Yesterday, 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.
- 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.
- 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.”