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.
- 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?).