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This evening, ending about ten minutes ago, the Cubs’ front office held their annual conference call with season ticket holders to share some thoughts and address some questions. I had the opportunity to sit in on the call – thanks, BB – and jotted down the best version of a transcript that I could. Len Kasper moderated, with President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer fielding questions.

This isn’t a “transcript” transcript, mind you. There’s a whole lot of paraphrasing below, but it’ll give you a very thorough version of the gist. Because it is crazy long, I’ve bolded the most interesting parts for you tl;dr’ers.

Away we go …

Theo: Appreciate all the great support the season ticket holders gave. Difficult year at the big league level, but there were some nice wins at home for you guys. First year was terrific, got to know a lot about the personnel and the system, and feel like, while it was a tough year at the big league level, we made some progress behind the scenes. We’ve made changes that will pay off down the road. I really do like the direction we’re headed, one year in.

Jed: Once you get into offseason, it feels like a sprint until middle-end of January, when players stop signing. Right now we’re talking to a lot of agents and a lot of teams about trades. That’s the most exciting part of the job, and it’ll go on for the next couple months. It’s not tough to sell the Cubs in the Winter, because players want to come play in front of a packed house of loyal fans.

Question: On the Dominican Republic and the new Academy, how do you incorporate the DR into the foundation?

Jed: Important that all of our facilities are top notch. Obviously Latin America is a great avenue to get talent, and having a top notch facility to sell to players is huge. We’re excited for facility to come online, and will be a great sales pitch. Add in the great new facility coming in Mesa, and hopefully renovations at Wrigley, and we could be set.

Question: Frustrating to watch division rivals win with homegrown players, but with CBA changes (two more Wild Cards), feels like a good time to dive in and buy up good players. Hard to see Cubs competing short of several years from now unless you buy up free agents.

Theo: Don’t want to put a time line on things, and, again, the focus is scouting and player development to get a team competing consistently. Always going to be temptation to sacrifice a little of the future – best prospects or future dollars that you want to allocate somewhere else. There’s a time when you’re one player away, but we’re not there yet. We’re building something that will provide great results year-in, year-out. We want it to be with a nucleus of players who all enter their prime at the same time, and we’ll supplement with free agents. We’ll sign free agents along the way, of course.

Question: Was excited about the emphasis on fundamentals in Spring, but disappointed in fundamentals we saw during the season. Thoughts?

Jed: We really worked hard at it in Spring. The last few years have been weak fundamentally. It was good earlier in the year, and the losses were more about talent than fundamentals, but later in the year, the weak fundamentals came back. Some of that is maturity, some of it is getting better players. The coaches and player development personnel really emphasize that stuff.

Theo: We caught the ball extremely well in the outfield. We had great defensive positioning. But the base running really needs improvement. Emphasizing it isn’t enough. It has to be a part of the culture, and needs the right kind of players.

Len: That’s why developing through your system is so important, right? The guys know the program.

Theo: Absolutely. When you have a player who is new to the organization and he makes the third out at third base, you can ask him what’s up. But it’s hard to change it. But if you have them at rookie ball, that stuff can be corrected so that it doesn’t happen in the bigs. Darwin Barney is an example of great fundamentals coming up through the system.

Question: Ideal mix between stars and role players on offensive side?

Jed: No team is going to be made up of eight number three hitters. You want to have at least a couple guys in the middle of the order who make the pitcher think like Fielder and Cabrera or Ramirez and Ortiz. It changes the way the pitcher operates through the rest of the lineup. The most important thing is grinding at bats, and the Cubs struggled with it last year. We need even the guys at the bottom of the order to be tough outs. You win games by getting to the soft underbelly of the other team’s bullpen. But the Cubs haven’t done that, so the starters stay in the game longer, and then you just see starters and elite setup men and closers.

Theo: There are two ways to improve your team in a hurry: (1) Sign a bunch of talent, or (2) Have a wave of young talent coming at the same time. The latter group, young players, tend to make teams get better in a hurry because they’re all developing and improving together. We supplement that with impact signings, and suddenly the team is better in an hurry.

Len: Sounds like Jed is talking about more David DeJesus types.

Jed: Absolutely. The opposing pitcher has to work hard in every at bat.

Question: On amateur spending, can a player sign with an independent league for a year, and then sign?

Theo: Well, then he’d be subject to the Draft, because he would have established residency. MLB disallows circumventions like that anyway.

Question: The infield looks good, aside from third base, and there doesn’t look like a serviceable option at third in the system in the next couple years. Is there a third baseman out there you might go after?

Jed: Third base is actually a position we feel pretty good about in the system. Josh Vitters is still talented, Junior Lake has a lot of talent, Christian Villanueva is a fantastic defender and a breakout candidate, and Javier Baez, who can stick at short for a while, but who can move to third if necessary. Also Jeimer Candelario, who has the stick, and can probably be a good defensive third baseman too. We’re still looking at Ian Stewart, and evaluating what led to his poor performance the last couple years. We’ll find out how his wrist surgery addressed those issues. We’re spending a ton of time talking about the best way to fill third base, because it’s not an easy fill on the market right now. Long-term, though, we feel good.

Question: Who is playing in the Rising Stars Game in the AFL on Saturday?

Theo: Javier Baez, but he’s injured. Also Tony Zych, who is throwing the ball extremely well. Mid-90s fastball, good slider and splitter. Hope he’ll be a part of the bullpen for years to come.

Question: It’s a little easier to get into the playoffs – can you add pieces at midseason if you’re around .500?

Theo: Any opportunity to make the playoffs, you have to take it seriously. If we’re fortunate enough to be in contention, we’ll definitely look to add. It’s our duty to save a little money to have some to add at mid-season, but you also get some more to spend by way of increased revenues, when the team is better. If we have a shot at the Wild Card, we aren’t going to be picky about how we get in. We’ll go for it.

Question: Pitching depth in the system? Any prospects that could help the big team in the next couple years?

Jed: The question that occupies most of our time. We inherited subpar pitching depth. We have to improve it. Playoff teams are often built with homegrown pitchers, and we need to draft and develop those kind of arms. We can supplement through free agency, but the best teams draft and develop. We took Almora first last year, and then eight straight pitchers. We’ll always look to acquire pitching until we get to that critical mass where we feel good – which might never happen.

Theo: [Asked follow-up about Vizcaino] We’re going to do our best to develop Arodys Vizcaino as a starter. Mid-90s fastball, really good breaking ball, and a solid changeup. Because he’s got that changeup, we’d like to try and make him a starter. Our starting pitching prospects, generally, are three, four years away, so we can’t pass up an opportunity on Vizcaino.

Len: How about the young arms in the bullpen? Pleased?

Theo: Overall I wasn’t happy with the bullpen. There were some bright spots – James Russell continued his progress facing a wider variety of better hitters. Marmol turned his season around, threw his fastball more, and the velocity came back. The last three or four months, he was a good relief pitcher. Alberto Cabrera showed big league stuff, and we think there might be a starting pitcher in there thanks to a changeup and his ability to repeat his delivery.

Question: All things equal, if you did not have a team with a number of day games, would you rather have more night games? Is the day game thing, honestly, somewhat of an obstacle? Also, what about the climate?

Jed: You better be well to play well in cold weather, because that’s going to happen in the playoffs regardless. So that can’t really be a focus. Just need mentally tough guys. As far as day games go, I don’t view it as an obstacle. We have such a good thing with Wrigley Field, and that comes with playing a lot of day games. Would I rather have an amazing ballpark with more day games or a crappy ballpark with more night games? I’d choose the former. We need to get players thinking about it as a competitive advantage. We were above .500 at home for much of the year. [Grumble from Brett: But that ignores the possibility that it’s the constant changing of times that causes the problems of wearing down, not the day games by themselves – try adjusting your body clock constantly for six months. It has an impact. But I understand why Jed can’t really say that. I digress.]

Question: With the payroll reduction we’ve seen, what are the plans for filling center field, third base, and starting pitching in the free agent market, since there’s money that’s been saved.

Theo: We will make plenty of moves. The payroll, we’ll have to look at where it is at the end of the year. In previous years, it was sort of artificially high thanks to deferrals like Carlos Pena ($5 million in 2012, even though he was playing for the Rays). We don’t want to continue that practice. There won’t be a shortage of investments in the team.

Question: Dale Sveum’s season?

Jed: We made clear to Dale that he would be evaluated on things like team preparedness, how he handles the clubhouse, how he handles fans and media. The 101 losses don’t reflect on Dale at all. It was a good clubhouse, with good discipline and good spirits. Dale did a good job. And Dale doesn’t want the quick fix, either. He is eager to give young players a chance and to teach them. It takes a lot of discipline and energy to manage and develop a young team. Dale has that.

Question: Do you feel like the “Cubs Way” has been fully established?

Theo: It remains a goal, and it’s something we want to be carried out by the big league team and the minor league teams. It doesn’t happen overnight. We made a lot of changes in the team culture and in player development, but we haven’t made all of our changes yet. We’ve defined what we want the organization to stand for, and that exists on paper. But it takes a while to really take hold. Dale and his staff set a high standard for preparation and hustle. Just look at the change in Alfonso Soriano. He had a bad reputation for not running things out, not getting to the ball. Dave McKay did a fantastic job with Soriano, and we saw a totally different defensive player.

Len: The defensive positioning was a big change, and it looked good. Agree?

Jed: Sure. Got the most out of our defensive ability that way. Which says a lot about Dale and his staff, looking at spray chart after spray chart. The players bought in, and the coaching staff deserves a lot of credit.

Question: What do you look for in the Rule 5 Draft?

Theo: Depends on where your team is, in terms of competitiveness. If you’re early in the process, you’re looking for upside. You don’t take that risk lightly, because it puts a burden on the team, as we saw with Lendy Castillo, and we hope that’s worth it.

Question: Matt Garza has been in trade rumors ever since coming to the team, do you see him in the long-term plans?

Jed: The focus right now is getting him healthy, so it’s hard to answer until we get him healthy. The medical staff is optimistic, so we’re looking to get him to Spring Training, and have him be a part of the 2013 team. Focusing on more than that is misguided.

Question: What are you hoping to see in the renovations at Wrigley in the next few years?

Theo: We’d like to make the experience for fans even better, while still preserving the history, like we did with Fenway. Also would love to create room for modern amenities for players to prepare. And, from a revenue standpoint, if we do it right, there could be more dollars coming in for the team to use.

Question: What is the analytics program like?

Jed: Intention is to build up a quality database and a quality system, better than what we had in Boston (that was referenced in the question). Unfortunately it doesn’t happen overnight, because building out the database takes time.

Question: Does “clutchness” exist?

Theo: The general rule is that good hitters, with a big enough sample size, will perform well in the clutch because they’re good. There is a psychological element to it. Some players have the ability to calm themselves better, and will be better able to perform to their normal level in those pressure situations. Younger players, sometimes play worse because they can’t yet calm themselves. Thing is, you’re likely to face a pitcher who has been hand-picked to take on your weaknesses in those situations, so hitters who don’t have obvious holes tend to do better.

Question: Runners in scoring position problems and situational hitting issues. Can they be fixed?

Jed: Sure. The first focus is to not make outs. Situational outs are a part of the game, and we can improve there. Runner at third, less than two outs, those should be free runs. We need to be doing better there.

And Len wraps it up.

  • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

    I’m not sure I see the downside to filling third base from in house next season. There is very little on the free agent market that interests me.

  • DarthHater

    Brett, you have transcribed the words of God. That makes you a prophet!

  • Ed

    Theo’s answer to the question regarding mid-season acquisitions to make a playoff push had me thinking it was Kenny Williams on the line. He referenced leveraging revenue from early season attendance spikes due to winning out of the gate. This should be a non-issue for a team with the coffers and revenue streams that the Cubs own.

    • JoeyCollins

      It probably is a non-issue. If the cubs are contending and the front office wants to add a player im sure the funds will be there no matter what, but that doesnt mean you cant plan for it. Just becuase the cubs are a large market high revenue team doesn’t mean they cant budget wisely. Every dollar has a purpose whether it’s stadium improvement, Spring training/DR facilities, player facilities at wrigley, additional front office personnel, or players on the field evry dollar needs to be spent wisely to make sure you get the best product available. People look at payroll numbers and dont understand why the cubs dont spend more without looking at the areas they out spend most every other team. How much does it cost to build and maintain a baseball academy in the DR? How much will be spent on the Triangle building/facility upgrades in the near future? How many advanced scouts do the cubs employ compared to the rest of the league? How many international scouts? There are many ways to make a team/orginization better without seeing an increase in on field payroll and the cubs and doing that now.

  • Carne Harris

    Good stuff. You do a complete transcript every time they have a press conference, I’ll name MY first boy after you.

  • fortyonenorth

    Oh…you were a court reporter. I thought you said you were a lawyer.

    Good stuff.

    • DocPeterWimsey

      Have you ever met a lawyer who didn’t take notes well in class? Same principle!

  • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

    “There are two ways to improve your team in a hurry: (1) Sign a bunch of talent, or (2) Have a wave of young talent coming at the same time. The latter group, young players, tend to make teams get better in a hurry because they’re all developing and improving together. We supplement that with impact signings, and suddenly the team is better in an hurry.”

    Focusing on the (2), now I’m really curious what Theo’s timetable really looks like. We are pretty sure he considers Castro and Rizzo the leading edge of that young core, that “wave of young talent coming at the same time.”

    So it looks like Theo will be looking for core players who will enter their prime along side (or at least significantly overlapping) those two. That would mean players starting on their prime production years (how do we define that? 26-32? 24-34? 27-29? Subjectively based on the player? We may tackle that one a different day) probably in the next two years. Three at the most, I’d think.

    Within that window, the Cubs should internally produce a third baseman, a second baseman, and maybe one outfielder into that core. Pitching… iffy. Assuming catching is locked down for now, that sort of indicates where the Cubs are going to be shopping.

    Starting pitching (we knew), and outfield.

    So. Where can the Cubs find an outfield who will be in his prime years in the given window, is available, and could form a part of the foundation of the Cubs?

    I’m starting to wonder if they aren’t thinking seriously about Justin Upton. I know I’ve built a house of cards here, but it fits the pattern of the comments.

    • MightyBear

      I think Theo defined prime as 27-32 because statistically that’s when players tend to have their best years.

  • Jeff

    I’m fine with giving Ian Stewart another shot, if by the all-star break he isn’t doing well, bring Vitters back up.

  • Kevin

    I buy into developing players and watching them mature, it get it. What I don’t understand is the lack of trying harder to be more competitive at the major league level while we wait 4-5 years while the prospects in the minor leagues mature.

  • DocPeterWimsey

    It was good earlier in the year, and the losses were more about talent than fundamentals

    heh, and daylight is more about the sun than the clock, too!

  • Kyle

    *sigh* They are really going to do it. They are really going to tank a major market team for 3 or 4 seasons. They don’t care about wins and losses, they just want to live out their fantasy rebuild scenarios.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      We agree on “sigh.”

      • Dr. Percival Cox

        LOL. This response is an example of why you have a rapidly growing blog and the rest of us just post here.

    • fortyonenorth

      And by that point, their waves of young talent will have no idea what “winning” is all about.

    • JoeyCollins

      Pretty sure a part of the “rebuild fantasy” is winning a lot of games, making the playoffs consistantly, and a world series or two.

  • Kevin

    I’m not sold the season ticket holders left with a warm and fuzzy feeling.

  • Kyle

    in which I take on the brain trust as if they were a message board poster.

    “Always going to be temptation to sacrifice a little of the future – best prospects or future dollars that you want to allocate somewhere else.”

    Well, yes, and do you know why there’s a temptation? Because the present counts, too.

    There’s also this temptation to eat and breath and get out of the way of oncoming traffic. Sometimes, temptation is a good thing.

    ” There’s a time when you’re one player away, but we’re not there yet.”

    Yep. We’re about five or six players away, thanks to your inaction last offseason. It’ll get even worse if you don’t start fixing it.

    “We’re building something that will provide great results year-in, year-out.”

    That’s a nice hope. I’m sure the other teams in the division will just lay down and let you win six straight to make up for the 3 or 4 you are throwing away.

    “We want it to be with a nucleus of players who all enter their prime at the same time, and we’ll supplement with free agents. We’ll sign free agents along the way, of course.”

    Better start shopping Samardzija and Castro, then, because they aren’t going to match up to your timeline. Heck, Rizzo’s starting to look a little long in the tooth.

    ” It’s not tough to sell the Cubs in the Winter, because players want to come play in front of a packed house of loyal fans.”

    I feel like this is a subtle shifting of the pressure. Hey, fans, if you don’t show up, it’s on you for not being loyal. Not on us for not even trying to field a competitive team despite the ability to bludgeon our small-market division.

    “The most important thing is grinding at bats, and the Cubs struggled with it last year. We need even the guys at the bottom of the order to be tough outs. You win games by getting to the soft underbelly of the other team’s bullpen. But the Cubs haven’t done that, so the starters stay in the game longer, and then you just see starters and elite setup men and closers.”

    This is all great stuff. I love it. I really do. But you guys need to understand that you aren’t going to get the types of players trolling the scrapheap for leftovers. Every team in baseball knows how valuable those guys are, and you are going to have to expend some resources to get them.

    “Third base is actually a position we feel pretty good about in the system….”

    It’s certainly not a bad position, but I think you’re overselling it a bit here. You *might* get a serviceable 3b out of Villanueva/Vitters/Lake, but the star potential there is really lacking. Baez is of course a different story, but you’ve said before that you see him as a SS or a 2b more than a 3b.

    “Overall I wasn’t happy with the bullpen. ”

    I should hope not. WPA had it as the third worst in the majors in the last five years.

    “We inherited subpar pitching depth. We have to improve it. ”

    You’re off to a good start, to be fair. I like the approach quite a bit. Wood, Vizcaino, Panigua, the draftees, Chapman, Carreno. That’s a lot of pitching to add in one year. We won’t worry too much about Concepcion, but you should make look into the process that brought him here…

    “The focus right now is getting him healthy, so it’s hard to answer until we get him healthy. The medical staff is optimistic, so we’re looking to get him to Spring Training, and have him be a part of the 2013 team. Focusing on more than that is misguided.”

    We all know he’s being traded. You don’t have to say it. We understand.

    • Lou

      Don’t worry, Kyle, in 2015 everything will magically work itself out. Or is it 2016, or 2017, 2018? Wow, were getting up there. 2019? Then, there’s the divisional players. The Cards–always there. The Reds–probably at least for the next few years. The Pirates—get much more focused with their farm system. No competition there.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      “Baez is of course a different story, but you’ve said before that you see him as a SS or a 2b more than a 3b.”

      Can I get a reference on that? Nearly everything I’ve seen from virtually any baseball person has Baez ticketed for third, and that includes comments in the organization. There was some speculation about second not longer after he was drafted, but even that seems to be evaporating. I’m pretty sure the Cubs are penciling Baez in at the hot corner.

      • Kyle

        Can’t find it now, but it was relatively recent. Outside scouts have always said 3b, but when the Cubs rarely acknolwedged that he might have to move of SS someday, they mentioned him as staying in the middle.

        • Kyle

          I may have imagined it?

          • Randy

            “Yep. We’re about five or six players away, thanks to your inaction last offseason. It’ll get even worse if you don’t start fixing it.”

            So just who did you expect them to sign last year that would have made this team compete for the World Series? Marlins and Angels spent a lot of money last year on players and they sat around watching the Playoffs with the Cubs.

            I am sure they kicked a few tires on some big names that could be impact players for awhile, but the bidding got to far out of hand. Could they have signed some middle of the pack people, sure. But what does that get, 70-80 wins.

            • Kyle

              “So just who did you expect them to sign last year that would have made this team compete for the World Series?”

              That’s a very odd phrasing.

              My assertion was that their inaction last offseason hurt the team going into next season, i.e. two seasons later. So how would whether or not they competed for the World Series last year change that?

              That’s what’s lost in this imaginary efficiency argument, where people think that you can just either go for it or tank the team. The players don’t just disappear from one offseason to the next. Filling holes solves problems for multiple seasons, ignoring them creates lingering problems for multiple seasons. If we had added one more starting pitcher last offseason, that’d be one less we needed this offseason.

              “Marlins and Angels spent a lot of money last year on players and they sat around watching the Playoffs with the Cubs.”

              And the Tigers and Rangers also spent a lot of money and got watched in the playoffs, while the Reds traded a lot of young talent to get there.

              “I am sure they kicked a few tires on some big names that could be impact players for awhile, but the bidding got to far out of hand. Could they have signed some middle of the pack people, sure. But what does that get, 70-80 wins.”

              It’s a self-perpetuating argument. ‘We didn’t win 80 last year, so we’re not in a position to add anybody, because what would that get us, 80 wins?’ repeated for far too many offseasons in a row.

              • Lou

                Question for you, Kyle? Does the 2nd wild card eliminate the notion that a team with 80 wins at the midpoint of the season can’t be a wild card contender? I don’t think it does–do you? It seems to me that adding an additional team to the playoff picture has created more parody amongst contending teams in the MLB game.

                • Kyle

                  Too fickle to change things. This year, the 2nd WC was either 93 or 86 wins, depending on which league you are in.

                  You simply need to put the best baseball team on the field that you can every year and give yourself a chance.

                  • DocPeterWimsey

                    It’s also much too soon to tell whether the one-game is going to hurt the WC’s chances (as is part of the goal) enough to discourage teams from going “all in” just to get there. Really, it will take several years to see if the success rate of WC teams in the LDS and beyond drops. If that does happen (not that I care to bet either way), then that combined with the new CBA probably will lead many teams to stop giving up young talent to win the WC.

                    And, of course, if they monkey with the system even further, then we’ll never get the sample size to find out and we will have a different issue (or set of issues) about which to worry.

                • Cubbie Blues

                  Does the 2nd wild card eliminate the notion that a team with 80 wins at the midpoint of the season can’t be a wild card contender?

                  I don’t think a team with 80 wins would be in contention for the wildcard at all. I would pencil them in for getting the top seed.

                  • cas-castro

                    A team with 80 wins at the mid point of the season would be. 80-1. I would certainly hope they are in contention.

              • Randy

                Really the Rangers spent a lot of money? Who did they sign exactly? Darvish? The Cubs bid as well they just got out bid. The Rangers already had Beltre, Hamilton, Kinsler, Cruz, and Napoli. Of course they didn’t make it past the 1 game playoff and now they are going to lose their best player because they can’t afford him.

                The Tigers signed Fielder. They already had Verlander, Cabrera, and Scherzer with a lot of good role players.

                The Cubs had no where near that kind of core going into this season. The fact is the most important players you need to win are pitchers. There were none out there last year and none this year that are going to help without wanting deals for more years than they are really worth. Yes, free agents this year can help next year, but you also don’t want to sign players that could affect them from being competitive in the future.

                You also forget that players had to want to come here as well. It’s not like the Cubs were coming off a season when they just competed for the playoffs, so who knows if Free Agents even wanted to come here. You say it has been to many off seasons in a row where we didn’t sign players to help, but I think it was throwing money at players instead of developing players that got the Cubs into this mess. Or did you forget Pena, Byrd, Bradley, and Kukudome?

              • Turn Two

                Kyle spending money on a big gun from last years free agent class would make us less likely to compete long term. Our prospects are several years away and those players only have a small window of maximum output years.the front office is trying to get rid of our bad contracts,sowhen the youth begins to fill in spots we can fill in the gaps with free agents. I think your thought process does not fit with that of our leadership and that’s why when you post sometimes it just sounds off.

                • Kyle

                  “Kyle spending money on a big gun from last years free agent class would make us less likely to compete long term.”

                  This is a common thought, but I simply disagree. Yes, there is a risk of wasting money. But the alternative is not no risk at all, it is the much higher risk of wasting a much scarcer resource: time.

                  “Our prospects are several years away and those players only have a small window of maximum output years.”

                  We have nearly an entire infield+catcher full of recently graduated prospects. How many prospects do we need in the lineup before it’s enough to be ok to go ahead and try to win some baseball games?

                  “the front office is trying to get rid of our bad contracts,sowhen the youth begins to fill in spots we can fill in the gaps with free agents.”

                  The bad contracts (and some that weren’t as bad as people thought) are more or less gone.

                  Ramirez is gone, Pena is gone, Fukudome is gone, the Bradley/Silva abomination is gone, Dempster is gone.

                  All that’s left is one more year of Marmol and two more of Soriano (who was our best player last season). Those aren’t exactly millstones.

                  ” I think your thought process does not fit with that of our leadership and that’s why when you post sometimes it just sounds off.”

                  To right-thinking minds, it’s the leadership’s thought process that sounds off :)

                  • hansman1982

                    Haha right thinking minds.

                  • http://casualcubsfan.blogger.com hansman1982

                    Also, as you have long defended that FA is an all-or-nothing approach, neither is vying for contention.

                    I have contended all along the plan for Theo and company is not to abandon contention but to realize that if we follow a plan there will come a time when we can actually have a stud or two not play fully up to their potential.

                    For me it looks like this:
                    2012 – Have 6 things go right and we contend
                    2013 – Have 5 things go right and we contend
                    2014 – 3 things
                    2015 – 1-2 things
                    2015 – Hope that no big name guy has a bad season
                    2016 – Be ok with a big name or two having a bad season

                    Remember, the 2012 squad was better pre-dismantle, record wise, than the 2011 squad whom you have said was just Wood and Maholm away from contention.

                    • Todd

                      I disagree with you, hansman. Although I’m on board with the rebuild, I do think the FO is playing a delicate balance game of appearing like they’re trying to be competitive but strategically coming up just short; so they can sell off the good pieces at the trade deadline. I think their biggest fear is the team making a surprising push for the playoffs before they anticipate because they want that stocked farm system to deal from.

                      My only problem is that I’m afraid they’re going to pass up on some contracts that could easily be absorbed when their core comes together, like a B.J. Upton. According to MLBTR He’s expected to sign for around 5/60 … I think with our current needs, we should be all over that.

                    • http://casualcubsfan.blogger.com hansman1982

                      Frankly, I think the only way we disagree is if you are taking a conspiracy theory approach to it. I doubt Theo will pass up on Free Agents that fit his criteria it terms of age, talents, contract.

                    • Todd

                      I wouldn’t consider it a conspiracy. I consider it more of a strategy to have x amount of wins come July 1; allowing them to sell off players … Flipping assets.

                    • Lou

                      Problem with your theory is that any big guy in 2015 at least could have a bad season. Why? because all “the big guys” you’ve mentioned will not consist of big FAs. There’s no way Theo is going to spend money on FAs before the 2015 season because he has to see what “his product” will do competitively as a whole. Until he can be convinced that the product he’s brought from the minors can gel and compete, no big FAs will be signed. This could apply for 2016 as well as the “kids” learn the majors, make necessary adjustments, and learn how to extend themselves into the latter parts of a MLB season. This is an understanding I got from their remarks tonight. They seem to be a “bit soft” on the concept of understanding that young players not only have a learning curve in the minors, but one which extends to the majors to make the successful ball players. And that extension could take a couple more years of this organization taking its “lumps”. I hope fans are prepared for this!

          • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

            I remember some comments about the Cubs wanting to keep Baez playing up the middle for now (probably because more balls are hit up the middle than towards the corners… defensive practice makes better defense), but that he could transition to third fairly quickly when the time is right. I seem to remember second being brought up as a “or maybe even second” type of thought in those comments (which is true, he could play second), but I don’t think the intent was to imply that the Cubs see him as a pure 2B/SS.

            I suspect that might be what you read, thought “Oh no! Three more years of Ian Stewert!” and lost some of the details as you wept with despair. Sounds plausible, anyway.

            • Kyle

              I doubt it. What they do with Baez has nothing to do with their plans for the position at the MLB level. He’s way too far away.

            • Dr. Percival Cox

              I know I’ve seen message board posters suggest that he might move to second if he can stick at shortstop — as a way to get another bat in the lineup at a defensive position — but I agree that I’ve never seen it from the Cubs brass. I do remember — though I can’t find the article now — Theo suggest his bat could play in left in a different organization, but that’s clearly another matter.

              • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

                His bat could fit in just about anywhere on the diamond.

        • hansman1982

          The organization always has said he is sticking at SS but that just keeps his value as high as possible for as long as possible. Other GMs may think the cubs know something they aren’t privy to.

          • DocPeterWimsey

            Possibly, but it also gives Baez the most time to show scouts from other teams that he might be able to play SS, or to give their GMs data suggesting whether they might be able to make a good (or at least serviceable) SS out of him. After all, teams do pick guys with the idea that their people can fix some flaw in what he’s doing.

            Of course, right now, a good hitting 3Bman is just about as valuable as a good hitting SS, so it’s not like the “downgrade” will be much of a devaluing.

      • fortyonenorth

        Padilla wrote it last week (Baez staying at SS) reporting on Theo’s comments. From the article, it was hard to say whether it was a direct quote from Theo or Doug’s interpretation.

        I remember being surprised when I read it because it was counter to what I’ve heard.

        • hansman1982

          Apparently Baez’s play at SS this year has begun to convince a few scouts that he may actually be able to stick at SS long term.

          • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

            A lot of scouts have had that opinion since he was drafted, but it never really mattered because he is with the Cubs. Baez projects to be able to handle short in the majors; Castro can be a Gold Glove candidate. The Cubs aren’t going to move Castro, so Baez has been seen as likely to move to third from the day he was taken.

            If he had been drafted by nearly any other team (except perhaps Baltimore or Texas), he would be considered the shortstop of the future.

            • http://casualcubsfan.blogger.com hansman1982

              Oh, I guess I thought he was penciled for 3B based on his body…becoming too big for the position.

  • CubFanBob

    Hey I was on that call as well. There were some good questions but the guy who mentioned he had ten seats for friends and family was surprising.

  • Dr. Percival Cox

    This quote intrigues me a bit.

    Our starting pitching prospects, generally, are three, four years away, so we can’t pass up an opportunity on Vizcaino.

    I’m wondering if he’s including Paniagua and Johnson in this. Given their ages, they should move through the system pretty fast — 3 years would seem to be tops if they are going to develop at all.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      It’s probably too early to project either of those two beyond a vague window of three years or beyond. They could come in sooner, but until we see them over a few months in a full season league, it’s going to be hard to say.

      • Dr. Percival Cox

        So let’s build on your house of cards. In the short term, we have Shark and Wood for sure. They’re going to try to add Vizcaino for that and we also know they’re converting Cabrera to a starter. So there are 4 of the five, in what can roughly be termed “Wave 1 of pitching.” You’d probably like to improve on Wood, but he could be an okay fifth starter. So, that’s really 1 free agent and/or trade, and you want him to be pretty good. It could be Garza, but they don’t seem that eager to sign him to a big deal — it could be whoever they get for Garza.

        That would seem consistent with what was said above.

        • Kyle

          I know you aren’t directly advocating it, but let’s keep in mind that the four pitchers you mentioned have precisely 0 30-start MLB seasons among them.

          • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

            Wood has 26 and Samardzija has 28, but yes, none of them have 30 yet.

            Then again, there aren’t a lot of NL pitchers on teams that were not in contention picking up 30 starts. Padres and Pirates had a couple, but that’s about it.

            • Dr. Percival Cox

              Clearly I’m bored tonight. Here’s a sketch of players who could conceivably be part of the plan for 2014 — based on the interview above — with Luke’s house of cards included. (Huge asterisk: I’m not sure Baez is ready in a year, and I can’t see a possible way Upton and Baez are both on the Cubs at the same time.) This really isn’t a terrible team:

              C Castillo
              C Krist
              1B Rizzo
              2B Watkins
              3B Baez
              SS Castro
              RF Upton
              CF
              LF
              UTIL-IF Valbuena
              UTIL-IF
              UTIL-OF Sappelt
              UTIL-OF Vitters

              SP Vizcaino
              SP
              SP Samardzija
              SP Cabrera
              SP Wood
              RP McNutt
              RP Russell
              RP Beliveau
              RP
              RP
              CL Zych

            • Kyle

              That’s an odd subset to be looking at. There’s only maybe 7 NL teams that were out of contention, and by definition they’ll tend to have the worst/least health pitching.

              From those 7 teams, I count Mets with 2, Marlins with 2, Pirates with 1, Padres with 2, Astros with 1, and the Cubs shared two with the contenders they traded them too.

              NL teams averaged 2.5 30-start pitchers per team. If a pitcher has never reached that in his career, it’s a bit shaky to be counting on them in the rotation long-term just yet.

            • Bill

              Would I be out of line if I brought up the fact Vizcaino hasn’t thrown over 110 innings yet? Doubt he’ll top that number this year and isn’t the philosophy of GM’s to gradually ramp up the innings pitched. So, we won’t see Vizcaino pitching 110 innings in 2013 and then throwing 150 innings in 2014 and 200 innings in 2015. What is the normal increase that teams let their young pitchers throw from one year to the next. If Vizcaino is able to stay healthy, aren’t we still several seasons away from him being able to pitch near 200 innings, meaning the Cubs are going to have to find someone pitch those innings.

  • The Show

    I think if the Cubs trade for Haren or Johnson, sign one of McCarthy, Marcum, Lariano, Villanueva, to fix the starting pitching situation, sign Bourn or BJ Upton for the OF, stick with Stewart for next season and fill in a couple cheap bullpen and bench players they could be a decent team next season without spending too much money.

    • The Show

      Thoughts?

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        I think that’s a pretty reasonable balance between trying to compete in 2013, and not char the long-term vision. Just not Bourn. Not Bourn.

        • Njriv

          I agree, I think Johnson would fit better for the long-term but, it seems most likely all the Cubs are going to do with Haren is trade him mid-season, and it probably would take more to land Johnson than Haren. If the Cubs don’t see Johnson as “the guy” I think they can hold out to get an ace for another year or so, when they are closer to contention.

  • Fastball

    Why not have Baez follow a Macho path with the Orioles. If he can hit and field just put him at 3b and if he his the cap it of the ball over 1st two months bring him up and play him everyday like Castro did. We aren’t going anywhere next year. He can probably handle it.

    • Dr. Percival Cox

      The goal would seem to be to teach him pitch selection and plate discipline before he hits the big leagues. Given the AFL performance (prodigious power, zero plate discipline), I have no problem with him spending the year in Daytona/Tennessee.

  • the jackal

    we cant just go out there and throw money at all these available free agents and expect them to take us to the world series . Lets look at last yrs free agents angel got pujols cj wilson they didnt make the playoffs. The marlins got heath bell reyes buehrle zambraon (via trade) they had disastrous season texas gt big name pitcher in darvish that didnt work out im sure there is other free agents that teams threw money at it didnt just workout. i believe in what theo and jeds doing i dont agree in waiting 5 years . look at the giants they made it there by great pitching and players like scutaro and pagan who helped greatly in winning the championships. bottom line just my opinion but i think were heading in right direction i agree we need to add some veteran precense on the off season but no major splurges were no where close to all in mode i apolgize before hand on my incredibly awful writing lol but i believe i gt my message across

  • die hard

    Now that things have been patched up with Boston, maybe a deal can be done for one of their 3B

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