Theo Epstein Speaks: Third Base, Alfonso Soriano, Non-Tender Candidates, and Free Agency

At the end of yesterday’s Day One of the 2012 Winter Meetings, Chicago Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein met with the media to discuss a variety of topics. I touched on some of his comments last night in the evening round-up, but the full quotes provide a great deal more context.

Quotes from Theo (which can be found here, here, and here, among other places) and some thoughts:

  • On the Alfonso Soriano rumors: “One of the things that comes with being a veteran is obviously, there’s going to be speculation, but veteran players appreciate when clubs don’t sort of fuel those fires. It’s the Winter Meetings and there will be lots of rumors, but they don’t need to come from the club. We really value what he’s done here and we’ve been open with him about the fact that ‘Hey, we’ll listen, and if there’s something that makes sense for everyone, we’ll come to you.’” In other words, the Cubs are shopping Soriano, but you’re not going to hear boo about it from them.
  • On free agents’ desire to come to the Cubs: “Players recognize we had a good clubhouse last year despite a difficult season. Free agents believe in the positive direction we’re going. Elite baseball players are really competitive and I think they like the thought of being part of the solution here and being a member of the team that finally wins a World Series with the Cubs. I’ve had a number of players tell that to me directly. We have not had to sell our situation much at all. Players, when we express interest, we’re hearing back, ‘Oh, that’s a place we’ve had our eye on.’ You don’t hear that often after a 101-loss season.” Being “the Cubs” remains a built-in advantage, however slight, that I hope the front office continues to exploit.
  • On not necessarily signing big-time players to long contracts: “[T]ypically with the premier free agents, the most aggressive team- the team that’s willing to tack on an extra year or two, willing to blow past their initial [average annual salary] value point is the team that lands that player. When that happens, it’s not always a contract that makes sense with a team with a little longer timetable [to win].” Keep expectations low.
  • On the gaping hole at third base: “[We might have to] rely on players who haven’t held down that position over 150 games in the big leagues or rely on a platoon or rely on someone who is more of a middle-of-the-field player who can provide plus defense over at third. There are not a lot of obvious fits of everyday third basemen in trade or free agents available right now. When that happens, you don’t throw in the white towel but try to be creative to piece it together.” Ian Stewart remains an option, but it sounds like the Cubs might explore some creative paths first before going back to that well.
  • On the Cubs’ pursuit of closer-type pitchers (paraphrase): If we add pitchers who are capable of closing or have closing experience, that’s a good thing. But Carlos Marmol is our closer. We’re trying to deepen the pen.
  • On using platoons at, for example, third base or in the outfield: “I don’t mind a platoon as long as you have good players. If you throw a couple has-beens or ’4A’ guys out there and call it a platoon, that’s not enough.” That’s the right idea, though, didn’t Theo last year say he didn’t believe in the term ’4A’?
  • On the occasional difficulty in nailing down free agents: “It’s always important to look at it from a player’s side. If I were a player and for the first time in my life, I had the ability to hear what teams thought about me, let alone pick my own employer, I would want to take the time to do it and wouldn’t appreciate if a team put a deadline on me. This is part of the process.”
  • On the timing of, and interest in, non-tenders: “I like the timing – non-tenders coming right before the Winter Meetings. It’s the right thing to do for the players and the clubs, to move the [non-tender date] up a little bit and give the players a real market opportunity.” You can bet the Cubs are exploring that market thoroughly, and Epstein suggested they may already be looking at at least one lefty non-tender (John Lannan? Tom Gorzelanny?).

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

37 responses to “Theo Epstein Speaks: Third Base, Alfonso Soriano, Non-Tender Candidates, and Free Agency”

  1. Spencer

    Paul Sullivan tweeted a video interview of Theo late yesterday, also.

  2. CM

    Haren signing with Nats. 1 year $13 mil

    1. ETS

      pending physical?

  3. ichabod

    i was always a fan of gorzelanny. i also think ian stewart is, if inexpensive, a risk worth taking, just on his defense alone.

  4. lou brock lives

    With Nationals trade for Denard Span CF – isn’t Roger Bernadina available in trade ? I would take him over some of the big contract guys like Hamilton or Bourn if I were Theo. He could platoon with Sappelt for Cubs till Jackson or Almora is ready.

  5. Patrick G

    Jon Heyman tweeted Scott Kazmir getting a lot of interest throwing 90-94 in Dominican League. Wonder if the Cubs are in on that wanting a lefty on I’m sure to be a cheap minor league contract.

    1. MightyBear

      Doo da doo Doo Doo Doo da doo Doo Doo Woah let the sun beat down upon my face.

      1. Robert Plant

        And stars to fill my dream I am a traveler of both time and space to be where I have been.

  6. MightyBear

    An outfielder nobody has mentioned is Melky Cabrera. Any interest in him by the Cubbies?

    1. Seth

      The bluejays got him already.

      1. MightyBear

        That’s right. Thanks. I knew the BN faithful would keep me informed.

  7. jayrig5

    He did say he wasn’t a fan of the term 4A, while pumping up Bran LaHair in lieu of going after one of the more expensive first-basemen. He’ll say whatever he has to, I don’t look for a lot of consistency or have a lot of trust in what Theo or Jed say publicly. Which is fine, as long as their actions are positive. No one should grade GM’s on press conference openness.

  8. Dustin

    Melky Cabrera signed with the Blue Jays

  9. Dustin

    After getting a clean bill of health on his hand and wrist, Ian Stewart has drawn wide interest from teams looking for third base help, tweets Bob Nightengale of USA Today. Tyler Kepner of the New York Times notes (via Twitter) that Stewart could be a fit for the Yankees.

  10. Cubbie Blues

    didn’t Theo last year say he didn’t believe in the term ’4A’?

    Maybe Lahair made a believer out of him.

    1. ETS

      ouch.

  11. MichCubFan

    How about trading for Jesus Guzman and platooning him with Ian Stewart. It doesn’t have to be a straight up platoon either…if one player is performing more than the other, then give them more of the ABs. Then we also have Valbuena and Vitters behind them.

    The Padres also have a 3B prospect who is a little older and lesser known than Gyorko who could be an option…can’t think of his name…

    I also like what the diamondbacks and nationals have in their outfields. Tyler Moore from the Nats is someone that might be worth taking a look at.

    I would rather get a young guy who hasn’t had his shot yet than make a move for a player who doesn’t fit the team (money, personality, skill set).

    1. Big Daddy

      I’ve suggested Tyler Moore on here several times. He is a 25-30 homer guy if he plays everyday. He is a great kid with a strong work ethic. He played for my brother in high school.

      1. hansman1982

        The problem is that he is a 1B playing LF. In 70ish games in the bigs in 2012 he already played in 7 times the number of games in the outfield as his entire 5 year minor league career.

  12. Kyle

    Lesson: Theo says whatever he wants to justify whatever he wants to do. You can tie yourself in knots trying to keep up with what he says.

    1. MightyBear

      He’s a lawyer. You know how they are. LOL

    2. hansman1982

      Just playing the media like a fine fiddle. He also made the comments that players should spend a year at each level to protect Rizzo.

  13. rbreeze

    If Stewart signs with the Yankees, he will hit 20 HR’s in that bandbox and field well enough.
    I wouldn’t mind signing him to a one year incentive laden deal. The usual suspects are Valbuena, Vitters, or trades behind him.
    As for LaHair, LaHair was all we had and cheap. So to Kyle’s point Theo will say anything he wants to in trying to make something sound as positive as it can be.

  14. Njriv

    He probably didn’t believe in 4A hitters until he saw Bryan LaHair.

  15. DocPeterWimsey

    in trying to make something sound as positive as it can be.

    One thing that we as fans can forget is that players like and respect this: it makes them feel like management has their backs. We jumped all over Dusty Baker for some of the things he said (such as suggesting that drawing walks decreases runs scored), but a bunch of players who don’t draw walks and who were raised on a “put the ball in play!” attitude view this as supportive.

    So, when you have 4A guys, then you don’t call them that, and you don’t even avow the term; when you don’t have them, you don’t want them.

  16. MightyBear

    Here we go. The Rangers are shopping Michael Young. The Cubs could get him to play third. Fits the mold perfectly. Cubs are in it he stays. Cubs are out of it, he goes for prospects. Defense is suspect but who cares for half a season and they could replace him in late innings.

    1. Cubbie Blues

      could replace him in late innings.

      Why would they replace him in the late innings? They would need his bat, trying to make a comeback.

      1. Cubbie Blues

        Never mind, just checked out his 2012 stats and they were down drastically.

    2. Joker

      Doesn’t he has 10/5 rights?

    3. ssckelley

      Oh jeez, at 35 he is coming off his worst season offensively playing for Texas. He is owed 16 million for next year so I would want Texas to eat part of that and it depends on what the Cubs would have to give up to get him for me to be interested.

      He is a free agent after 2014 so if the Cubs were not able to trade him at the deadline they would get a compensation pick with a qualifying offer.

      1. MightyBear

        Texas needs to eat a big part of that salary. He had a minus 2.4 WAR last year. His value would be 4 to 6 mil. Trade somebody like a lower level prospect at a position the Cubs are stacked at (2b or SS) and have Texas eat most of salary. Or trade Soriano for Young and have one team make up the difference.

        1. ssckelley

          I would only consider that deal if the Rangers were willing to eat the rest of Soriano’s contract. I think Soriano has more value on the trade market than Young. Money should be no object for the Cubs considering how small their payroll is right now.

  17. Kubphan82

    Unfortunately he was DBarney last year at the plate… I’d like to see a move for A.Cabrera first, Yunel second, and possibly Young if it meant they take Sori (what could have happened last year)…