theo epstein and jed hoyerYesterday, President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein and General Manager Jed Hoyer addressed the media from Mesa in a kind of introductory State of the Cubs address, and each offered a great deal of information about the coming season and the future of the organization. (The quotes can be found many places, including here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.)

Below are some of the more interesting things they had to say, together with my thoughts and reactions, where appropriate.

From Epstein:

  • On designating Tony Campana for assignment to open up a spot for Scott Hairston: “It was a difficult call for us. We preferred not to take a pitcher off [the roster]. Looking at the position player group it seemed to make sense to us …. We’d like to keep him in the organization. That would be the best outcome. He’s one of the best baserunners in the league and could be a weapon on a contending team.” It remains possible that the Cubs could swing a trade involving Campana, depending on how desired he would be on the waiver wire (which is to say, you can really only trade a guy in this situation if there are multiple teams that want him, and at least one knows it would lose out on waiver priority if it waited for him to be placed on waivers).
  • On fan patience: “We appreciate their patience. We don’t want them to be patient forever. We want to make progress. We feel like we did make progress behind the scenes in a lot of areas last year. Our farm system, I think, took a pretty significant step forward in just a one-year time span.”
  • On Javier Baez’s future, and on coming to big league camp: “When a young guy’s name pops up as being invited to big league camp, often times people think it means he’s close to the big leagues. In this case, Javy’s not. He’s got significant development still ahead of him. We’re really impressed by everything he’s done but he has a lot of work to do, he knows that …. He finished the year in High-A ball and that’s about where he’s going to start.” I can’t help but linger on that last line – that’s “about” where he’ll start. Well, if you figure that “about” means either at High-A or a level above or a level below, that’s actually a pretty huge range at which Baez could open the year. If he starts back in Low-A Kane County, that would be something of a disappointment (fortunately, Jed Hoyer has said publicly that Baez won’t be at Kane County to open the year). High-A sounds about right, given how things played out last year. But if he opened at AA? I mean, that would be just the latest signal that the Cubs see Baez being ready for the bigs as soon as, like, August or September (if the team is playing well and needs him, and he’s killing it at AA). I don’t think that’s likely, though. High-A to start the year sounds about right, with a chance for a mid-season promotion to AA.
  • Epstein reiterated that it is the organization’s preference for prospects to get a full season at AAA before coming up to the big club.
  • On Starlin Castro’s long-term position: “As we sat here last year, it was a bit of an open question in the organization whether he could stay at shortstop long term. Now we all feel he definitely can and will be a really good one.” Definitely “can” … a lot of what happens will depend on what happens with Baez, and with Castro’s physical evolution. Epstein added that he expects Castro to have a huge offensive breakout year any year now.
  • On Carlos Marmol’s legal issue (he HAS arrived in camp, by the way), and how strongly the Cubs are behind him right now: “It’s the organization’s responsibility to take all accusations like that very seriously. It was our decision to look into it a little bit. We don’t have all the information, but all the information we have been able to gather backs up Carlos’ story that he is not guilty of any wrongdoing whatsoever. He may in fact be the victim here, if this case continues to be pursued like this, so all we can do is evaluate it on the merits. So far what we have seen backs Carlos’ story, and we will continue to support him. We do expect that this matter will be behind him shortly based on the way it is proceeding in the Dominican courts.” Once again, that’s about as strong as you can get without completely backing yourself into a corner on the chance that Marmol actually does lose his case. The Cubs clearly believe Marmol didn’t do anything wrong.
  • On the Curt Schilling PED thing, which Epstein apparently handled with great aplomb: “It’s the only time it’s ever happened to me in my career, where a player mentioned performance-enhancing drugs to me. So I immediately reported it to Major League Baseball. The club did its own investigation. Major League Baseball did a very thorough investigation, including its department of investigation and including the Players Association. They had a lot of conviction about their conclusion there was no wrongdoing and there was no disciplinary report on the individual in question. Because of the investigation, the individual has probably been as thoroughly vetted as anyone in a big league clubhouse and came out extremely clean. This incident should not be seen as an attack on his integrity.” Apparently word has gotten out that it was Mike Reinold, a member of the Red Sox training staff at the time.

From Hoyer:

  • On signing Scott Hairston: “We’re excited to bring him in. It gives us a lot of versatility in the outfield and he’s a guy who has proven he can hit left-handed pitching and be one of the best platoon guys in the game.” What’s fascinating to me is that the Cubs signed Hairston to a more substantial contract than Nate Schierholtz, and yet they’re quite candid about Hairston being a platoon guy, while previously talking at length about Schierholtz being the guy in right field. It doesn’t really matter, because it’s quite clear there’s going to be a whole lot of mixing and matching with everyone in the outfield. I just think it’s funny – the psychology of the thing, I guess. Back when Schierholtz signed, it wasn’t really do-able for the Cubs to be up front with their platoon plans for a number of reasons. But now that the pieces are in the fold, Hoyer can say openly what he’s been thinking all along.
  • On Javier Baez participating in big league Spring Training: “It’s nice for the fans to be able to see him, it’s nice for us to be able to see him, but this is not about making the Major League team, this is about experience.” Even if he kills it this Spring, it will likely have no impact on his development plan. I doubt it would even impact the level at which he starts the year.
  • On swallowing the short-term pain for the long-term gain: “On a given night there is nothing worse than driving home after a loss. That’s not something the three of us (Epstein, Sveum and Hoyer) haven’t experienced a lot of. Our goal is something much bigger. Sometimes you know there is going to be some short-term pain to have that long-term perspective. Last year was difficult for all three of us.”
  • Katie

    It will certainly be interesting to see how the outfield shakes out this season.

    • TWC

      Cubs outfielders … smh!

      • fromthemitten

        the Cubs should sing Bourn what do you think? check my blog for my stream of consciousness writing that makes the first two chapters of The Sound and Fury look legible!

  • Matty V

    I’m really excited that pitchers and catchers have reported. Can we just fast forward to Spring Training games? This almost but not yet time of the spring is driving me crazy.

    • Patrick G

      1 1/2 weeks!

  • butlerdawgs

    Brett, didn’t know if you saw Jonah Keri’s piece today on the worst contracts in baseball. Two from the Cubs made the honorable mention – Carlos Marmol and Soriano (surprise there).

    • Brett

      Hadn’t yet, but it’s hard to argue.

    • Marc N.

      I’ve never considered the Marmol contract a bad one.

      • justinjabs

        $10M is a lot for a reliever, in my opinion. Maybe not in the market’s opinion but still.

        • Marc N.

          Sorry, but the market’s opinion is way more relevant in the end. When the deal the number was very fair, and Marmol hasn’t been so bad that the Cubs have been ripped off here.

          • Marc N.

            *the deal was made

    • The Dude Abides

      Hindsight is always 20/20 but while two Cubs made honorable mention three current/ex Red Sox made the top 15 including two in top seven. In reverse order Gonzalez 14, Lackey 7 and Crawford 2 were all signed by the Red Sox during Theo’s tenure although I’m sure the take is that it was all Larry Luchiano’s doing and Theo was going with the flow. Also I assume Dice K contract must be done otherwise hard to believe that’s not a top 15 considering money paid to “win” the opportunity to sign him.

  • Miggy80

    “Epstein reiterated that it is the organization’s preference for prospects to get a full season at AAA before coming up to the big club.”

    Yeah! I-Cubs

    • Cubbie Blues

      *preference* Lots of room to fudge there.

    • FFP

      And nice juxtaposition of the 3rd with the 4th bullet by Brett.

      • Brett

        There are no coincidences …

    • On the Farm

      Didn’t Hoyer make a comment earlier though that once a prospect reaches AA they are fair game for call ups?

  • Huch

    Where is Soler going to be starting the season off?

    • Brett

      Seems like either a short stint at Kane County, or at High-A. And he could fly up to AA quickly if he shows he’s ready.

  • Patrick G

    can’t wait to see Baez, Soler and Whitenack in Spring Training. Eager to see how Whitenack has been rehabbing

  • ottoCub

    Brett – are there any thoughts/rumors/discussions about whether Marmol’s legal problems might have caused the breakdown in the Haren trade with the Angels? That was in the last week of October, which sounds like about the same time that Marmol’s legal issues began.

    It would be completely understandable that the Angels would back away from the trade, fast, if they heard that Marmol was under investigation for this incident. It would also make sense that the two teams would never clearly say why the trade fell through, to protect privacy.

    • Brett

      No. Haren’s medicals were the sole reason the deal fell apart. The Cubs saw the medicals, developed some concerns, apparently asked to change the money in the deal to cover those concerns, and the deal fell apart.

    • Smitty

      The way I remember it, we backed off of the trade after Haren’s medicals came up with red flags.

  • terencem

    I’d be interested to see if they can work with Baez on making adjustments at the plate (hitting with two strikes, etc.) since he hasn’t had a full off-season to make adjustments to professional hitting, yet. I mean he was around last year but he hadn’t had a full season to see professional pitching and then get the off-season to work with the hitting coaches on adjustments (both overall and situational).

  • Don

    Baez will spend a full season in the minors, but that will be his last one. In 2014 he will be the starting 3rd baseman for the Cubs. There is a reason Theo and Jed didn’t pull the trigger and acquire a 3rd base prospect (Olt/Castellanos). Stewart is a stopgap until Baez is ready. The 2014 infield for the Cubs will be Baez, Castro, Barney, and Rizzo 3rd to 1st.

    • terencem

      I think the rumors have been that the Cubs have tried to acquire Olt but never could land the deal.

      • Marc N.

        From what I understand they wanted a 3B but couldn’t find one. I don’t think the situation has anything to do with Baez.

        I will say it a billion gazillion more times if I have to, but 2B is just as likely a landing spot (if not more likely) for Baez. He’s got real defensive chops, and no one is ever in a hurry to move a guy to a corner when he does not have to sit at a corner.

        • cubsklm

          I think the obvious 2013/14 move is for the Cubs to trade/sign Headley from SD. Hoyer is familiar with him and the Padres will definitely part ways with his salary for 3B.

          The real clue will be if Baez plays any games at 3B in 2013. You just can’t bring a guy up and stick him at a new position in his rookie year. More likely Baez replaces Barney, with Barney becoming a valuable utility IF.

  • MichCubFan

    I don’t understand why people mention Javier Baez coming up at the end of 2013 or in 2014, or Junior Lake making the team sometime this season.

    Theo has been pretty big on keeping players in triple-A for a full season worth of at bats. I don’t see him breaking that unless we need help with a contending team.

    Baez will come up in 2015 at the very earliest if he plays a full season in triple-A, and Junior Lake would come up in 2014, after a 2013 September call-up.

    • Norm

      You’re assuming a ‘no exceptions’ rule here.
      There is a non-zero chance Baez is up at the end of this year (although I’d put money on Campana getting 500 at bats somewhere before I’d bet on Baez getting called up in 2013).
      And a slightly better chance he’s up in 2014.

      • Marc N.

        Agreed. Talent and how the player translates it dictates how a player moves. The preference is for a year in AAA because, as we saw with Rizzo and Jackson, sometimes a player just needs it. There are plenty of cases of great players who never saw AAA, including Starlin Castro.

  • Bob Johnson

    Terry Francona’s book on his years with the Red Sox is a great read for Cub Fans as well.

  • Diamond Don

    How long was Castro at AAA before he was move to the majors. I think there are exceptions to the full year at AAA if the kid can handle the majors.

    • Cubbie Blues

      Castro never went to AAA. He was also brought up by a different regime. That said, the FO has given themselves plenty of wiggle room with their wording.

  • Ryan

    What has come of Conception?

    • Noah

      A non-prospect unless he proves otherwise.

      • Ryan

        so i would consider that a major bust considering the money that was spent.

      • Ryan

        what were his stats like last year.

    • Cubbie Blues

      Came over, pitched poorly, got mono, DFA’d, signed minor league deal with Cubs, on IR.

      • TWC

        I prefer my answer.

        • Cubbie Blues

          Mine was more of the Cliff’s Notes variety. At least you pointed him in the right direction.

  • Noah

    I think the difference between Hairston’s contract and Schierholtz’s comes down to the ability to bargain about other things with Schierholtz. The Cubs could offer Schierholtz the ability to get 400-500 PAs as the left handed part of a right field platoon, which other teams may not have been willing to offer. My understanding was that everybody was looking at Hairston for the same role: a 300 PA or so right handed hitting part of a platoon who could also spell a right handed hitting outfielder on occasion. So the only thing you could bargain with Hairston about was money.

  • another JP

    It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see Javy at AA to start the season. Not only were the results in Daytona a small sample, but all the rain-outs had to have an effect on his performance.

    Seems that the OF will be much improved this year w/o guys like Byrd or Campana with their putrid .035ish ISO or K-Jax learning how to hit ML pitching on the fly. And just reading what Theo or Jed say about any topic gives me great confidence that our Cubbies will be competitive sooner than we all think.

    • truthhurts

      Does anyone know what Baez’s history with showcase games/leagues was when he was in High School? I’m wondering if part of his problem (besides the ones you mentioned) was fatigue. Both mental and physical. He probably played significantly more than ever before.

    • Marc N.

      I’d be shocked. I think the rainout point is legitimate, but that doesn’t mean he needs *less* time in High A nor does it means the mediocre at best results should be dismissed due to SSS. He was exposed a little at High A and there were signs of it even in Peoria if you consider that he’s supposed to be a dominant 70 hit tool guy who pitchers were still able to K 1/5 of the time.

      Baez is the kind of talent who can absolutely explode this year, but there’s no reason to rush it. He’s capable of dominating High A so give him the shot to do it, and if he can make it to AA at 20/21 this year then he’s still on a great pace for at least a cup of coffee in 2014.

  • Die hard

    The sense of urgency hardly moved the needle- maybe the fans’
    desire to buy tkts should match