theo epstein about thatChicago Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein just wrapped an interview on The Red Sox Hot Stove on WEEI Radio in Boston, and I listened in, furiously jotting down every bit I could get. He touched on some very interesting stuff, but obviously stopped short of confirmed anything the Cubs will be doing this offseason.

What follows are my paraphrases of what Theo said, together with my own separately delineated thoughts, where appropriate. In other words, the “I,” “we” stuff is Theo. The parentheticals are me.

  • What’s different in the second offseason with a new club: Maybe a little more active. Second Winter is always different, because the first Winter you’re getting to know ins and outs of organization, and the players you have. Now there’s more of a comfort level. We’re also at a slightly different place – still building, but hopefully a year closer to being where we want to be. Can now be a bit more aggressive. (Me: This all squares with an approach that views 2014 as perhaps the opening of the Cubs’ next window, and maybe even shooting for a surprise in 2013. Makes me wonder what’s in store for what’s left of this offseason.)
  • What made you like Edwin Jackson: We like his age – plenty of prime years left. He’s also been the most consistent and most durable of the free agent pitchers. Because he’s bounced around, he’s underrated. You’d rather not be diving into free agent pitching, but he’s one of the relatively safest bets. We think he can be in the middle of the rotation for years to come.
  • The state of the Cubs’ organization, as it relates to signing someone like Jackson: The organization is a bit imbalanced, with more depth on the positional side. It’s next to impossible to build a rotation in one or two Winters, so we have to pick our spots (“get them when they’re available” – Theo actually used that line, which has been my mantra (not that I’m saying he got it from me (obviously), I’m just saying that apparently we’re on the same page in that regard)).
  • Thoughts on Ryan Dempster, who recently signed with Boston: Red Sox fans are going to love him. Extraordinarily healthy and consistent. Very competitive, and has evolved as a pitcher.
  • Thoughts on that huge Red Sox trade with Dodgers: Everyone in the industry was surprised by the scope of the deal, but I really liked the trade because of the young talent the Red Sox got back. We had scouted the Dodgers quite a bit because of the possibility of a Dempster trade with the Dodgers, and the caliber the Red Sox got in Allen Webster and Rubby De La Rosa is impressive. Everyone talked about the money, but not enough about the talent the Red Sox got.
  • On the Red Sox freeing up so much payroll, and what it means for an organization: The payroll that they freed up is also remarkable – but having available dollars at this moment in time, in this market, is not what it was 10 or 5 years ago. There used to be so much you could do with payroll flexibility – if you really wanted a guy, you could make sure you got him. You could do anything you wanted in trades. But nowadays, with TV money, a lot of teams have money to spend, and there are only so many ways to spend it. You’re really limited on the amateur and international side, so having a lot of money doesn’t necessarily help you as much as it would have in the past.
  • Thoughts on what a trade like that says about an organization, Boston in particular: If the trade was an indication that the organization is on the same page going forward on a united front, and are prepared to take a long view together, it’s a great sign for the franchise. The outlook of franchises evolve based on what they’ve been through. When you’re winning 95 every year, it can be hard to sell everyone on the idea that you have to focus on the long term. A terrible year like the Red Sox had last year can help bring everyone on the same page. (Me: Sounded a bit like Theo didn’t feel like he got that same support when wanting to focus on the long term.)
  • The difficult in finalizing deals when new information (like medicals) comes to light: If new information comes up while working out a deal, you have to incorporate that new information and try to re-work things – whether that’s a physical, or something else. (This was asked in the context of the Mike Napoli deal troubles, and the JD Drew previous signing issue, in which the Red Sox incorporated some health protections after originally agreeing to terms.)
  • Given that the Cubs have a protected first round pick, and would then instead lose a second round pick if they signed a free agent who’d received a qualifying offer, how do you view the value of a second round pick: Very important now – (1) don’t have the amount of compensation picks as in the past, so the second rounder is much higher; (2) there aren’t multiple paths into the amateur market anymore. You can’t give up high pick and then just try to pay some people big time later in the draft; and can’t go nuts internationally either. It’s a reminder of just how important it is to develop your own talent and not have to rely on free agency. There’s a real premium placed on draft picks right now, and it’s unfortunate the effect it’s had on free agents this year. Best thing that can happen for them is to be traded midseason so they aren’t subject to draft pick compensation (Me: Hey, I said that this morning!).
  • On whether the Cubs would thus avoid pursuing big-time free agents because of the lost pick and associated pool money: I can only answer generally, without speaking about any free agents left on the market. You can’t be dogmatic about it. There are free agents worth surrendering a first round pick, if the contract makes sense.
  • Thoughts on Anthony Rizzo’s development: He’s just about on the path we projected for him, but the remarkable part is how quickly he made a significant adjustment with his swing. He developed a dramatic uphill plane while in San Diego, in large part because of the park. Some folks though he wouldn’t make it because of that. We tried to buy low on him, then, and asked him to make the adjustment at AAA. It was clear as early as Spring Training that he had completely reworked his swing – very rare to do it that quickly and that successfully. He has a chance to be an elite player.
  • How you go about changing organizational culture: It’s fundamentally important, but very hard to define. You can set out to change the culture and make certain changes and bring in certain people, but it’s very hard to accomplish. It takes an organizational commitment, and you have to always stay on top of it. A big part of the culture I’d like to introduce is a winning culture, and I feel like we’re on our way despite the 101 losses. We got rid of a couple players who were causing some issues, and the clubhouse took a positive turn under Dale Sveum.
  • savant

    What I took out of that.

    We have already signed Bourn.
    We have already signed R. Soriano.
    We have alreadytraded A. Soriano.
    We have already traded for Upton.

    I am interested to see if anyone else interpreted it that way.

    • Rizzo44

      Agree with you about Bourn and A. Soriano. I dont really want Rafeal, and i hope to godyoure right about Upton. I would love him, but only for the right price…

    • Rich H

      HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA. Oh wait you were serious. Um no.

      I do seem to think that Hoyer and Theo are doing the media swing today to get their take out on some signing or trade. I just am not sure it is Bourn yet. I do think that they have something in the hopper.

      • william

        i still think we should take a chance on grady sizemore

        • Mick6x

          For no good reason I have always liked Sizemore.

  • college_of_coaches

    The last sentence is interesting. “We got rid of a couple players who were causing some issues…” Aside from Zambrano, who else do you think he was referring to? (Aramis or Byrd?)

    • Spencer

      Sean Marshall.

      • cRAaZYHORSE

        Colvin he can play LF,CF,RF and 1b – team controlled until the next doomsday prediction and for what a limp wrist third baseman,

    • Spriggs

      Definitely Byrd. If I had to guess about others, I’d say Soto

      • itzscott

        I’d say all of them that were let go or traded….

        They were all a bunch of primadonnas whose sole purpose was collecting a paycheck by going thru the motions without any burning desire to win.

        They all defined a losing mentality simply because it was allowed by the previous regime who coddled them, never placed any heat or expectations upon them and used them exclusively for marketing purposes to fill the stadium.

    • Dr. Percival Cox


    • college_of_coaches

      After Byrd was traded, I had read somewhere that he had become something of a sore presence in the clubhouse (which I found surprising). I’m thinking another guy was Randy Wells.

  • nkniacc13

    Id say Byrd or Soto


    kinda easy to replace players if you dump them eat the contract and get nothing in return.

    • Jimmy James

      even at that the takers on z were few and far between

    • Rich H

      It’s actually very hard to move players when you hand out “No Trade” Clauses like they were skittles.

      • Jimmy James

        mmmmmm skittles

        • Wilbur

          More of a M&M man myself …

  • jim

    Savant your nuts but I like the way you think!

  • Dan

    They aren’t signing borne so move on. It effects your draft pool – not happening

    • David

      The Cubs would only lose a second rounder (and second round allotment) if they signed him. I don’t think that would stop them from signing a very good major leaguer at a position of huge need if they get what they consider a good value.

      • boogens

        I thought Theo’s meaning was the exact opposite from what you took out of it. Here’s what Bret conveyed in his article:

        “…how do you view the value of a second round pick: Very important now…”

        Your statement is intuitively true (that they’d forfeit the pick for a player they consider a good value) but I find that the timing of when Theo chose to say it would dispel the consideration that Bourn is that player they would value enough.

  • ron

    Brett, once again – excellent work. Thank you for sharing the information.

    • Brett

      Thanks, Ron.

  • savant

    In that case nevermind.

  • abe

    how come Thoe never talks to chi town media? Maybe a BN pod cast interview?

    • Rich H

      I would think that the Tribune and their 5% share of the team would have the inside track for said interview. Oh I keep forgetting that all of their sports writers are still PO’s about being left out of the loop when Hendry got fired. Damn I guess they do not like having to actually do leg work and research for the story instead of just calling the GM’s office.

      • True(ly) Blue

        When you have a Paul Sullivan as your Cub beat writer it’s hard to get anything from or for anyone. He is the most laid back (lazy?) sports writer I have ever seen He is also almost as negative about the Cubs as Boars and Bernstein.
        Thank God for this site. Great work as always Brett!!!

  • Randy

    So anyone else notice that Bourn’s SB numbers were down last year? Also his power numbers were up to 9 HR’s vs averaging 2 the previous 2 seasons. Not really a good sign for a speed guy getting older. Also his 70 walks were a career high, which he only received 53 walks in more at-bats in 2011. I would rather hope that Jackson works out. Who knows maybe Szczur takes that final leap (already draws walks and has the speed). If neither pans out, Carlos Gomez, Granderson, and Ellsbury are all free agents next year. I would take Gomez if he can reproduce his 2012 season or better it. Gomez is younger, and could provide close to the production and will be at a fraction of the cost. Or we use some prospects to trade to obtain one better and younger. Maybe we trade our whole farm system for Carlos Gonzalez and Price. Then sign Wainwright, Cano, and extend Garza.


    Platoon in right

    • Jimmy James

      that is quite an offseason you have planned

  • legen wait for it dary

    Brett if the cubs sign more than one player associated with draft pick comp would it be a 2nd and 3rd rounder?

    • Brett


  • BPaoni

    “We got rid of a couple players who were causing some issues, and the clubhouse took a positive turn under Dale Sveum.”

    Who was this?

  • Yet another JP

    Big Z and ARam I guess, even though neither actually played for sveum… I really doubt Byrd was poison

  • Nick Nesler

    I’m not really that high on Bourne but the way our FO is coming out and speaking of how important our 2nd rounder is makes you wonder. Yes it is important but i can’t remember a team coming out and being this publicly vocal about a 2nd rounder. And yes i understand that circumstances are different this year.

  • Manntastic

    I kinda like the idea of taking advantage of the depressed value of the Bourn/Soriano/Lohse type of player that teams are shying away from if they’ll take a 2 year deal. I could see them having to settle for near qualifying offer money or less, and if they produce they are great chips at the deadline or first off season because they have the (maybe over valued with new CBA) draft pick compensation tied to the acquiring team.

    Don’t get me wrong, I value the draft, but this could be a way of stocking our upper levels quicker than through the draft.

  • Manntastic

    I also kinda like the idea that if you’re going to get one FA that is tied to a draft pick, you might as well get two or three because you’re losing less value as the picks are tied to later rounds.

  • praying the cubs get ready to win

    I think core players are so key. When we think Trade, we should think of getting core players, I think Upton is a core player we really want vs Bourne.

  • james

    It’s nice to know the Cubs will be sticking to the game plan and not going after Bourn and Rafael Soriano. Why waste a draft pick on ageing players. We all need to wait and see how the young players pan out. I really want the Cubs to be more like Tampa Bay and have young core players for the long term. As a Cubs fan its hard to watch a bad product right now. The rewards should out way everything. I do find it interesting everybody wants to trade the farm system for a Stanton or a Upton. If the Cubs did that then they take a couple of steps back.

    • Edwin

      It doesn’t have to be mutually exclusive. The Cubs could draft well, and sign good talent when it becomes available and fits into their plans. They can also trade prospects for major league talent because they have the resources to keep that talent.

      It’s like tomatoes. Theo could try and grow tomatoes, and get really good tasting fresh ones, but there’d be risk. The Tomatoes might not develope as well as he’d like. They could get damaged. So even though the garden grown tomatoes would taste better, Theo might want to buy some tomatoes from the store, or barter with some of the other farmers for their tomatoes. Because Theo has lots of resources, he can go to Whole Foods for some of his tomatoes. I’m losing steam, and I need to get back to work, but the tomato analogy holds.

  • waittilthisyear

    a short term bourne signing would be ideal. on the off chance that it thrusts us into the “competitive” realm in 2013, let it ride. if the cubs stink, flip him. i would hope he produces enough to warrant a return of a prospect closer to contributing than a hypothetical 2nd rounder

  • james

    The Cubs will be just as competitive without Bourn as they would be with. Heck more then half the teams in baseball were competitive because of the new wild card format last year. The problem is alot of the teams were fooling themselfs thinking they could make that wildcard run. Instead they should have been retooling for following year. Say the Cubs are 6 games out of the wildcard by all-star break. Four to five teams are ahead of the Cubs. Do you think the Cubs trade prospects away hopeing to maybe make that wildcard spot. Say they don’t make it. Now the Cubs lost one or two top prospect and they took a step back.

  • james

    The question I do have is if the Cubs did sign both Rafael Soriano and Bourne would they only lose one draft pick in the second round. If that was the case would a team lets say the Phillies wanted Rafael Soriano. Could they come to the Cubs and say sign Rafael and trade him to us for a prospect. The Phillies wouldn’t lose a draft pick. Say the Cubs did the same thing with Bourn to another team. The Cubs could get to good prospects back for one second round pick I’m guessing. I was just wondering if that could be the case.

    • Pat

      There is no sign and trade option in MLB.

    • Galvan316

      I am not 100% sure, but I believe that you cannot trade free agents signed in the offseason until June of the upcoming season.

      Thus making sign and trade deals virtually impossible

  • Jacob

    I think I missed this, would Anibal Sanchez have cost the Cubs a draft pick if they had signed him?

    • Brett

      No. He was traded mid-season.

      • Jacob

        Oh, duh. That didn’t even cross my mind. Thanks.

  • Curt

    no Dan they are not signing borne but they are signing Bourn lol and m&m are the cats pajamas.

  • OlderStyle

    Well, at least Theo is being consistent. Being more aggressive probably means what most have figured: trades for Garza, Marmol, Soriano and possibly Shark?
    I wouldn’t count on the hatching of any eggs labeled Bourn or Upton. He said we have positional depth but can’t build a rotation in one or two offseasons. But, could the Cubs land enough surplus quality prospects to put together a truly competitive package for David Price. That would be intriguing. In the brave new post-CBA world can prospects’ worth have dramatically increased? Spending flexibility means less than it previously did.
    But, still more of the same, develop the kids on the farm and flip the short term assets for longer term or possibly high value targets like Price. We want to win, we will build a culture of winning in face of a 100 loss season, blah, blah, blah.

    • Dave

      I would not consider Shark a short term asset. He is till young and does not have that much wear and tear on his arm.

      • OlderStyle

        Neither would I. Just mentioned him in the context of high value targets and the rumor a couple weeks ago that the FO was seeing what other teams might offer for Shark. This would fit into the 2014 beginning window of competitiveness. Could a package including Shark snag a Stanton or a Price? Very unlikely to happen but I’m sure Theo and Jed were doing some due diligence in gauging the market.

  • afinch

    I said it yesterday and it caused a whole huge back and forth, but again I hope there’s no Bourn signing. At least not for the amounts being speculated (4 yr, 50 mil?). I like his speed and he’s a good defender but I just don’t get giving up 12+ mil a year for a guy with one really good tool (speed), which may decline by the 2nd half of his contract. Yes he’s a good defender and an ok hitter/obp guy but not overwhelmingly great IMO. If this causes a Soriano trade then I’m slightly more ok with it but I’m just not thrilled about this idea. Just my opinion.

    If this does mean a Soriano trade is on the horizon I still hope that it’s somehow him to NY with a boatload of cash for hopefully Phil Hughes or Ivan Nova. Rumor last month was that both were being dangled and NY could use some power in LF or at DH so fingers crossed that’s the Soriano trade I’d like to see.

    • hookersorcake

      I think Theo & Co would give 4/50 in a heartbeat. And I think most Cubs fans would be onboard with that. And really at that point you’d almost have to wait and see what you have before trading anyone. Bourn, Dejesus, Castro, Rizzo, Soriano is a pretty good 1-5 and if Castillo and Stewart just hit a little? Along with our rotation and beefed up BP… I could see a wildcard. Could also see an injury or two and 5-10 games back by June.
      Problem with Bourn is he’ll probably be closer to 5/75.

  • Jacob

    Brett GREAT NEWS!

    They must have listened to me, the interview from yesterday is on demand!! Fast forward to the 1:58ish mark and that’s Jed’s interview!

    • ETS

      Good work!

      • Jacob

        Ya know.. It’s really cool of SiriusXm to take one guys request like that and do something about it.

        • hansman1982

          Very good indeed.

          Or…They knew you had the might and power of BN behind you and to NOT post it would have caused Brett to use his mind-powers to crash all of their satellites…

          • Jacob

            That makes so much more sense. I agree with that 100%

    • Brett

      Nice. I see it, but the fly in the ointment is that I don’t have Sirius/XM (lapsed about two months ago). I’ll just trust you at this point – no reason not to.

      • Jacob

        Well, if you really would like to listen, I have no problem sharing my account for the good of the cause. I’m not too worried you’d mess with it lol.

      • Brett

        The key takeaway for me was that Jed essentially said two things: (1) looking for a short term and long term solution in center field, and (2) talking with a current free agent positional player in the range of an Edwin Jackson deal.

        If he absolutely, definitely said those things, then the Cubs are very clearly in discussions (perhaps among many other teams) with Michael Bourn.

        • Jacob

          Does that mean you’d like to listen? The long term/short term was a direct quote, just listened to it again, but there was more to it about how CF isn’t DD’s best position, but he’s played there before. I can direct message you on twitter if you’d like to listen to how he said it and get more in depth.

  • MightyBear

    Personally, I think they already have a deal with Bourn and are A. Trying to trade Soriano before they announce it and B. are going to announce it soon before the Cubs convention. It energizes the fans and sells tickets to the convention. That’s just my opinion, I could be wrong. – Dennis Miller

    • JB88

      Given that there has been next to nothing about this in the news, I’m less enthusiastic than you about a secret deal. Could it happen? Sure, but it would shock me given that Boras is his agent.

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  • Leif
  • Kong2287

    Yeah Theo, you really did your diligence a little less than a year ago by “watching” your minor leaguers…………cut a kid for no reason, and never bothered that he could hit 98mph
    off the bump


    TE: Um, maybe a little bit. It’s always different the second winter with a new organization. The first winter you are spending most of your time getting to know the ins and outs of the organization, the personnel and you don’t have as much firsthand knowledge of the players. Certainly not having seen them play day in and day out for yourself and it is especially true of your own minor league players.

    • Kyle

      Hahaha. Yes!!!!

    • AB

      has anybody signed All-American Hero KLacazzcynksasdfi from the Great Lakes league yet??