Reporters caught up to Chicago Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer over at the GM Meetings last evening, and each shared some thoughts on the kinds of things you’d expect them to be asked about this time of year. (Quotes can be found many places, including here, here, and here.)
- On whether the Cubs will be involved in a number of trades: “It’s [not] the type of offseason where we have a ton of fits with 25 of the 29 other clubs. We’ll pursue everything, but, realistically, our fits might be narrower this year, [which would] give us more time to focus on the free-agent market. We’re going to have a fairly well-defined trade market early because we don’t have unlimited assets to deal and we don’t necessarily have redundancy at positions in the big leagues or upper [minor league] levels.” I suppose that makes some sense, in that trade partners dealing Major League players tend to prefer MLB-ready prospects in return, of which the Cubs have very few. But not all acquisition-type trades involve high level prospects, and the Cubs certainly do have some arguable redundancies among their lower levels. Shrug. I don’t take a whole lot away from that comment, other than the fact that trades tend to be rarer than free agent signings. Also important to keep in mind that a team starved for young talent will generally prefer to acquire players with just money (free agents) rather than having to trade away young talent.
- So does that mean that the Cubs will be making a bunch of free agent signings? “We’ll try to be disciplined … [to] keep in mind we’re not only trying to build for 2013, but we want to make sure we have a very solid future as well. There are a lot of opportunities to get better because there were a lot of weaknesses on the club .… We have to make sure we take advantage of those.” I love that: we sucked really badly last year, so there are a lot of holes we get to fill. It’s a good thing! As for the free agent part, there’s just not much there. Theo being Theo, which is the right way to be.
- On the possibility of going after some higher-priced free agents this year: “You never rule anything out. As a general rule, you pursue good players and see where that ends up. It’s going to be a pretty aggressive [free agent] market and we have to stay disciplined and do things that make sense in the short term and long term.” Nothing in there to change the prevailing wisdom: the Cubs will go after shorter-term, bounce-back candidate-type free agents. They’ll hope for the best in 2013, but there will be an underlying expectation that the Cubs are trying to buy up flippable pieces.
- On the types of free agents the Cubs will go after: “I think the contracts we signed last winter are a good model. I think we have a chance to maybe sign more of those this year with a little bit more money to spend …. We might be able to sign more contracts like that or maybe even a little larger than last year, but I think it’s a good model of contract that really served us well.” That quote actually came from last week. I include it because it stands in slight contrast to Theo’s comment on the same issue, and also because it offers a glimmer (very slight) of hope for those of you who want the Cubs to go after some bigger/more-expensive free agents this year.
- On the failed Dan Haren/Carlos Marmol swap, and how it blew up in the media: “It was unfortunate. It was a miscommunication. Carlos ran with it that he had been traded and the deal wasn’t complete …. We should have made it clearer to him, that this is a theoretical, ‘Hey, would you do this’ as opposed to this is a done deal. Maybe we deserve some of blame for that, too.” Eh. This is just Jed protecting his player. I highly doubt that the Cubs, who had to persuade Marmol to waive his no-trade clause, didn’t lay it out clearly to Marmol: “Now that you’ve waived your no-trade clause, you’re being traded to the Angels, pending medical examinations and some finalizations, so it’s not quite a done deal. It would be nice if you could keep this under your hat.” That kind of thing. And you can’t really blame Marmol for speaking to local friends about the deal – how often do deals fall apart once they’ve been all but consummated like that? Despite what you might think, it’s relatively rare.
- On an extension for Jeff Samardzija, on which Hoyer refused to comment specifically: “He had a great year and we certainly hope he’s in a Cubs uniform for a long time. He’s a great competitor, the kind of guy teammates really look up to and who has the potential to be a really good leader. So far, he has had to worry about himself [getting better]. It’s hard to be a leader when you’re also [trying to build] a career. He can be that guy.” Sounds like the Cubs want to see another good year out of Samardzija before shelling out the big bucks long-term. Pretty reasonable, given how surprisingly good his transition to starting was last year (and the fact that Samardzija already has a great deal of earnings in his pocket ($10 million initial contract, another couple million last year), so it’s not like the Cubs can tempt him to sign a super below-market deal in return for getting him his first million).