Chicago Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein addressed the media yesterday as we approach the offseason, and offered thoughts on a variety of important subjects (quotes available, for example, here, here, and here).
His words, my thoughts, etc.:
- On where things stand: “That’s the goal, to get there in a way that allows us to do it year in and year out. You can’t help but look at what the Cardinals are doing, and the Giants now, and teams that are able to be factors in October year in and year out …. There is urgency [to win], but that urgency will be paid back through hard work to get us there to stay. It won’t necessarily translate into a panic to get us there, or a shot at getting us there quicker, if it means a less healthy organization …. I do feel really energized by a lot of the things that are going on here. I also wake up every day and recognize that we lost 101 games and understand how painful that was for everybody, including me, and that provides further motivation to get out of this position that we’re in.” The message remains the same: there are no shortcuts, there won’t be a spending binge, and this might take a while.
- On the upside of the 2012 season: “I think there were a lot of positives. That core, at least in my mind, went from one player to half a dozen, and if we can do that again in 2013, and we look up and we have close to a dozen players in our core, I’ll feel great about the overall health of the organization” Hmm … half dozen, eh? Castro, Samardzija, Rizzo … Soler, Almora, Baez? How about Garza? Jackson and Vitters? Castillo? I think you can probably take some guesses.
- On his plans for/hopes for competitiveness in 2013: “As soon as you get to Spring Training, and Opening Day starts – you’re in it to win it until you’re not. Nothing would make me happier than to be in solid contention in June and July and adding pieces for next year. With the second wild card, it’s never a total fantasy. It’s just not. With a solid start, if we find ourselves in that position we’ll be thrilled and we’ll go for it …. If we’re not in that position, we’ll make the hard call we made this year and do it in the best interest of the Cubs and look to move shorter-term assets for longer-term assets, move veteran players for younger players.” Looking at the A’s, the O’s and the White Sox of 2012, it is indeed fair to say that it isn’t a “fantasy” to think it’s conceivable the Cubs could be in adding mode come midseason, but that will depend in large part upon what is done this offseason to the roster. Right now, it looks like a fantasy.
- On observing Cubs prospects in the Instructional League this Fall: “That was a really nice feeling to be down there and see a lot of dedicated Cubs baseball [operations] personnel, some new, some old, all buying into the collective ‘Cubs way’ of doing things that they helped define, impacting a really talented group of young players.”
- It all comes down to balls and strikes: “I believe 90 percent of the game revolves around controlling the strike zone when you combine what it means to do so from an offensive standpoint and also from a pitching standpoint. It’s something we weren’t really good at. We didn’t walk enough, our pitchers walked too many hitters, we didn’t manage counts as well as we should’ve.” This has been a known problem in the system for years, and wasn’t going to be solved in one season.
- Epstein hopes that Arodys Vizcaino will be able to join the rotation at some point in 2013 (after a mid-season sell-off, for example?), but noted that Vizcaino would be on an innings limit of some sort.
- Epstein said the Cubs are going to convert Alberto Cabrera back into a starter next year, which is surprising, given his perceived upside as a reliever (the thinking was that he had back-end of the bullpen stuff when he could let it all go – to wit, he was converted to the bullpen in 2012, and his K-rate, and K/BB ratio went through the roof in the minors). We’ll see how that plays out, as the staff has obviously identified something about him that could work as a starter.
- As for 2013 needs, Epstein essentially said the Cubs need two starting pitchers, an outfielder (though he wouldn’t say whether that would be in center field or right field), and a third baseman. He said that the Cubs would consider Ian Stewart if he’s fully recovered from his wrist surgery, and noted that the market for third basemen is exceptionally thin.
- A pat on the head for Tony Campana: “I think the bat will dictate his future role in the big leagues. He’s a good defender and an outstanding base runner, but, so far, there hasn’t been much impact coming off his bat as far as on-base skills. We’re all rooting for him.”