Theo Epstein Reminds Us of the Hard Truths

cubs theo epstein uh ohCSN’s Dave Kaplan spoke with Theo Epstein on Monday in an interview that will air tonight on CSN at 10pm CT. There’s a piece up now at CSN with a number quotes from the interview, and it’s worth giving a look.

I know it’s been a monthly subject of debate around here, but Epstein once again underscores why the front office has taken the long, slow, rebuild tack that they have, using last offseason as the model.

“We are not tearing it down; we’re building it up,” Epstein told Kaplan. “You know we’re taking the farm system from where it was to hopefully one of the best in the game. We’re taking a team that was bereft of young core talent at the big league level and we’re gonna build up a young nucleus. Do I wish we could do that overnight? Absolutely, but it’s not a conscious choice to sit here and slow-play it so we can build it extra-organically. What we’re doing is building a winning organization because the choice is to – like in 2011 – ramp the payroll up to $145 million. [In 2011], they went after an older free-agent, traded prospects for a really good pitcher, and it got them 71 wins ….

“Take a look at that first offseason [before the 2012 season], and first base is a microcosm for organizational issues as a whole. So people looked at ‘oh the Cubs, big market’ and maybe they assumed we had more money to spend than we actually had. Everyone was jumping all over themselves to sign Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder, you know, two good players … but two good players who, at some point during that contract, are going to be past their primes. So instead, we took one of the few pitching prospects that we had [Andrew Cashner], traded him and turned him into Anthony Rizzo, who is going to be in his prime when we’re winning this division and contending on an annual basis.”

Yeah, this interview is going to be must-watch-TV. Check out Kap’s piece for more from Theo in the meantime, including his suspicion that, if the team isn’t any good this year and there’s a selloff in July, fans are going to be all over him in August and September.

Epstein’s “parallel tracks” comment, together with the “every season is sacred” mantra, has frequently been used as a criticism of the front office’s rebuild approach. While deep attention is being paid to the minor league/prospect track, it’s hard to argue that there has been a specific emphasis on ensuring a winning product is on the field at the big league level in 2012 and 2013. I think, here, Epstein is conceding that there would have been ways to keep the big league team respectable in 2012 and 2013 – assuming there was enough money, which now sounds dubious – but at the expense of the long-term vision.

That’s always been the debate, of course – does signing the Pujols/Fielder types to $200 million deals harm the long-term? – but I think Epstein sums it up pretty well here. I suspect he goes into even greater detail in the full interview.

For me, I remain on board, and I always expected pain in 2013. I think, with development in the system and the ability to financially commit next year, there are going to be some opportunities for the Cubs to become competitive in 2014 without doing harm to the long-term plan. Whether that comes in the form of free agents (it’s a weak class) or trades for players in their prime remains to be seen, but I think this front office is smart enough to explore all options. I think they’re also smart enough to know that there is a balance between rebuilding and fan patience. You don’t want to sacrifice the quality, long-term vision for short-term respectableness, but you do have to recognize that there is a financial component to a team that is miserably bad for too many consecutive years. And that financial component impacts the organization’s ability to put a competitive product on the field when they are ready to do so.

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

184 responses to “Theo Epstein Reminds Us of the Hard Truths”

  1. Believe in 2015

    What happened to Dillon Maples? Is he going to pitch soon and if so, which team?

    1. Dynastyin2016

      Plenty of time with Mapes. I think they have him penciled in for 15 innings this year.

      1. Beardface

        I’m on board with waiting too. It doesn’t mean that losing sucks less though. Lol

    2. Luke

      He really hasn’t pitched at all professionally yet, so I think he’ll stay in Arizona until Boise gets started in June.

      1. dw8

        Yeah NWL!

    3. AB

      exactly what I was thinking dynasty2015. This is Chris Huseby, part two.

      Maples is actually behind where Huseby was at this point. Huseby threw almost a full season at Boise for his age 19 year, and is already being passed up by a number of younger arms like Conway and McNeil.

      Maybe Maples turns into a good reliever at some point, but that’s alot for 2.5 million or whatever his bonus was..

  2. IrvingandAshland

    Do you think Dale is the long term choice as manager or more of the A-B guy as apposed to A-Championship guy?

    1. Big Daddy

      Dale is the rebound guy of this relationship. He will get screwed over before the winning starts. I hate it because I think he is a great baseball guy. I still think this is why Ryno got passed over.

      1. David

        Sandberg got passed over because he is dumb as rocks.

    2. David

      Yes, Dale is the long term choice. He is good at one of the few things a manager can do to have a positive impact on winning – defensive shifts…and, by and large, he doesn’t screw up in the areas where managers typically can only get in the way.

      As for “A-B, as opposed to A-Championship,” I don’t think that is a thing. Just about any quality of manager can (and has) won championships because championships are basically (especially as we add more and more playoff teams) about getting lucky at the right time. All a manager can really do is put his team in the best position to win as many games as possible so that they can make the playoffs frequently, and Sveum is as suited (and moreso) to do this as anybody.

      1. MIkeL

        Everyone should keep in mind that Leyland experienced 4 or 5 awful seasons with the Pirates and they kept him around and he helped lead them to three straight division titles. I think Dale is a guy that will be around for awhile.

        1. MichaelD

          The Pirates finished 2nd in Leyland’s third season. They were only 2 games under .500 in his second season. They then won the division in his 5th season. I don’t think Sveum is going to have that good a record.

  3. ISU Birds

    As long as it works Theo….as long as it works.

    1. Joel

      ISU Birds is right. For years, I heard about the can’t-miss prospects in the Cubs’ system (Choi, Patterson, Pie, Kieschnick [sp?], etc). They all missed. The holy trinity of Almora, Baez, and Soler seem very promising, but will they become all-stars? Will they even be starting players? Seems likely, but the team is putting quite a bit of its future on their development…

    2. ETS

      It sounds like Almora is about as close to as “can’t miss” as possible, but his ceiling is suspect. The other 2 probably are longer shots than most of us want to admit but their upside is so freaking gigantic that it’s impossible to not be excited.

      1. Ryan

        Well, since I have seen Baez and Soler live and in person, they are as legit as they could be. Baez already had MLB bat speed and power. He needs more plate discipline and know when to let it go, and when to shorten up and use the whole field in RBI situations. Those are experience things. His D is decent, but anticipation and placement (both alignment and relys) are issues. Again, coaching and experience. He could make an easy transition to 2B or OF with his athleticism.

        Soler has it all and just needs a little more time. Refine his hips and lines in the OF, and he has an amazing presence at the plate. Swing is more compact than I thought.

        I don’t but into the hype most of the time, but when you see those two against MLB and AAA arms, they pass the eye test and more. If they make AA this year, they could press the Cubs into making the 40 man legitimately (i.e., not protecting rule 5) next year if not more.

        1. EQ76

          Soler’s already on the 40-man

  4. On the Farm

    I hope fans aren’t all over him if there is a fire sale in July. Our pitching looks like it is finally turning a corner: Shark looked good, just kind of got caught up in his gem last time out. Jackson is a proven commodity of consistency. Wood has looked good to start and showed flashes of brilliance last summer. If we can get Garza back to his old self this team won’t look terrible, but look at the bats. Guys like Lillibridge and Valbuena aren’t going to get it done for us and adding Darwin Barney back won’t be enough.

    Just have fun with this year, if you are in a fantasy league, go ahead and pick up any starter lucky enough to face this lineup (especially if its Lillibridge’s day in the lineup) and wait for 2015. I am just hoping by 2014 the young guys we are so excited about in the minors can make their debut and get ready for the 2015 season.

  5. caryatid62

    I think they’re much more financially strapped than might be assumed. The “maybe they assumed we had more money to spend than we actually had” quote points pretty directly to that.

    You can remain hopeful for 2014, Brett, but I can’t see it happening. This team is not going to spend major money, and even if they did, there’s not much out there that will help immediately. Soler, Baez, Almora, et. al. are not sure things, and even if they pan out, they wouldn’t be great players until their 2nd or 3rd year in the league anyway. The Cubs will not be good until 2016 at the earliest. It’s going to be a long, crappy three years.

    1. On the Farm

      I agree that there isn’t much out there in terms of FAs. I hope the FO spends some money to extend Shark and Garza, then soon (not saying this year) lock up Rizzo if he continues what he put last year with some progression. With Baez and Watkins we shouldn’t need to spend any money on IF starters.

      Just need to figure out if Brett Jackson is an actual long term solution in the OF or not.

  6. ETS

    For better or worse, weak FA classes, I think, are going to be the new norm in baseball.

    1. Edwin

      Also older FA classes. There’s a huge difference to signing a 27 year old player to a 5 year deal, or a 29 year old player to a 5 year deal. You’re essentially swapping 1 or 2 peak years of production for 2 more decline years.

  7. Dynastyin2016

    Brett, I love your optimism, but I have a hard time seeing the Cubs being competitive in 2014. By my estimation, about 8 unexpected events would have to occur for that to happen. Our top prospects (and only real trade bait) are all at lower levels, the FA market has no longterm help available, and there are only a few Cubs on the major league roster who will improve enough to be impact players. We don’t break .500 until 2015, at the earliest.

  8. Rebuilding

    We’ve rehashed these arguments over and over so I won’t try to stir up the pot too much, but there are all sorts of strawmen knocked over and false choices advanced in this interview. Epstein reminds me of some commenters on here that immediately jump to Pujols and Fielder and then say “see, we couldn’t have been competitive because those are bad contracts”. No, there were perfectly reasonable ways to keep this team on the edge of WC contention without sacrificing the farm. There were MANY free agents available that would make this team better now and in the future w/o sacrificing the “plan”.

    However, what I would focus on is: Epstein seems to suggest that the current payroll is about the max of what the Cubs can do responsibly. Now, it has been taken as gospel that once we are competitive we will start spending. If a $103 million payroll is all the Cubs can do while the Ricketts pay off debt I’m not sure why people necessarily think that is true. That debt is going to be around a looooong time

    1. DarthHater

      If the payroll is going to be limited to around $103 million for an extended period of time, then the organization needs to come clean about it with the fans or there really is going to be a very negative reaction in the not-too-distant future. It really sounds like any dreams about Theo, Jed, and a big pile of money are complete BS until at least a couple years after Wrigley renovations are complete. In other words, we can probably look forward to similarly cobbled-together major league rosters for at least another 4-5 years. And nobody can accurately predict revenue streams that far into an uncertain future, so one might just as well say “Maybe someday the Cubs will have a big pile of money to spend.”

  9. terencemann

    I’m on a mental vacation from caring about the major league Cubs until 2015. 2015 is the expected arrival for Almora and Soler and I don’t think Baez gets much time at the ML level until then, either, with what he’s shown vs. advanced pitching so far in his career. 2015 is probably the beginning of a home-grown core and those guys will need time to adjust to the majors.

    What I’m saying is, we’re going to need A LOT of patience.

  10. dvs1313

    I just hope there is some sort of time line. We all know great prospects don’t pan out over half of the time. By 2016 it will be 5 years, what is the leash. This team is very bad right now. Hard to listen and watch. I have been a life long Cub fan but this is difficult. The guys brought in to be utility guys and for defense have been anything but good. Just hard to watch right now.

    1. BTC

      I agree with you on that. I’ve been a life long Cubs fan, but there better be a timeline. I can only be patient for so long. There’s great potential for these prospects and farm system, but to many times good prospects do not pan out. It really be extremely frustrating if 2015 or 16 rolls around and these guys are not doing to much. I hope the FO is not betting to much solely on prospects. I guess time and a lot of patience will tell..

  11. Kyle

    In which I fisk Theo:

    “We are not tearing it down; we’re building it up.”

    When you allow something to collapse that it was your job to maintain (in this case, the MLB roster), you may not have “torn it down,” but you are responsible for the equivalent result.

    “You know we’re taking the farm system from where it was to hopefully one of the best in the game.”

    And why I am not surprised that this is the first goal you mention? Sure, it’s a laudable goal, but it’s a supporting goal to the larger one, and it’s becoming clearer by the day that your desire to build the farm system is out of proportion with your desire to win at the MLB level.

    ” We’re taking a team that was bereft of young core talent at the big league level and we’re gonna build up a young nucleus.”

    Wait, I thought it wasn’t about a core of key young players, but making every little decision correct that you can, every day? Piles and piles of meaningless doublespeak and platitudes.

    Starlin Castro should probably take offense to this comment.

    ” Do I wish we could do that overnight? Absolutely, but it’s not a conscious choice to sit here and slow-play it so we can build it extra-organically. What we’re doing is building a winning organization because the choice is to – like in 2011 – ramp the payroll up to $145 million. [In 2011], they went after an older free-agent, traded prospects for a really good pitcher, and it got them 71 wins ….”

    That’s only the choice because it conveniently absolves you the responsibility of using your money wisely and producing results.

    If you are tacitly acknowledging that with $145m you couldn’t have done better than 71 wins, then please resign.

    “Take a look at that first offseason [before the 2012 season], and first base is a microcosm for organizational issues as a whole. So people looked at ‘oh the Cubs, big market’ and maybe they assumed we had more money to spend than we actually had. Everyone was jumping all over themselves to sign Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder, you know, two good players … but two good players who, at some point during that contract, are going to be past their primes. So instead, we took one of the few pitching prospects that we had [Andrew Cashner], traded him and turned him into Anthony Rizzo, who is going to be in his prime when we’re winning this division and contending on an annual basis.”

    That’s great. You had a bunch of other holes that you failed to fill. You don’t get to take a victory lap for addressing one out of a bunch.

  12. Spencer

    I think we’re starting to reach the maximum number of ways Theo Epstein can say the same thing in a different way. Everyone should know the plan by now. It hasn’t changed.

    1. Koyie Hill Sucks

      It sounds more and more like they will rely only(or mostly) on the farm, that should turn out to be a disaster if that’s the case…

      1. HubbaBubba

        No, they are just building the farm so I can continuously supply SOMETHING to the big leagues. Up until now, we have had to rely almost entirely on purchased, big league free-agent talent. That hasn’t worked in about….100 years. This is the right way to do it.

  13. Koyie Hill Sucks

    And in 5 years they won’t resign Castro or Rizzo becaue by the time that contract ends they will be past their prime! haha…

    The FA market is thin but there is talent to be had out there either through FA or trades but it certainly seems like they are betting everything on the farm. That will not work and it’s unacceptable for a big market team.

    1. Dynastyin2016

      What free agents in 2014 or 2015 will be worth the money AND spend at least 1/2 of their contracts on a playoff team? Why sign someone to a huge contract to take you from a 65 win team to a 70 win team?

  14. gutshot5820

    I will be very disappointed if we RAMP up our payroll to only $145M as in 2011. Next year will be 2014, not 2011. We will have an extra 25M from MLB, new TV contracts, ticket price increases, additional revenues from stadium renovation, plus limited dollars being spent on the draft. Tom Ricketts’ promise that all revenues minus expenses will be applied towards baseball operation. All should add up to SIGNIFICANT increase in payroll, rivaling only the Yankees and Dodgers.

    1. Spencer

      And who is that money going to be spent on? Free agents aren’t exactly going to be aplenty in 2014. But, like, we could always spent 200M just for the hell of it.

      1. gutshot5820

        That’s not what I meant, obviously, but way to take a comment and run wild with it.

        1. Spencer

          What do you mean then?

          1. gutshot5820

            I meant their Payroll should potentially be up to the level of the Yankees and Dodgers, based on the current information available. How and when they actually decide to use their resources is a whole different discussion. Just making a comment that I would be disappointed if our Payroll was $145M. With all the new money coming into MLB, even the Cards should be able to reach that level.

    2. hansman1982

      Do I dare enter this discussion, again?

      “All should add up to SIGNIFICANT increase in payroll, rivaling only the Yankees and Dodgers.”

      If we take Forbes numbers as Gospel, the Cubs MAX payroll is $135M (and that is if they aren’t paying interest, taxes or for fixing up the stadium (normal maintenance).

      To put any team in the same category as the Yankees (or now, apparently, the Dodgers) is criminal.

      1. HubbaBubba

        Well said!

  15. RoughRider

    What hasn’t been said, is that the good players on a bad team get tired of losing and look to go elsewhere after awhile. Pitchers that are 9-13 look at what they could have done on a winning team and think, I should have, could have been 15 & 7 instead. The Cubs need to be a better than .500 team by 2014.

  16. 1060Ivy

    Wondering if we can just go ahead and recycle the interview, column and comments in 2014?

    Yes, the prospects will get another year of experience and the farm system may go from interesting to a Top 5 system but that still leaves the MLB team a long ways from 500.

    1. cub2014

      i think they are building towards 2014 and beyond. It seems
      pretty obvious to me. They are an ace, 3B and corner power hitting
      outfielder away from being really good. So prospects and or FA
      will be coming next year to fill those gaps. Which means you need
      1-3 prospects or 1-3 free agents, should be pretty easy to do.

      1. Kyle

        You just listed three of the hardest things in MLB to find.

        1. 1060Ivy

          Even sadder is when you think to the playoff teams of the 90′s and ’00′s had a majority of these 3 critical pieces – ace, 3rd base and RBI producing corner outfielder.

          Hell, it only took 29 years for the Cubs to replace their last All Star 3rd baseman. It seems like their are less high profile 3rd base prospects today than just about any other position. Maybe we should give the Cubs 30 years to develop/acquire their next 3rd baseman.

  17. Dustin S

    It’s hit home recently how huge this draft will be for a couple of reasons. One is simply because the FO can’t afford to miss on a #2 overall pick. But more important than that is whether they go high school or college player. It will say a lot whether they are looking at the window to win opening in say 2014-15 with a college player, vs. further out like 2017+ if they go high school. I thought they were going college player all the way, so I’ve been surprised that they’ve been saying high school prospects are still under consideration for the #2 pick. Maybe it is just smoke and mirrors, but as fans we’ll have some insight into how far off they really think this team is when draft time comes.

  18. CubsfaninAZ

    What everyone fails to realize is , when you have a top minor league system, trades can be made. With more Super stars getting long term extensions instead of testing Free Agency, trades will become the only way to obtain stars. So I wouldnt get to hooked on the kids, because some of them will be used to pursue the likes of David Price and Giancarlo Stanton. If you dont think the Cubs will go after those 2 players your crazy. What they lack right now is pitching depth in the minor leagues, which I think they will Draft every top pitching prospects they can and get them signed. Their is always small market teams that will have to “flip” star players because they cant afford them. Rays, Marlins, A’s are all teams that do so. Not only will the Cubs be players in getting those stars, they are also setting up payroll wise to be able to sign them long term. Their plan is setting it up perfectly, but like in many instances and conversations on here it’ll be based on the developement of these minor league guys! Adding Stanton or another big bat behind Castro and Rizzo, makes the roster more formidable, addin Price with Shark, Garza, Jackson, Wood gives you a great 4 man rotation for the next 4 years or more. Then hope a quality everyday 3rd basemen becomes available , and Boom we’re in business, and you can use up the FA dollars on shoring your bullpen. Thats how the league has transformed and this FO knows it!

    1. caryatid62

      The Cubs could deal their entire farm system and it still wouldn’t be enough for both Price and Stanton.

  19. dvs1313

    I guess I see it as the second worst team in baseball last year. Staring that date in the eyes this year. Prospects flame out, see Corey Patterson, bobby hill, ect. I understand you have to build from within but also how many yearsof bottom dwelling are we in for before the revolt comes. There has been no trade that has made this team better in my eyes. Rizzo shows signs but is not there yet. Wood is a bottom of the rotation guy. Stewart is hurt. There are only 3 names in the system to be truly excited about. I just want to see something or have a bit of light shed on the situation instead of politician speak. I love this team always have and always will. It always was an open organization that kept the fans informed. That seems to be over now and hard to get used to.

  20. jt

    If this team had Chapman, Kershaw and Middlebrooks folks would be getting in line for playoff tickets.
    They don’t have such a trio for those slots and they probably wont come close to post season. But a few stars and some experience for their younger core (Rizzo, Castro, Shark, Castillo) and things would/will quickly change.

    1. caryatid62

      If by “quickly” you mean “by 2016-2017,” then sure.

      1. jt

        Rizzo, Castro, Shark and Castillo will be seasoned vets by the end of this season.
        Arodys will be evaluated the 2nd half. He is probably the 2014 closer. If so, they need one star pitcher and one star position player to compete.
        I didn’t mind the 2012 rebuild. I don’t mind using this 2013 season to evaluate. But they could and should field a team of respect in 2014.

  21. BluBlud

    This is why I don’t understand Theo’s approach with the stud prospects. I don’t think you promote guys just to promote guys, Thats crazy, but holding guys back just because of some arbitrary amount of at-bats is just as crazy. If Soler shows he can handle Daytona, as he is showing early, he should be promoted soon. After 100-150 at-bats, the FO should have a good assessent. If he does the same at Tennessee, let the man play in the Majors. Same goes for Baez, Vogelbach, Almora and any other prospect in the system.

    I think slow pacing prospect to the majors when it’s not needed is going to make it hard for the Cubs to sign draft picks, and if the do, they are going to have to start over slotting to sign them. Prospect wanna make the show as soon as possible, and if they feel they are ready, and the team hold them back, they tend to remember those things. They talk to agents, and agents talk to each other, and word will travel back to other future prospects. If I’m a top prospect guy out of high school who feels I can make it to the majors in the amount of time of a Trout, Harper, Heyward or some others, and I’m drafted by Theo, then he would have a hard time signing me. And if you really want me to sign, then show me some money that is way over slot. Shit, I would have a better chance of reaching the majors faster by playing 3 years of college and getting drafted by another team. Just something to think about.

    1. Dynastyin2016

      Don’t get too hung up on Theo’s statement about minor league at bats. It’s all talk. He’ll do the right thing for the organization. It maybe different for each player because of timing, but he’s not going to keep Soler down ONLY because he didn’t have enough at bats.

    2. wvcubsfan

      Let’s worry about this when the Cubs have a talent equal to one of those three.

      1. Blublud

        That’s not the point. Plus, I would argue all those player I listed are better then or have the potential to be better then Jayson Heyward. I don’t care if the guy is only as good as David Dejesus or Nate Schierholtz, if he shows he is ready for the Majors, he should be in the majors. I dont really care if hes 18 or 28. Getting 600 at-bats at AAA just becasue is completely pointless. If the players need it, fine, but if not, why hold him back just because that’s the number Theo pulled out of his Ass.

        1. wvcubsfan

          If it wasn’t your point, why make it. Also why lump a player like Heyward in with Trout and Harper? I think Heyward will be a very good player for many years, but Trout and Harper far out class him.

          I took your point as “If I’m good enough to play in the bigs out of AA, I’m not signing with the Cubs”. My point is let’s wait until we have a player that is that good before we conclude that the current FO won’t let a prospect make that jump.

          1. Blublud

            They point was they were all in the bigs at the age of 20, or before. Not that one is this good or that good. Baez can play in the bigs this year. I believe Soler can also. Even if a guy projects to be the next Darwin Barney, if he reaches that potential, let him play in the bigs. Age and AAA at-bat bats should not have an affect on that. I would bet my left arm Baez or even Watkins could out perform Lillibridge, Valbuena or Gonzalez in the Majors right now. So why aren’t they there. I believe you should have you best 25 players at each position needed to build a complete team in the majors, regardless of age. Even worse then Baez, I think that Watkins should be on this team right now. Screw his service clock. If a GM does his job and locks up players if they perform, service clock shouldn’t be an issues anyway. If if you treat your players right, instead of holding them back for service clock issues only and costing them a prime year that might be worth millions, locking them will be no problem.

            1. wvcubsfan

              The only player in question I ever saw play live was Trout (AA Arkansas), and he was markedly advanced from every other player on the field. I’ve seen most of the Angels top prospects for the past seven years here and many were really good Wood, Trumbo, Conger, etc but no one looked like a men playing with boys other than Trout.

              I can understand what you are saying, especially Watkins, but at this point in time I’m going to defer to people who get paid to evaluate baseball talent. After all I wouldn’t want them telling me how to do my job when I’m pretty sure I know more about it than they do.

            2. Luke

              Baez can’t make consistent contact in A ball right now. I think we should we wait until he can before we plan his 2013 call up.

              1. Blublud

                Luke. I’m sure Baez would have at least 1 hit right now on the season. That makes him better then Lillibridge. If the Cubs had players worth while In front of him, I would agree. But if we are going to continue to sign and play players such as Lillibridge, Valbeuna, Gonzalez, Mather, Schierholtz (even though he looks decent so far) and I could name a few others then we don’t no need to be slow pacing prospect. Plus, I a sink or swim type of guy.

                1. JR

                  Lillibridge is train wreck bad. That has nothing to do with Baez. Baez has absolute major issues in his game right now. Who cares if he would have a couple hits in the majors, that means jack.

                  1. Blublud

                    It means he better then a current player on the roster. IMO, if you are a pro, then you are pro, and if I need you now because you are the best option, then damnit I’melvin going to call you up. Baez may or may not be ready. If he is still in the minor because he’s not ready, fine. If its because some GM think he needs this amount of at-bats, not fine.

                    Psss. I was just using Baez name. You can put any prospect on any team in this conversation and I would feel the same. It not about Baez. It about our players suck and we need to get better players to the major as quick as possible.

                    1. BT

                      You don’t start the arbitration clock on your best prospect because he might be better than the 25th man on your roster when you are not going to make the playoffs.

                      And no prospect in his right mind is going to give up a YEAR or more of eligibility and not sign with a team because he thinks there is a chance the team that signed him might promote him more slowly than an imaginary team down the line. It doesn’t make sense on its face.

                    2. Luke

                      So use Vitters and not Baez. After all, Vitters already has a few major league hits.

            3. JR

              Baez has sucked absolute balls at High A for awhile now. That sample size isn’t so small if you look at last year too. Why in the world would the Cubs move him to the Majors anytime soon? Plus he refuses to take a walk, which is obviously a HUGE problem. I know he went yard multiple times in spring training, but he has a nasty hitch in his swing. He’s got a lot of work to do.

              1. Blublud

                That may be true. I never said he would be a super star in the bigs this year, just that he was better then the guys we have. Also, if he needs the extra development, then no doubt, keep him in the minors. But don’t do it just because Theo, who I think is a better scout the GM though i support him completely, makes up an arbitrary number of at-bats or time at a certain level. If Theo had drafted Trout, he would just now be half way through AA and still be at least a year and half from making his debut.

                1. JR

                  OK, that’s cool and I agree with. I just think Trout is on a whole different planet than Baez. Baez’a approach blows.

                2. wvcubsfan

                  “If Theo had drafted Trout, he would just now be half way through AA and still be at least a year and half from making his debut.”

                  Really??? You honestly believe what you just wrote? You really think that if the Cubs had a true outfield talent in AA that was tearing it up at the level. If a starting outfielder at the ML level was injured Theo wouldn’t allow him to be called up because of some arbitrary number that they believe is in the best interest for the majority of players?

                  If so, this will be my last comment on this topic.

                  1. Blublud

                    Dude, if you can’t pick up that that was a sarcastic post, it means you are 1) too uptight, 2) never seen one of my post before (I tend to overstate things on purpose, mostly to make a point) or 3) have no sense of humor.

                    Though, I starting to feel that he would have slow pace Trout also. Not calling up Watkins over gonzalez, when he is already using an option year and is clearly ready also causing us to lose a pitcher who may not be very good but who could still be be considered an “asset” is a little mind boggling.

                    1. wvcubsfan

                      Guess Brett should add a sarcasm button. Honestly it’s hard for me to tell the difference between sarcasm and crazy in print anymore, especially on Cubs sites.

              2. DocPeterWimsey

                It (probably) is not that Baez *refuses* to take a walk; it’s just that he’s not able to recognize which pitches will be strikes and which pitches will not be strikes when the ball is 10′ from the pitcher’s hand.

                1. Blublud

                  You mean the same problem almora has. But not going to have this conversation again.

                  1. DocPeterWimsey

                    Why do you keep insisting that Almora cannot identify pitches when his low K rate falsifies that idea?

                    1. Blublud

                      Because he can’t take a walk. And if its that he is just choosing to swing at stuff because he can, the this organization is allowing him to learn bad habits that he will then have to learn to break. Why do consistently defend one prospect and consistently bash the other just because Theo drafted one and not the other.

                    2. DocPeterWimsey

                      Walks are not part of the deduction: again, poor batting eye -> high K’s & low BB. if not high K’s OR not low BB, then not poor batting eye. Note that this is a hard OR: either low K’s or high BB falsifies the “poor batting eye” idea.

                      Also, you misunderstand what the Epstein FO’s emphasize. “Selectively aggressive” means swinging only at pitches you can drive. If they throw 4 balls before you get that pitch, then, that’s not so bad: but the goal is not to draw walks, only to avoid hitting the ball poorly. So, if you get a pitch to hit hard before you get 4 balls, then hit it hard.

                      Basically, you can divvy it up like this:
                      high BB, low K: good eye, red zone = strike zone.
                      low BB, low K: good eye, red zone is most of strike zone;
                      high BB, high K: good eye, small red zone;
                      low BB, high K: bad eye, red zone does not stretch to other batter’s box or shoulders.

                    3. Blublud

                      I think you are wrong Doc. When I think of Almora, I think of Darwin Barney. In fact, Almora is a carbon copy of Barney offensively. A guy who doesn’t strike out a lot, but doesn’t walk a lot.

                      Meaning he has a bad batting eye but great contact skills. He swings at stuff he shouldn’t but because of his great contact skills, he still able to put the ball in play. But this tends to lead to softly hit balls that rarely finds the holes in the defense for hits. This leads to a low BABIP and there for a low BA.

                      So offensive ceiling, IMO, is about that of Barney. He’ll hit .260-.270, give you 10+ HR at the most while playing phenomenal defense up the middle. All this while post a 300-310 OBP.

                      If he turns into the CF version of Darwin Barney, that would be great, but that is about what I expect from him.

  22. JulioZuleta

    Ewww. I have a White Sox ad on my screen.

  23. Andre Robertson

    I think Theo has a solid plan which is building from within. Like any successful organization, you need a strong foundation. And that foundation is their minor leagues. They need a constant pipeline of talent coming from their minor league system. They can choose to bring these players up when they’re ready or trade a few of them for MLB experienced players. I think Theo also understands that he needs at least 5-10 great prospects in their system at any given time. Because when it comes down to it, 50-75% of your prospects will never be successful MLB players. Every organization has prospects that fail to make it. But the good organzations can rebound from a failure or two because they have several other prospects that do make it. This is why the failures of Pie, Patterson, Guzman, Choi, Orie, etc. stick out like a sore thumb. They were our ONLY prospects at that time. I applaud Theo and the rest of Cubs management. They walked into a minor league system ranked in the low 20s. Less than 2 years later, most rank it within the top 10.

    1. Koyie Hill Sucks

      The only problem with that is the MLB draft is the biggest crapshoot our of all mahor sports. You can’t build through the draft like you can in Baseball or Football… Money will have to be spent and they seem unwilling to do that.

      1. Andre Robertson

        Understood. The draft is a crapshoot. And that is why they’ve spent a large amount of money on scouting since Theo took over. Not only personnel, but the software applications to analyze players. They also spent a lot on their baseball schools in the Dominican Republic. Again, the more talent you can stockpile the better chance some of these guys will have an impact in MLB. I think you’ll also see the Cubs spending more money on free agents in a couple years. But right now, the focus is to build some talent from within.

        1. caryatid62

          It’s not binary. You can do both.

          1. bbmoney

            It’s not binary.

            But one has impact on the other, ignoring that is the same as ignoring the fact that it’s not binary.

            1. caryatid62

              Of course one has impact on the other. However, it shouldn’t be 100% of one, 0% of the other. The Cubs chose to add one long-term free agent over the last two years and reduced payroll by 30%. Aside from the Edwin Jackson deal, they’ve chosen to ignore the major league team in an effort to boost the system.

  24. Andy

    This comments thread is awesome. “THE SKY IS FALLING AND THE CUBS ARE GOING TO SUCK FOREVER!”

    I’d bet the team looks better in September (of this year) that it does today. I’d bet it’ll be better next year than this year. And I would bet by the end of next year, the Cubs will have a winning record. It takes around three years for teams to get better when they’re building with home grown talent. Look at the Brewers progression…in 04 they started bringing guys up and in 07 they led the division for a long time. In 08 they were in the playoffs. That’s the line Theo is following. Guys started coming last year (Rizzo, Shark, Barney, Jackson debuted, Travis Wood), this year, more growth will be made, and more next year, and the ball rolls.

    I don’t doubt Theo’s ability to draft/ develop talent for the following reasons: Anthony Rizzo, Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jon Lester, Clay Bucholtz, Jonathon Pappelbon. And I don’t doubt his ability to acquire cheap free agents who fill needs on championship teams, like David Ortiz, Bill Mueller, and Kevin Millar. Or to make trades or sign big names that add a big piece to a championship team, like Josh Beckett and Curt Schilling.

    Point is…the guy ended the drought in Boston. And their fans are crazy, too. Let’s give him a chance to do what he does and at least let it have a chance. We’ve waited all our lives. What’s another 2-3 years at this point?

    1. Andre Robertson


    2. caryatid62

      I’ll take that bet.

      Between now and the end of next season, the only two players from the minors who are likely to come up and get significant playing time are Brett Jackson and Arodys Vizcaino. This team will likely be mostly unchanged for next season and players such as DeJesus and Soriano (if they’re still here) are not going to improve. You’re betting that the improvement of guys like Castro, Rizzo, Castillo and Samardzija will carry this team; I disagree. This team will largely be stagnant throughout this season and into next, as there are few, if any, players from within the organization who will be joining the team and making a difference.

      1. Andy

        You’re right. I am betting on Castro (proven commodity who is still improving), Rizzo (who is still improving), Castillo (who is still improving), Darwin Barney (who is still improving) and Samardzija (who is still improving). Sense a theme, here? At the end of the 2014 season (which is 316 games away), I would anticipate that the core pieces, have made significant strides in their development, to the point where they more consistently win games. Even if Soriano is still a Cub at the end of next season, which seems more and more likely, if he still gives you 25HR/ 80 RBI, he’s a serviceable LF. DeJesus, in my opinion, turns into “controllable assets” this season. If Brett Jackson comes and plays good defense in CF while improving at the plate, he adds value to the team. Vizcaino is electric when healthy, and if he gets some ML innings this year, and cracks the rotation next year, that gives him innings to get better in a similar fashion to Shark.

        I am betting on a lot, but the Cubs have close to, if not, the best player development coaching staff in baseball. We saw improvements in a lot of guys last year. Barney, Castro, Rizzo, Shark…there’s no good reason to project regression from good young players.

        I can very easily see a 21 win improvement (61 last year after gutting the team halfway through)from last season to 82 (without gutting the team) at the end of next season. Hell, I’d argue that’s a conservative estimate.

        1. caryatid62

          Meanwhile, Soriano and DeJesus are declining (there is no evidence that Soriano will remain a 25 HR hitter into next year), Castillo has never demonstrated himself to be a great hitter (small sample size this season not withstanding), Barney has little to no offensive skill (and is probably at his peak at age 27-28), and they have no 3B whatsoever. Samardzija is not a “young player”–he’s 28. He’s in his prime. The only two young players this team has on the major league roster right now with star potential are Rizzo and Castro.

          Vizcaino is seen by most scouts as a bullpen arm and not a starter, and Jackson hasn’t shown anything that will indicate that he won’t strike out 250 times at the ML level.

          You’ve got about 50 variables that would all have to turn positive for the Cubs to do what you’re predicting. I just don’t see it happening.

          1. Andy

            Samardzija is in his 2nd year as a starter. He may be in his physical prime, but his innings count hasn’t been high, and he’s getting smarter. That has value. Barney is still a growing player as a ML 2B, since he came up a SS, and won a Gold Glove last season. He doesn’t strike out, he works pitchers, and he has the ability to be a .325 OBP guy by pure hustle and willingness to walk. I don’t know who you’re reading, but the guys that think Vizcaino is a bullpen arm are the ones who think Tommy John essentially ended his career. Starters come back from that surgery all the time, now. Even if he is relegated to the bullpen, with his stuff, he could be an electric closer. Take a look at the Marmol/ Axford combo at Wrigley this week, and get back to me with the value of a guy who can slam a door in the 9th. Let’s suppose you’re right about Jackson and he has a high K rate, and only gets on base at a .305 clip. He’s still a plus defender in center. He has a good arm. He will steal bases when he does get on. And he will still probably hit 15-20 long balls over a full season. Take a look around baseball…that’s not bad among most CFs not named Trout (who now plays left) and McCutchen.

            1. caryatid62

              Feel free to prove that Samardzija is “getting smarter” and what quantifiable implication that will have on his performance. Not your speculation–show proof.

              Darwin Barney has never had a .325 OBP in the major leagues. He had 33 walks to 58 K’s last year. He’s not the guy you’re claiming he is. He’s just not.

              Vizcaino was called likely a bullpen arm by pretty much every scout from Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus, as well as Keith Law. That’s pretty much all the major groups out there.

              If Jackson strikes out at over a 35% rate, he won’t be a major league player, no matter how good his defense is.

              You’ve got an overly optimistic interpretation of every single player you’ve identified on the Cubs. I’m sure one or (maybe) two of them will hit your interpretation, but most of them will not.

            2. willis

              How’s that TJ comeback working out with Scott Baker…oh wait a minute.

              TJ returns are never, ever close to a sure thing and even if the player returns, who’s to say they will be as good or better than before. Holding hope that someone like Vizcaino cracks the rotation, especially for the Cubs and their elbow history…is beyond overly optimistic and only setting yourself for severe disappointment.

              I do love Jackson though, and hope he can figure it out and be a contributor.

        2. Kyle

          It’s probably a pretty good bet that Barney, Castillo and Samardzija are already at their peak.

          1. willis

            I’m with you except for Shark. I think he can become dominant for a few years. His stuff is electric right now. The other two, yeah don’t bet the farm on them.

    3. ETS

      And if he happens to sign another crawford-esque deal (or 4) then we can just dump the salary obligations off on the dodgers and somehow manage to get great pitching prospects in return!

  25. Andre Robertson

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t Cubs management spend a ton of money on free agency between 2006 – 2009? Which lead to a playoff record of 0-6! Let me guess, you think we should have signed Pujols or Fielder for $200+ million last year.

    1. Rebuilding

      No, no one on this board seriously argues that we should have signed Fielder or Pujols. The spending those years led to 2 of the 5(?) playoff appearances this franchise has made in the last 68 years. The playoffs are a complete crapshoot, hell the Astros could sweep the Angels in a 3 game series this year. Is it likely? No, but strange things happen over three games

      1. Kyle

        It depends on how much we can truly spend if we want to. If we can handle $150m no problem, then Fielder’s contract doesn’t look that bad to me.

    2. caryatid62

      The team won 90+ games. A three game sample size in the playoffs is irrelevant to that.

      Besides, the problem with those teams wasn’t that they spent money on free agents. The problem was that they couldn’t draft and develop. If they had drafted well during those years, the team would be fine right now.

      The assumption was that Epstein would take the major league spending advantage Hendry had (or at least a large chunk of it) and combine that with a better drafting and developing, thus insuring both short- and long-term success. This has proven not to be the case.

    3. Kyle

      Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t Andy MacPhail come in and do pretty much everything Epstein has done and say everything Epstein has said? It didn’t result in much.

      1. MichaelD

        MacPhail’s plan eventually did get us that top farm system that Hendry used to make trades. The only problem is that it took nine years to get to that point (94 to 03), and we don’t have Sosa to put up years that made us a surprise contender (98 and 01) while waiting.

  26. CubsfaninAZ

    Anyone been watching the Yankees the last few years? Theyre a wreck beings all they do is sign old guys to huge contracts. Yet to stay competitive as they have been they rely heavily on “home grown” talent that has won the rings. aka Jeter , Rivera, Pettite… AROD and Teixiera’s contracts look painful and they are struggling to stay on the field, yet while theyre gone the Yankees fill in with cheap guys and win just the same because of the home grown guys! When the yankees were in “Dynasty” mode is wasnt because of the Huge Contracts, it was all the home grown guys. You get that core of home grown guys, then add to them with big trades and FA spending. Thats how you stay competitive for years. But for those who forget, the Yankees were horrible in the early 90′s as they averaged only 75 wins a season from 89-95, but then that core group came up and they’ve averaged 97 wins a season the next 17 YEARS! Notice jeter was a ROY in 96. Thats how you win the long run in a big market. So sit back have some fun and root for these young guys to step up ! This is a good plan and its about time someone took the reigns and did it. No more awful Milton Bradley deals just to say you got the best FA available for the position to satasfy a great but sometimes ignorant fan base! I’m all for it Theo!

    1. caryatid62

      Why is it one or the other? You realize you can draft and develop WHILE signing free agents, right?

      Since they began spending huge money and Rodriguez and Teixera came to the Yankees, they’ve been to the playoffs eight out of nine years, won a World Series, and ARod won two MVPs.

      I’ll take that in exchange for the problems they’re currently having seven days a week and twice on Sundays.

    2. Crazyhorse

      Yankees a train wreck – ? Yet they will stil be a better team than the Cubs and they made the playoffs how many times since 2000- all but one. (maybe two) damn good ! Are they looking at hard times/ maybe but they give thier fans a Team to root and cheer and when they underperform a reason to bOO. The Cubs its getting to a point that booing is boring as the team.

      1. HubbaBubba

        Cubs don’t have NEARLY the Yankees financial resources. The point is they grew a large talent pool before they loaded with the best free agents and it was a large part of the reason for their sustained success. Hope the cubs keep up their current system of development.

        1. Kyle

          The Yankees never stopped trying to spend their way to success while they built that core.

          1. dabynsky

            If you go by USA Today figures, the period where the Yankees rebuilt their farm system was a low point in their spending. The late eighties to early nineties saw them go from 1st to 2nd to 6th to 8th in major league payroll. And it was during that period which the team added Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettite, and Mariano Rivera.

    3. Rebuilding

      The state of this franchise has almost nothing to do with Soriano’s “bad” contract or Milton Bradley. It’s because our system has produced 2 impact type talents in 10 years. The previous regime focused almost exclusively on the MLB roster while ignoring the farm. I’m concerned because the new regime seems to be doing just the opposite – focusing on the farm and ignoring the MLB roster. It seems that the best organizations in baseball can do both effectively

      1. wvcubsfan

        I’m guessing you are excluding “impact type players” that were obtained from trading players from that horrible farm system.

        1. Rebuilding

          I wasn’t including the Ramirez deal. I guess you could argue D Lee. Is Garza impact?

          1. wvcubsfan

            I didn’t think you were. It seems that most people tend to ignore the trades when complaining about the farm systems during Hendry’s era.

            1. Rebuilding

              Ramirez was during the 2003 season. 10 years ago. The only 2 impact guys would be Lee and possibly Garza if you stretch the definition of impact. Who am I forgetting?

  27. willis

    Counting solely on prospects, no matter how many high picks you have, is a dangerous game. I like the idea of building the organization from top to bottom, but I hate tanking seasons and I hate watching this team get worse and worse every year instead of getting better. It’s been one of the toilet teams in baseball for four years now, with another likely bad season in the cards for next year. Is that really ok? Especially when you are a “big market” team? I think by the responses given on this forum and talking with many other cubs fans, the patience, even with the most loyal, is running thin.

    Adding Fuji and EJax were good solid moves that will help now and long term. More of that, along with building the farm system needs to happen. I don’t think anyone is doing a terrible job but I also think we’re going to see this organization run more like a middle market to small market on the major league level for awhile and we’re going to have to stomach a few more awful years. Anything could happen, but the short term looks really ugly, with the long term in question until we see more of the kids’ results. And I don’t want to retard anyone’s growth, but if they show success, I agree fire them through the ranks.

  28. Timmy

    I hate how baseball culture has moved to a period of ‘ownership logic’, where fans argue against their own teams and players to maximize team profits that the team doesn’t even plan to spend.

    Why have we stopped routing against winning if it will mean that owners will personally pocket 62million a year instead of 73million a year? The ethics of sports fandom is totally messed up these days.

    1. YourResidentJag

      So true.

  29. EvenBetterNewsV2.0

    “Every season is sacred”

    Starting to get the vibe they don’t mean at just the big league level even though that is the most visible.

  30. DONNIE621

    I for one like that there is a cogent plan in place. I do not think the Cubs or any team for that matter can [consistently] buy a winner. Building a farm system that produces and adding pieces seems like the way to go. I think that is the long term solution. If you look at the consistent winners their farm system produces. Over the past several years the Cubs were doing things to build resale value and not necessarily to win. They were always treating the symptoms and not problem.No I am pained that it is going to take more time but I think the pain is like healing pain… when the pain is over so is the problem (I hope).