black hole at third next season, the best way to address third is to spend a little extra on a one year deal for a third baseman of limited but better than AAA ability or try to find someone who normally plays second who might have the arm to take over at third.

          Chone Figgins is never the answer.

    • TWC

      … you know, kid, it’s funny to me that you and I have *always* had strongly conflicting opinions on the Cubs’ 3rd basemen.

  • Kyle

    “Theo Epstein’s goal is to make the Cubs a better team overall.”

    Theo Epstein’s goal is to pursue a strategy he’s always been fascinated by to see if he can make it work.

    “This year, that was by turning short-term assets into long-term assets. Next year, it’ll probably be more of the same, but with the added possibility of just buying some long-term assets (and thank goodness he didn’t do that last year, when he would have squandered whatever he spent – that money adds up).”

    This is where a lot of our disagreement comes. There’s this idea for many fans that if you aren’t sure the team is a winner, you can avoid wasting resources by not spending any. It doesn’t work that way, I’m afraid. There will always be waste.

    Last season, the Cubs wasted key pre-FA years of players such as Castro, Samardzija and Barney. They wasted half a season’s worth of playing time at 1b and a full season’s worth at 3b, plus about 50 starts. They wasted, of course, an opportunity to win as well.

    ” guess what I’m saying is, why would we have pursued big-time FA last year when it would only have cost us money (very little shot of contending)?”

    A) I disagree that there was very little shot at contending. The team was bad, but not as bad as many want to believe, and we had a ton of resources at our disposal.

    B) Those players would not have simply disappeared off the roster. It would have left you with fewer holes to fill in 2013.

    “That math is more or less the same in 2013, we aren’t appreciably better at the ML level (our minors are much better).”

    See point B above. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle. Every season that you tank makes tanking the next season that much more desirable.

    • stillmisskennyhubbs

      “It’s a self-perpetuating cycle.”
      My God, sir, this certainly is.

    • Myles

      “Theo Epstein’s goal is to pursue a strategy he’s always been fascinated by to see if he can make it work.”

      I think this is a fundamental mis-characterization of his viewpoint that is supported by very little evidence.

      “Last season, the Cubs wasted key pre-FA years of players such as Castro, Samardzija and Barney. They wasted half a season’s worth of playing time at 1b and a full season’s worth at 3b, plus about 50 starts.”

      They didn’t “waste” those years, because they were going to happen anyway. We lost an opportunity to win this year, but that was a very fleeting one in any case. We finished roughly 30 games from a playoff spot. Which prudent investments could we have made that would have increased our win total by even 20 games? For reference, those 30 wins are roughly equal to the combined WAR of the top 5 players in the national league.

      I think our main point of disagreement is how bad we think this team was. I think we played close to our talent level, which was a 65-70 win club. If we held on to Maholm and Dempster and Soto, I expect around 68 wins. If we signed a bunch of free agents (I’d hope you would agree we shouldn’t be trading long-term assets for short term ones), yeah, maybe we grab another 10 wins (likely at the expense of being on the ass-end of some bad contracts during our actual contention cycle PLUS losing that money when we want those same types of contracts down the line), which doesn’t really help us.

      A quick aside: I also care little about draft position, which is largely irrelevant after the top 10-20 picks, but it can’t hurt.

      “B) Those players would not have simply disappeared off the roster. It would have left you with fewer holes to fill in 2013.”

      This is your best point, but also where I think your reasoning is flawed. Why would you intentionally short yourself a year of all of those players (while still spending that money) if you believe that you aren’t competing in 2012 (which is what Theo rightly thought)? Sure, we’d have less holes to fill, but FA aren’t an incredibly finite resource and it’s not like we missed out on some great deal. We can buy a bunch of them whenever it actually makes a difference between contention or not. The only difference is now we have a clearer picture of what those holes still are. Unfortunately, it’s basically the same ones we had, but we also could have discovered that Brett Jackson or Vitters or Valbuena or random dude #45 was a cheaper, better option.

      If the Cubs don’t make any significant FA moves this season, I’ll believe you and think it’s a bad sign, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. I think they played 2012 pretty well and will continue to make smart, prudent decisions.

      • Kyle

        “I think this is a fundamental mis-characterization of his viewpoint that is supported by very little evidence.”

        It’s not exactly a smoking gun, but my favorite piece of evidence comes from this interview:

        http://www.boston.com/sports/baseball/redsox/articles/2012/06/14/q__a_with_theo_epstein_on_red_sox_and_cubs/?page=5

        “I think so. In 10 years, you’re going to have misses. I do think this. I think taking a step back, if you take a look at what our baseball group was best at, we were best at drafting and developing young talent and finding some undervalued players. I think we were the best drafting team of the decade and all that. That’s a very patient, organic approach. Pure . . .
        “We joked about it all the time in the front office. We’d say, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we could just say, screw free agency altogether. We’re going with a purely home-grown lineup. We’re going with old-school, Branch Rickey-style, pre-free agency, pre-draft whatever?’
        …“We kind of clung to that in the back of our minds, knowing it was impossible, recognizing that there was an inherent tension between that approach and bigger business. “

        In the Cubs, he finally found an owner willing to let him ignore the bigger business and live out his dream.

        “They didn’t “waste” those years, because they were going to happen anyway. We lost an opportunity to win this year, but that was a very fleeting one in any case. We finished roughly 30 games from a playoff spot. Which prudent investments could we have made that would have increased our win total by even 20 games? For reference, those 30 wins are roughly equal to the combined WAR of the top 5 players in the national league.”

        I don’t think anyone wants to see me rehash the WAR Roster Game, but I’d say a good place to start is to note that the Cubs fielded almost 30 below-replacement players on their roster for a combined value of -17 wins below replacement. They could have made this a 78 win team just by getting replacement-level performances (in theory, something you should be able to do for free) from that playing time, before spending a dime of their considerable resources.

        “but FA aren’t an incredibly finite resource and it’s not like we missed out on some great deal. We can buy a bunch of them whenever it actually makes a difference between contention or not.”

        I think you are underestimating just how finite they actually are. There haven’t been any worthwhile free-agent 3b for the last two offseasons. We are desperately short of ace-quality pitchers, and you are competing for one or two of those every offseason if you try to find one that way. Teams are getting better at locking up their talent before it hits FA.

        “If the Cubs don’t make any significant FA moves this season, I’ll believe you and think it’s a bad sign, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. I think they played 2012 pretty well and will continue to make smart, prudent decisions.”

        I think they are telegraphing their intent pretty hard in the above quotes, but we can wait and see.

        • Myles

          “I don’t think anyone wants to see me rehash the WAR Roster Game”

          … I kinda want you to rehash the WAR Roster Game.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          I mean, he did kind of expressly say they were joking when they talked about the idea. Hell, I’m sure every front office in baseball says stuff like that in hundreds of hours they spend together every month in the offseason, debating how many millions to drop on a guy they barely want in the first place.

          It seems like you’re letting that color a lot of your thinking when it might be literally nothing.

          • Kyle

            I’m simply trying to come up with a plausible scenario that fits all the facts.

            I’m reminded of the alternative punctuation for statements which the speaker wishes to be taken either jokingly or seriously, depending on the other person’s reaction. Jokes are often windows to our real desires.

        • Drew7

          “I don’t think anyone wants to see me rehash the WAR Roster Game, but I’d say a good place to start is to note that the Cubs fielded almost 30 below-replacement players on their roster for a combined value of -17 wins below replacement. They could have made this a 78 win team just by getting replacement-level performances (in theory, something you should be able to do for free) from that playing time, before spending a dime of their considerable resources.”

          I find this to be a very intriguing, often overlooked point. Many of us (including myself) have argued that there just wasn’t enough talent out there to make up the number of wins needed to field a competitive team without hamstringing the team financially. However, looking back and realizing just how many innings were given to garbage players who, like you said, *should* have been able to be improved upon using little to no resources, it certainly makes you wonder.

          • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

            How many of those garbage players/innings came in the second half, though? Most of them? Two thoughts: (1) what would be the point of going out of your way to giving innings to “better” players on a sinking team in August and September?; (2) what would be the point of going out of your way to *pay to acquire* those players (via trade) in the second half?

            It’s not like the Cubs broke camp with a player at every position that was projected to be below replacement level. Hell, were any?

            • Kyle

              Sort of. A lot of the terrible pitching innings came in the second half. The position players mostly improved in the second half.

              In the first half, CF, 3b and C were all below replacement as a whole. That’s pretty amazing (C was salvaged by a late-season push from Castillo.)

              • Noah

                But strangely the being below replacement level at 3B wasn’t due to Ian Stewart (who was admittedly right at replacement level), but instead due to the Cubs not having a backup who could even play at replacement level. And no one guessed Marlon Byrd would tank so dramatically, or that the Cubs would have had to go down their 4th and 5th catchers for about 10% of the season, and 20% of the first half.

                With that said, I get what you’re saying that its possible the Cubs could have competed. I don’t think it would have actually be feasible, but it was possible, and there’s an argument for beyond possible (which is what you are making).

                But this idea isn’t just something that Theo and the gang cooked up. Go to any chat with anyone from FanGraphs, or tweet with Kevin Goldstein or Keith Law, and they all will agree that if you’re not going to have a really good team, you shouldn’t be trying to do patchwork stuff to have a mediocre team.

                And quite honestly, the team I’d point to right now for the what the Cubs are doing is the Nationals. They didn’t spend a lot of money while they developed their farm system, then made a big attempt on Werth before making the big trade for Gio. Did the Nationals have a single big FA signing before Werth?

                • Kyle

                  I’d be glad to debate that point with Mr. Law, Mr. Goldstein, or anyone else, as it applies specifically to the Chicago Cubs.

                • Kyle

                  Sorry for splitting this up into two replies.

                  The Nats are a frequent comparison, and not a terrible one.

                  But some points to consider:

                  1) It took the Nats 7 consecutive losing seasons to build up to what they have now, which is precisely one playoff season. That’s not a ratio we should be shooting for, nor should it be if they improve it with a nice run of playoff series in the near future.

                  2) The Nats had two generational No. 1 overall picks become available to them. That’s not exactly something you can plan to recreate.

                  3) The Nats went big on free agency (*gasp*) with Jayson Werth, a 30+ year old (*double gasp*), the offseason after they went 69-93 (*triple gasp*).

                  • Chris

                    I hate the Nats comparison, for the same reasons you’ve pointed out. I don’t want it to take 7+ years to build a team. They lucked into getting the 1st pick 2 times in a small window where there was an undisputed #1 stud they could draft. It’s not realistic to expect the Cubs to get a #1 pick, and have that player be as good as Harper or Strasburg. Even as bad as this season was, the Astros figured out a way to out-lose the Cubs. While I’ve been with the approach thus far, there is a limit to what I’ll feel is acceptable. This can’t be an ever-rebuilding process until they think they get it right. They’ve determined moving Garza is the right move to add to the core. They may even turn around and decide Samardzija can be moved for prospects too. But if the rebuild continues to the point of deciding maybe it’s time to move Castro and/or Rizzo, that would be unacceptable.

              • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

                But at none of those positions did the Cubs break camp with a player who was expected to be below replacement level, even Byrd. So this doesn’t really help your thesis.

                • Kyle

                  I would argue that we very much went into the season with a good bet to be below replacement at 3b, and we put ourselves at that risk at C by keeping down the better option of the two young C’s.

                  Besides, it’s the front office’s job to be right. “Did the right moves but it didn’t work out” is sometimes a valid excuse, but I don’t think you can default to it when so many, many things went wrong in one season.

                  • hansman1982

                    So the only positions truly below replacement level at the beginning of the season was 3B and backup C (I mean, comeon, Backup C?).

                    Also, oftentimes teams will do that with young catchers, keep one down to work on specific things and get playing time every day.

                    At that point you are in need of 8 wins by the deadline to get to .500 from added value above replacement.

                    • Kyle

                      One is too many.

                    • Drew7

                      Right about the catchers, but his point was they left the good one in AAA.

            • hansman1982

              There is the key point. The Cubs already broke camp with a number of at-replacement-level players in the bullpen. 3B was a “prospecty” type gamble that didn’t work.

              The Cubs were killed, offensively, from an April slump from Soriano, Soto and Byrd. Those 12 PA’s a game were a black hole that came out of nowhere and no GM in their right mind is going to acquire a decent CF and split time with someone who was above servicible for CF.

              3B was predictable. BP was chock full of replacement level, the SP had 1 truly bad spot in it (Volstad). Could you have acquired 6 WAR from the BP and 3B before the end of May…sure. It’s also just as likely that you are in the same position with other players. Right now you are using hindsight bias…based on the data available in the offseason the Cubs needed bright spots out of 1B, 3B and a couple in the bullpen. We got one at 1st and in the bullpen but everything else crumbled around that.

              Playing real GM isn’t as easy as armchair GM…

              • Kyle

                It’s not hindsight bias to use all of the data available to us.

                But you’re right, they couldn’t have known that CF was going to fall apart like that. Which only strengthens my point that going into the 2011 offseason, this wasn’t a hopelessly doomed team.

                • hansman1982

                  It was though…outside of 14 starts by truly horrific starting pitchers last year’s team was not much different than what you wanted for the 2012 Cubs.

                  • Kyle

                    I think that’s true, if I’m reading it correctly. I think that fielding a fairly similar team to 2011, with a couple of key upgrades, would have had the Cubs in much better shape than merely looking at the 71-91 record would suggest.

                • hansman1982

                  And those 14 starts also featured HORRIFIC run production (1.5 runs per 9, if I remember correctly)

    • Sandberg

      Kyle, I believe you have stated a couple of times that having one of the top two picks in the draft is vastly superior than even having the 3rd pick. Given that, and the new spending restrictions on international signings, is it possible that these dollar amounts will give losing teams a much better chance of signing the 1st or 2nd pick talents from Latin America?

      This is completely uncharted territory, and may be something that is overlooked when the strategy of tanking is discussed.

      • Kyle

        It’s hard to tell right now. The best answer I can give is “possibly.”

        Latin America’s a little different because the best players sign at 16, which is so young it’s very hard to project where they will end up. The best successes in LA have mostly been by just signing a ton of guys and hoping a few grow into stars. Quantity seems to beat out quality down there, although quality isn’t worthless.

        We also don’t know how the IFA budget appropriate will work. We know it will be based on draft position, but we don’t have any details on how big the differences will be, to my knowledge.

        It might be a place where we can get a nice advantage, but my best guess is it will be smaller than, for example, the advantage of drafting 2nd instead of 3rd.

        • Chris

          I think the quantity approach is best for latin america. The Dominican facility should, hopefully, provide an advantage over other clubs, given they’ll be able to attract larger numbers for tryouts and such. Seeing how things played out this year, every team will sign 2-3 top LA prospects. It’ll be up to the scouting staff to predict development of the lesser talents that sign for marginal dollars. Those players can be signed without limit, provided their signing bonuses fall below a threshold, I just don’t remember the exact dollar figure. With more players being scouted at the new facility, that’s where they have to use it as an advantage.

    • KyleNovak

      You keep bringing up first base as a “waste.”

      Let me remind you again of *your* alternative.

      YOU wanted Carlos Pena. That turned out to be 600 PAs of replacement level Carlos Pena. An aging slugger who wanted a multi-year deal, or at least another $10MM one-year deal. How the hell was that supposed to make us a better team?

      So what did we find out this year? That essentially Bryan LaHair @ league minimum = Carlos Pena @ $7.25MM. The Cubs can cut LaHair for no cost. Based on Pena’s last three years, it’s hard to say he helps you even a bit in 2013.

      One of the bonuses of having a shitty team, is that you get to see what assets you have in the system and see what they can do for you. It’s abundantly clear you can’t just trot out a bunch of scrubs and hope they magically work out their problems in MLB. But LaHair’s quasi-video game numbers in the PCL (as hitting-heavy as it may be) presented an opportunity to provide at least some value when compared to Pena, or say, a flukey Casey Kotchman. LaHair was younger than Pena, had developed solid power, and was under team control for a LONG time. Intriguing indeed.

      Joe Mather was a waste, he shouldn’t have been on the team in the first place.
      Third base ended up being a waste, the FO took a gamble on Stewart and it didn’t pan out.
      The rotation had numerous wasteful starters, most of whom pitched after the trade deadline.
      CF was a waste that pretty much nobody could have expected.

      You can call first base a waste, but Carlos Pena would have not helped at all. Unless you sign Pujols or Fielder to 10-year deals (which if that had happened is an entirely different can of worms and the subject of a different debate), the stark reality is the other first base options were BRUTAL.

      Now we know what we have in LaHair. And it was a younger, cheaper Carlos Pena.

      • Featherstone

        Pena leaving also netted us Paul Blackburn as a comp pick. Not signing Pena may be one of the better choices the Cubs made last year.

      • Kyle

        That’s true. I’ll never claim that my hit rate is 100% on what I want. I will claim it’s pretty good, but I’d be glad to put “bring back Pena” in the negative column.

    • ptbnl

      How about we pick up this discussion in April when it isn’t just hypotheticals about what anybody thinks will happen? Both sides have said their points and can argue until the end of time about this but there is no right answer. When a free agent does or doesn’t get signed y’all can pick up right where you left off.

  • terencem

    Despite being a losing club – and we can’t get away from that, we were a losing club – there was a real professionalism, a real spirit of unity, a real effort to play hard every day, to have each other’s back, to prepare.

    This was the thing I enjoyed about this year’s team a tremendous amount. No matter how bad things got, the players seemed resolved to do everything they could to focus on progress and stick up for each other. The way players stood up for Soriano this year was great. The way they celebrated every win like it mattered was great. The way Sveum was level-headed throughout the whole season was really impressive.

    • Kyle

      It helps when half the roster knows they would be out of a job if the team weren’t so terrible.

      But it was very impressive how Sveum kept some of the actually useful vets on board. Not a bad thing to say from any of them.

  • MikeW

    I don’t always agree with what Kyle posts here, but I read it all, and I’m glad he says it. And I like when Brett lightly takes him to task too. Thats what makes this site great. Keep it going.

  • Tim

    Love the site, keep up the great work!

  • Chase S.

    Although this show got canned for right reasons (it was utterly dreadful) I think it’d be interesting to have at least a semi-regular “Crossfire” esque debate: Brett vs. Kyle. I’ve really been enjoying the discussion recently, whether I agree or disagree with where the argument stands. I guess a big concern with something like a “Crossfire” debate, though, is who gets to look dopey in a bowtie?

  • Cubs1967

    blah-blah-blah-theo is so full of shit. 2103; team is gonna lose 90 games plus; we know. AND no free agent wants to play for sveum; cuz your gonna get traded, pleassssssse; cut the crap theo.

    theo, jed , ricketts play fans for fools, we know it;s all about 2016, and that is BS!

    if ricketts had any balls, he would cut prices by 20%; someone wake me in 2016; when coulda, woulda, shoulda, may happen………108 yrs later so ……………….tick-tock………tommyboy

    • TWC

      someone wake me in 2016

      Will do.

      Promise you’ll stay asleep ’til then?

    • Chase S.

      And i reiterate my statement…

  • Sparks

    I also enjoy the commentary from Kyle. I guess I agree with him more than most of you, but it takes me too long to put my thoughts into words. I really connot see any reason why Kyle’s “Parallel” method should not work. I was never in favor of signing Fielder or Pouhols for a long-term contract, but some lesser free agents would have helped. I think I would have kept Malholm also. (Please dont ask which lesser free agents I would have tried to sign, because I do not remember who was available.) Also, I should point out that I tend to be a Contrarion- though I fight it.

    • Eric

      parrallel fronts would have worked if we could have landed Darvish AND Cespedes. But at the same time I still think Rizzo and Soler were GREAT additions so I would want that to happen to. There are 29 other baseball teams, and to realistically think we could have just outbid everyone on Darvish, Cespeded AND soler, was unrealistic. So yes I kind of agree with Kyle, in a way.

      But I prefer to completely suck for 2 years. 2012 and 2013. And have 2 amazing high drafts and 2 trade deadlines. I personally would rather see the farm system REALLY built up real good over the next 2 years because the 2015 team doing it THIS way, will be so much better. And if it’s not we will have so many more great prospects people will want to trade players with us. By going Kyles route we would not have added Vizciano (who ranks in our top 5), Villanueva (who ranks in our top 10), Peirce Johnson (who ranks close to top 10), and Paul Blackburn (who sits in the top 15), as well as Torreyes (who I’d rank in top 20). That’s 5 guys in our top 20 who wouldn’t be if we went the other route. Then you have to add whatever guys they’ll add by drafting high next year.

      • Kyle

        That’s a very valid point. I don’t want to completely disregard what we’d be giving up. I mean, prospects in the 5-20 range in our system aren’t *that* valuable individually, but en masse they start to move the needle.

        I don’t like the rebuilding approach, but dang if they didn’t do a great job of it. The pile of talent they added to the organization in a single year is pretty stunning.

        • Eric

          My hope is by this time next year, both you and I will be happy. Hopefully an incredible draft, and a very productive trade deadline (after a good offseason this year). That we will see the core enlarging and the farm about ready to really help add some major talent.

        • gutshot5820

          I would love to trade every prospect between 5-20 for 3-4 proven solid young players right now. Add a few good free agents and voila!!

    • FFP

      I tend to be a Contrarian–though I fight it.

      Funny.

      The problem isn’t parallel action. It’s coordinated action. They aren’t quite ready for that free agent push over the top. Neither is the FA market right now.
      All the tumblers will fall into place though. And when they do, Theo will say the same thing about ‘not promising year X’ because that would tip his hand and poison the FA market.
      But they’ll put a cherry on this Sundae soon enough. They just are trying to build a machine that churns out Sundaes first.

      • FFP

        (Still working on these quote/link buttons.)

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        Coordinated action. I like that. I’m going to steal that if I remember to do so.

      • Turn Two

        Loving the sundae machine analogy

  • 2much2say

    Zack Grienke 28) Francisco Liriano 29) David Wright 30) and JP Howell 28) and a few relievers = Win Now
    Rizzo
    Barney
    Castro
    Wright
    Soriano
    Jackson
    Dejesus
    Garza Grienke Liriano Zamardja

  • cubsin

    The Cubs finished 24th in runs allowed and 28th in run scored. We clearly need to add some hitters as well as some pitchers this winter. But pitching is the higher priority because our best prospects are all position players.

  • Frank

    NSBB was once the be all and end all of Cubs message boards, and still houses some of the wisest posters you’ll find. Sadly, it seems to be over run by a cliq that seems more interested in pushing their point across, and if they don’t agree with someone or don’t like them, they’ll pile on everything they post with a series of “flames,” with the intention of running them off the board, which seems to work for them every time. Some of which are “trolls,” some of which simply have strange things to say about trades, player analysis, etc. The problem comes when these guys jump all over one of these posts with nothing constructive to say, thus derailing thread after thread with pile ons.

    If you’re ever there, especially a newbie, you’ll quickly learn who they are and do your best to ignore them and learn from the right posters, especially when it comes to the minor league forum.

    I feel as though BN could become what NSBB was 3-4 years ago with enough traffic, and if the discussions and posters stick to a pleasant nature.

  • Frank

    The above post was meant as a reply to this:
    PSD is a good place for discussion, too. NSBB, as well. And SOI.

    (I like acronyms … )

  • die hard

    clearly Boston has paid the price for allowing Theo carte blanche management over the team operations….may take 5 years for Boston to recover…Cubs ought to take notice……

    • Carew

      no way in heck Theo lets that happen again. What’s done, is done.

  • 5412

    Hi gang!

    I have followed this entire discussion with mixed emotions. Time for me to weigh in.

    1. I appreciate the civility, unlike the Cubs board. nuff said on that!

    2. At 72, I have heard as much hype and hope as most of you and it does start to sound like the same old song year after year. Our BS meter is on high alert.

    3. While I agree with Kyle that the team should be able to do two things at once, like play baseball and spit juice, there is one hole I see. That is this. Every team has a budget, and the Cubs are certainly in the top tier. Now factor $20 million for a Dominican Baseball academy and whatever it costs to go from 90-120 people in the scouting and player development department (just to bring the team up to par with the competition) and you begin to see why Theo really had his hands tied.

    Add to that the big time contracts of Zambrano, Dempster and some others and he really had little wiggle room a year ago. To pursue both fronts, scouting and real expensive, producing type free agents would have required an awful lot more money than the team wanted to spend….and this is one time I side with ownership. If you are going to take the big dollar risks on players it should be the one or two guys that put you over the top.

    Now with that being the history of 2012, what lies ahead is a whole different issue. I feel saying the 2013 team might not contend is the old “under promise and over deliver” theory. With the same amount of dollars available this offseason for budget, Theo’s hands are not tied. He doesn’t have to lay out another $20 million for the Dominican, etc. So, instead of having to spend so much on infrastructure and underperforming players, he can reallocate those dollars to upgrade the team.

    In my opinion, they likely will go down the team, position by position, all the way down to Boise. Who has a legitimate shot at being really good at the MLB level? Those who auditioned this year pretty well made those decisions easy. Then, if you have positions, with no real depth, you shore them up with trades or free agents you would expect to keep for 4-5 years.

    Much of the discussion on this thread should not have to take place at the end of the 2013 season. Theo has the authority, plenty of money, and the assets in place to do what is necessary to improve the product on the field. Jack Welch of GE said it best when he said something like implementing a culture change in business today is changing the tires on a car, while you are still driving down the road. Business does not stop so you can retool. You still have customers and stockholders to satisfy while you clean up your mess and upgrade your business.

    If we are still talking about a lot of these same issues at the end of next season, as fans we should have real cause for concern.

    That is just my 2 cents worth.

    regards,
    5412

    • Kyle

      Those are some very good points, but one quibble: The Cubs estimated the Dominican Academy to cost between $6 million and $8 million dollars.

      I’ve actually put a medium amount of work into reconstructing the Cubs’ 2012 baseball operations budget, including accounting for the Dominican Academy and the improved scouting infrastructure. Brett said he’d publish it this offseason if I ever got around to doing some real self-editing, so look for it soon-ish. Spoiler: My math shows the Cubs leaving a pretty significant amount of payroll flexibility on the table even after accounting for all that.

  • Bill

    5412,

    I’ve sided more with Kyle on this issue but you bring up some good points. I’m willing to give Theo more of a pass for 2012, but there’s no reason the team has to tank again in 2013. Now, if the Cubs really buy the anxiety issues with Greinke, then that’s a legit reason not to pursue him, however, money alone shouldn’t be a valid reason not to at least kick the tires. I hate the thought of throwing seasons away. Where I think Kyle is correct is you don’t get better by being bad, by tanking seasons. Spend money on FA’s if that makes the team better for 2013. The Cubs problem under Hendry was a poor farm system. You don’t need to tank seasons to produce a good farm system. All we have to do is look at the Cardinals, who win almost every season, and have a very good farm system every year.

    • Jeff

      What Bill said!!!

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