Theo Epstein Speaks: Free Agent Binging, On-Base Needing, Players Regressing, Baez Baezing

theo epstein about thatChicago Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein address the media yesterday, discussing a wide range of topics. If you’d like to check out his full thoughts, you can see them here, here, here, here, here, and here, for example.

The topics of conversation, together with my thoughts/reactions/analysis/etc. …

  • On chasing big name free agents this offseason: “I don’t think we’re going to get to where we need to be through free agency for the short term, honestly. Given the needs that we have and where we are and the likely price tags on the market, I don’t think we’ll have the ability to add multiple impact pieces in free agency.” As usual, the quote is a parser’s dream. When Epstein says the Cubs can’t get to “where we need to be” by way of free agent signings in “the short term,” is he saying he doesn’t project the Cubs could turn in a playoff contender in 2014, even if they went hog wild in spending this offseason? Surely he can’t be, because the Cubs could absolutely build a paper playoff team if they were willing to drop hundreds of millions of dollars. Instead, I think the latter part of his quote informs the first sentence. Given this particular upcoming market, and the state of the Cubs’ rebuild, going nuts in free agency in order to build a “winner” in 2014 isn’t going to get the Cubs to where they need to be – i.e., with a team that annually has a chance to make the playoffs over a ten year stretch.
  • On the need to improve the team’s on-base percentage, Epstein essentially said that he’d like to see the Cubs leading the league in that stat, and he wants it to be a hallmark of the organization. He indicated that the Cubs will look for it in free agency, but, for financial reasons, they’re not in a position to be able to go out and just buy as much on-base percentage as they want. Unnervingly, Epstein noted that some of the younger, impact players working their way up through the system are not prototypical on-base guys, and they could stand to have a veteran showing them how to grind out at bats. It feels like the angle to these kinds of questions is some variation of, “So, are you going to sign Shin-Soo Choo or not?” Reading over the accounts of Epstein’s responses, I get the sense that the Cubs aren’t ruling it out; but they recognize that they are in a financial situation where they can’t have confidence that, if they want Choo, they can get him no matter what. As I’ve always said about Choo, or any other bigger name free agent this offseason, it depends a great deal on how the market develops.
  • At the same time, you have to take all of this not-ready-to-spend stuff with a grain of salt. The Cubs weren’t ready to spend in 2013, either, and yet they added Edwin Jackson (narrowly missing on Anibal Sanchez), Carlos Villanueva, Scott Feldman, Scott Baker, Kyuji Fujikawa, and Nate Schierholtz through free agency. I take Epstein at his word, as I always have, that the Cubs won’t be huge spenders this Winter, half because it doesn’t make sense to be (either because the players aren’t worth the required investment or because they won’t be the difference between losing and winning), and half because the money isn’t there yet. It sucks that the baseball operations department doesn’t have an unlimited supply of cash to use however they want, but we’ve known that was the case for a while now. That doesn’t mean there won’t be acquisitions. And, if the Cubs do pursue Masahiro Tanaka and/or Shin-Soo Choo, what exactly are we talking about here? The Cubs were unable or unwilling to pursue … Robinson Cano? Jacoby Ellsbury? There aren’t many free agents that are “bigger” than Tanaka or Choo, so it’s important to remember that the kinds of players Epstein could be saying the Cubs must eschew this offseason might be the kinds of big money free agents they’d want to eschew anyway. I guess what I’m saying: even if you accept that the Cubs don’t plan to be competitive in 2014, other than Choo or Tanaka, I’m not sure I see any big name “you have to sign them when they’re available” candidates.
  • On the (failed?) attempt to rework Starlin Castro’s plate approach: “We made an effort to introduce [Castro] to the concept of getting a pitch he can really drive, because in the long run, that can benefit him. But if that can’t be accomplished without him being himself as a hitter, you have to let time play its course, and he’ll naturally evolve that way.” Epstein suggested that, long-term, Castro will be better for having gone through this experience – not just the struggling and overcoming part, but the actual plate approach part. Even if it didn’t “take,” he’s still likely to come out of this a more selective hitter, who waits for pitches he can drive.
  • Epstein is pleased that Anthony Rizzo is among the league leaders in walks and extra-base hits, but the average being so low is a bit puzzling. (I take that to be his public thoughts; Rizzo’s got an 11.5% walk rate, a .188 ISO, and a .249 BABIP – in those numbers, alone, there are reasons to believe he’s going to be fine.)
  • On evaluation Dale Sveum this year, Epstein used a whole lot of words, but didn’t say much. Epstein wouldn’t commit to Sveum returning in 2014 (Sveum is under contract for 2014), but only because there is an evaluation process going on right now, which happens every year.
  • Epstein reiterated that the Wrigley Field renovation (at least not any revenue-generating portions) is not expected to get underway this offseason. Very disappointing.
  • Epstein said that the plan is for Javier Baez to open 2014 as the starting shortstop at AAA Iowa. He might get some looks at second base and third base this offseason, but there is no plan to move him off of shortstop until he’s absolutely knocking down the door of the big leagues, and still stuck behind a healthy/productive Starlin Castro.

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

238 responses to “Theo Epstein Speaks: Free Agent Binging, On-Base Needing, Players Regressing, Baez Baezing”

  1. TulaneCubs

    The Cubs beat writers really brought out the stupid yesterday with the whole,”The Cubs won’t spend in free agency!” That’s actually not at all what was said, Epstein clearly just said they wouldn’t be acquiring multiple big names through free agency. Instead, several guys (looking at you in particular, Jesse Rogers), threw out a sensationalist headline and framed the discussion poorly.

    Have I mentioned I really don’t like Jesse Rogers? I know Brett has played nice on the podcast, but the guy seems to be trolling for readers and I frankly don’t think he knows enough about the Cubs or baseball in general to do his job.

    On the flip side, nice to see you and Sahadev immediately pick up on the “multiple” and explain that they may spend, it just might be on 1 guy rather than 3 or 4 (which makes sense).

    1. mreverything

      Tulane, I couldn’t agree with you more. I don’t know how he still has a job.

    2. hansman1982

      “(looking at you in particular, Jesse Rogers), ”

      Meh, he completely lost me as a viable Cubs beat reporter after the meatball Bryant article. Based on that, I could be an ESPN beat guy.

  2. The Other Matt

    Brett, you know I love Bleacher Nation, you do fantastic work, and I know you need to make a living, but the ad at the top right is very annoying.

    1. Cubbie Blues

      Then change your browsing habits. Many of the adds are based off of your search history.

      1. The Other Matt

        I haven’t done any searching for mouthwash. Problem is there’s sound and no way to shut it off.

        1. EuroCub

          There is. It’s called “Adblock” and not using IE.

          The last paragraph make me wonder whether the FO still has that much faith in Castro as they did when they signed him to the contract he got now. With no plan for Baez to be considered for trying 2B/3B, could he be the replacement of Starlin, if his decline continue ?

    2. MichiganGoat

      Yeah its based on browsing history and IP location. Right now my upper right add is about a country club membership in Grand Rapids. I’ve never searched for country clubs and never play golf so its because of my location, now the personalized beer growlers… thats from my search history.

      1. CubFan Paul

        He meant it was an auto-play noise ad not Dominican Cupid…

        1. MichiganGoat

          Well if that is the case Brett might be able to change that, I believe he has in the past. And “Dominican Cupid” is that the ad you always see?

          1. Lou Brown

            And the ad in my browser is always for Magnum XXXL condoms…

            1. wvcubsfan

              Did you google “Something I’ll never have the need for”?

          2. miggy80

            I get the Dominican Cupid ad and a Jesus is Lord Christian singles ad. Isn’t that an oxymoron?

    3. The Other Matt

      I’ve refreshed a few times so I could see who all was blaming me for the ads I get, and I haven’t had any other troublesome ones, so it was apparently just the one. No biggie. Keep up the great work Brett!

    4. cubs2003

      Brett has to make a living. I come to this site every day for free. If I have to see some ads I don’t care about, so be it. Audio is a huge no-no in web/UX design as far as I know, though. That’s on the advertisers.

  3. Aisle 19

    The ad on top for me, is a Cabela’s ad.

    1. Cyranojoe


  4. Moises Canchola

    I love my cubs dearly and the thing is that the cubs are trying to put an emphasis on building this organization right i.e. what the pirates, A’s, and rays have done by scouting well and finding guys that contribute as a team and not so much individually, but the thing is these are all small market teams who cant do what the Yankees, Red Soxs, Dodgers and yes even the Cubs can do. The Cubs need to find big Market names and scout well so they could be players every year, because if they do what the Pirates and A’s then there wont be chicago playoffs til 2016 if not longer

    1. TulaneCubs

      I have to say, it infuriates me that comparisons to these teams comes up again and again.

      Here are the payrolls this year for those teams you mentioned:
      Cubs: $104M
      A’s: $68M
      Pirates: $66M
      Rays: $57M

      The Cubs have a significantly higher payroll than all of these teams. Even if they keep payroll flat (which is clearly not the direction the Cubs have given, they’ve talked about ramping up payroll), they’re still way outspending the teams you mentioned.

      The Cubs can build the organization while supplementing it with free agents, which is something that hamstrings the clubs you listed.

      All that being said, just like any team, the Cubs need to find a way to use that payroll in the most efficient way possible. The best way to do this is to align free agent spending as closely as possible with a surge in talent, so that your expensive players aren’t in decline when your prospects have finally gotten to the big leagues. That’s why blowing it out of the water in FA last year or the year before wouldn’t make sense. They’d be hamstrung by big contracts to aging players just when they needed those players on big contracts to perform.

      The interesting piece is a guy like Tanaka, who you can sign and he’ll be in his prime for years. That kind of player always makes sense to invest in… and that’s why he’ll be so sought after.

      I don’t even think I finished my thought here, but I have to run, just wanted to rant.

      1. bbmoney

        “The Cubs can build the organization while supplementing it with free agents, which is something that hamstrings the clubs you listed.”

        That statement infuriates me….because it’s not like the Cubs didn’t sign some free agents last year. Edwin Jackson was actually one of the bigger signings of the off season.

        1. wvcubsfan

          Didn’t you both just say the same thing in different ways? Not sure why that statement infuriates you. He states the Cubs can sign FA’s unlike the other ones, and you rightly point out that the Cubs did in fact sign a fairly significant one just last year.

        2. TulaneCubs

          You just echoed what I said, so I’m not sure why it infuriates you. The Cubs will build their minor league system while still investing in free agents that fit their timeline, just as they did with EJax last year.

          1. Cyranojoe

            I think it’s possible to read a slight implication of the Cubs “can but won’t” in your post — not saying you meant it that way, but I think bbmoney understandably saw it in there. No biggie.

      2. cubs2003

        Does the Cubs number include money being paid to Soriano, Marmol, etc?

      3. Reality Check

        104M WAS the payroll at the beginning of the year.

        right now; Feldman at 6M, hairston at 2.5M, Soriano at 18M, Dejesus at 5M, and ejaz with a 8M bonus this year only plus marmol at 11M are not on the team. yes, they are paying sori and marmol’s salary(most of it), but using the full value; payroll is really 50M lower; or about the same as the a’s, rays, etc.

        AND cubs are drawing 2.6M this year; none of the others are 2M plus…………..

        that’s a BIG problem.

        1. cubs2003

          Reality Check, thanks for pointing that out. I think the payroll for players actually playing for the Cubs is important right now from a fan perspective.

        2. wvcubsfan

          6+2.5+5+8 does not equal 50. You go as far as to point out the Cubs are paying the majority of Sori and Marmol’s contracts, but yet add the full value of that salary into your number to make your point.

  5. wilbur

    sounds to me like Epstein is saying he isn’t going to tip their hand. I agree that if their is a guy they think is a fit and they want to add him now, they’ll go after him. Even if this runs counter to the theme used in the serial cubs articles. I suppose if you don’t have anything exciting to report you just complain about lack of payroll or down attendance or some other canard.

  6. EvenBetterNewsV2.0

    Does anyone honestly think we shop Castro in the offseason. He just seems so far out of what this FO likes it seems plausible. On the flip side, Baez isn’t much better from an approach standpoint. It just feels like Shark and Castro will be shopped at some point.

    1. MichiganGoat

      Sure we should shop him why not? We’ve got upcoming player that can play SS and if he can get us a top player in trade (think Price, Stanton, CarGo) shouldn’t we?

      But I don’t think it will happen.

      1. Jay

        At least they seem to have figured out that this “OBP at all costs” approach didn’t work with Castro, and it would be nice if they would leave other players with his abilities and instincts alone in the future.

      2. Cyranojoe

        Not sure we want to do that after this season. Not exactly selling high.

    2. cubchymyst

      I just went and looked at Starlins and Baez walk rates in the minors and both posted around 8% walk rate in AA. The fact that the front office is leaving Baez at short to start AA is likely for 2 reasons. 1- Position availability, Alacantara will likely be at 2B and if Olt doesn’t break camp with the Cubs he will be at 3B. 2- I don’t think the front office has made up its mind yet as far as to keep both Castro and Baez or trade one (likely Castro since he has shown an inability to adopt to their approach while Baez walk rate has increased in the minors).

  7. PKJ

    I wonder if this is just psychological posturing. Sort of, “Yeah, I don’t really think you’re that cute, but if you want to go out with me, that’s cool.” That’s wishful thinking anyway.

  8. North Side Irish

    Didn’t the Cubs just announce that they won’t be doing the ice skating rink this year due to the construction? So are they moving forward with the clubhouse renovations, but not the new signage?

  9. cubfanincardinalland

    I think Epstein is a brilliant executive, and will build the Cubs into a consistent winner if given the proper assets to do it. But why do these guys often think they can coach the game? And I find it really irritating that he rationalizes their mistakes, by saying that it was fine to mess with Castro, because he will be better for it in the long run. Huh?
    I coached college basketball for 20 years, and they broke some of the iron clad rules of any successful coach.
    If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.
    Never make instinctual players like Castro over think technique. (See Bull Durham, don’t think, you will only hurt the ballclub.)
    Don’t ask your players to do things they don’t do well. (Flip side, let them be themselves and do the things they succeed at.)
    Always remember, you mess with them and they fail, they will blame you.(Actually Castro deserves a lot of respect for not ripping on the coaches and front office, many players would be bitching big time.)

    1. mjhurdle

      I would argue that parts of Castro’s technique were broken, in regards to his OBP and power.
      It is easy to look back now and say ‘OMG! YOU MESSED HIM UP!”, but at the time everyone was clamoring for Castro to take more walks, and complaining about his free-swinging habits.
      So they attempted to make him a better hitter by getting him to be more selective, and it didn’t work.
      Many players make adjustments to their approach/swing as dictated by their coaches and it works out for the good. Many players can’t.
      I don’t fault them for trying to make a very good SS an elite SS. im just disappointed that, for whatever reason, it didn’t work. 2012 Castro with more power and higher OBP would be amazing.

      1. Kyle

        I fault them for not realizing it wouldn’t work. Making the right decisions in situations like this is sort of their job.

        If he turns out to be fine, then no harm done. But if he can’t get it back, that’s a huge black mark on their player development record.

        1. Jay

          I just don’t understand how you look at a guy hitting .300 and getting 200 hits a season and then start worrying about his walk rate and making noises about the moving parts in his swing.

          1. TulaneCubs

            Pretty simple. They looked at that and said,”If this guy could learn to walk and still do this, he’s a HOFer. He’s hitting right now and he’s not even hitting good pitches. Imagine if he was hitting good pitches. Even if he struggles this year, we could probably just let him loose and he’d go back to his old ways.”

            1. When the Music's Over

              That’s the problem. They took a far too basic/simple approach into a complicated situation.

          2. Bill

            Agreed. The blame here falls on Theo/Dale, not Castro.

            1. Reality Check

              let’s also remember castro’s age; whether or not hes making millions; he’s 23………as a 23 yr old did any of us listen to parents or bosses very much, especially when he’s come from a poor foreign county by hitting his way off the island, had success in the minors hitting .350 prior to being called up and then hit .300 2 yrs in a row plus 2 all-star games; and the “new guys” in charge want to screw with all his thoughts and mechanics…….wtf did they think was gonna happen?
              (and based on his age and # of hits plus .300 avg; he was on pace for a HOF career…….so what was the goal exactly……..)
              funny thing is baez is the same player with more power; boy then need to leave him alone too.
              (having baez start at SS next year at iowa and NOT play 3rd…….another huge decision going wrong…..he cannot lear 3b at the majors; and don’t assume castro can play 2b or be traded……..worse case baez struggles ; so what; he’s 20 and in iowa. fix it the next year).

              1. cubs2003

                Castro was rushed to the big leagues. I’m trying to think of a player who successfully changed their entire approach at the plate early in their MLB career and I’m coming up empty. Players got better OBP skills by increasing their power, sure. I’m trying to understand what the FO expected. Hitting MLB pitching has to be hard as hell, and when you’re hitting .300(BA, I know) and they tell you you’re doing it wrong, what the hell is the player supposed to think? Especially a young player. Should have left the kid alone. Better approach at the plate should be taught from the ground up, not at the major league level.

        2. mjhurdle

          “I fault them for not realizing it wouldn’t work. Making the right decisions in situations like this is sort of their job.”

          i personally don’t operate on the hind-sight technique. I try to judge decisions with the same knowledge we had when the decisions were made.
          At the time, you had a .300 hitter with no power whose OBP basically equaled his batting average.
          They tried to introduce the concept of taking pitches and being more selective with the hope that, at the worst his OBP would improve, and hopefully power would increase as he got/identified more drive-able pitches.
          Is there risk there? of course, there is always a risk. But at the time the rationale made sense to me, and still does.
          Of course now, it is really easy to see that Castro was obviously going to take the changes, start over-thinking every AB, get into a hole in most ABs, then strikeout trying to protect the plate. This would send him into the first prolonged slump of his career that he might just now be getting out of.
          Everything is obvious in hindsight.
          And if someone disagreed at the time, i respect that. But even at the time, there is no way that someone could say with confidence that they ‘knew’ that this would happen. It was a thought out decision to improve a limited hitter. And it didn’t work.

          1. When the Music's Over

            The front office is paid very handsomely (probably highest in baseball without checking) to know which players this type of endeavor will work with and which it won’t. We, as fans, have the luxury of questioning their moves with hindsight in hand.

            Either way, the literal exact opposite of what you wrote they hoped to achieve happened, and that sucks hard, hindsight or not.

          2. Kyle

            Crying “hindsight” is a great way to decide that neither yourself nor others that you support have ever, ever been wrong. It’s a dodge, nothing more.

            1. wvcubsfan

              I’ve got no problem with this either, as long as “hindsight” is acceptable for both sides. What I hear is the FO is stupid crazy for messing with Castro, but Castillo was going to be good anyway so they get no credit for that improvement.

              1. Jimbotron

                “They get no credit,” Are you reading the same comments section as me?

              2. Kyle

                Who said that?

            2. mjhurdle

              “Crying “hindsight” is a great way to decide that neither yourself nor others that you support have ever, ever been wrong.”

              Maybe in your mindset, that is true.
              But i feel that “crying hindsight’ is a great way for people that lack the stones to take a stand on anything until the results are out.
              If my football team goes for it on 4th and 1 late in the 4th, you can judge whether that decision made sense at the time or not. And the result of the play does not determine the strength of the decision.
              Supporting the decision or remaining silent while it is made, and then raising hell when the results weren’t what you want is hindsight.
              It isn’t dismissing that the Cubs made a mistake with Castro to say that 90% of the people crying about it now backed the decision at the time.
              But again, read it how you will.

          3. Eternal Pessimist

            A+ for your comments MJ. If we have to fear that teaching better techniques has the potential to do harm to the player we should just eliminate all the coaches from the minors and let the players figure it out for themselves.

            Not sure what type of personality testing the players had to go through, but maybe there was some morsel in Castro’s test that showed solidly that he cannot/should not be coached because he will just melt. Maybe some of the posters to this site knew he shouldn’t be tampered with (doubt). Shame on the coaches (sarcasm).

            1. Kyle

              Who cares if we knew or not?

              Their job performance is not measured by whether or not they know more than us.

      2. jj

        I fault the team because they adopted a complete change of Castro’s batting style and approach in an effort to aid the development of Castro’s power (and boost his OBP). Scouts (and posters) projected Castro as a 15-25 HR hitter. But, Castro already had a season with 14HR and 12 triples while hitting “his way” — at the age of 22. I would have suggested minor changes to increase walks, perhaps, but a wholesale change of approach? It doesn’t make sense. Power was likely to continue to appear as he ages, meaning without changing his approach Castro could hit .300/.340/.475 – which would annually have him among the best hitting SS in baseball.

        1. mjhurdle

          i understand what you are saying, and i guess perhaps i misunderstand what changes they made to Castro.
          From what i have read, the changes were mostly in the approach to simply be more selective. To me that is not as much of a major change as changing a stance or a making changes in a swing.

          If all they did was get Castro to take more pitches and wait for his, then i don’t fault the Front Office. If they re-tooled his entire approach and swing, then i would agree that the Front Office bears the brunt of the blame.

          1. When the Music's Over

            One could easily argue that telling a player to master which pitches to swing at is much, much harder than telling a player how to go about swinging at pitches.

            You can have me repeat a swing 10,000 times, and by the end of that process, I’ll probably have a pretty repeatable swing. On the other hand, you can throw me 10,000 pitches, and I may never learn which ones are worth swinging at.

            1. mjhurdle

              the problem with that is these players have repeated a certain swing more than 10000 times. Many times more.
              So now you have someone that has a hard-coded, repeatable swing that he is so used to re-creating he doesn’t even think about it, and you change it.
              There is no telling if he will ever learn the new swing, or even if he would be able to return to the old swing that was second nature for years.

              same risk i guess, but i think it is harder to get over the physical struggle than mental, because mental is usually just mental, but physical can create new mental struggles as well.

              1. When the Music's Over

                Mental struggles can for sure create physical struggles.

                Either way, as I said, one can easily argue for one side or the other. I don’t think tinkering with swings or approaches is anything even close to simple, and is a task that likely carries considerable risk as a player gets older

  10. Oswego Chris

    I will be disappointed if they don’t pursue Tanaka….Choo?..meh

    As far as Svuem, I have neither been overly impressed or disappointed, u obviously can’t judge him by wins and losses…but I am not sold on him as a leader yet

  11. When the Music's Over

    Outside of perhaps landing Tanaka, it’s starting to look like the 2013/2014 offseason will look pretty similar to the 2012/2013 offseason.

    1. jh03

      Have you not checked out the MB? The Cubs will be trading for CarGo, Price, Stanton, signing Cano, and Tanaka. And all they will have to give up is Vitters, Jackson, Sczcur, etc. It’s going to be epic!

      1. mjhurdle

        Die Hard has us trading Rizzo and Castro for Trout, so we have that going for us as well.

        1. jh03

          So a lineup of :

          C- Castillo
          1B- awesome guy we don’t know yet. I vote Tony Campana.
          2B- Cano
          SS – Baez
          3B- Bryant (Jesse Rogers at his finest)
          LF- CarGo
          CF- Trout
          RF- Stanton

          With Price and Tanaka to head our rotation. I like our odds.

          1. hansman1982

            1B – Depends, do we have enough scrubby, really good 2 years ago, prospects left to trade for Goldschmidt?

            1. jh03

              Why did they let Bryan LaHair go to Japan?! He could have been perfect trade bait for Goldschmidt.

              Maybe a combo of Edwin Jackson, Kevin Gregg, and superstar-to-be Kyle Hendricks will net Goldschmidt.

      2. MichiganGoat

        And still have a payroll under 100M

        1. jh03

          Of course. Cheap bastards.

  12. terencem

    “Epstein said that the plan is for Javier Baez to open 2014 as the starting shortstop at AAA Iowa.”

    That just made my whole off-season experience much happier. Very happy to see the team thinks he can make it there at this point. I’d expect we won’t see him until the middle of the summer but just knowing the possibility is there feels good.

    1. wilbur

      I’ve read a few times now people are expecting to see him on the chicubs next season, so this is in line with what they were saying. They were also saying the same for Bryant but we’ll see on that one, not sure if he is seen as being as far along or not. If they add a free agent and make a trade in advance of the youth arrival in mid season then it might turn out to be a generally better year with showing of promise.

    2. cub2014

      iowa and tennesee will be fun to
      watch next summer. I am assuming
      Bryant on his way to TN especially if
      Olt is in chicago

  13. Blublud

    “Epstein said that the plan is for Javier Baez to open 2014 as the starting shortstop at AAA Iowa.” 

    I bet Hansman is a little upset by this. He was so sure Baez would start at AA.

    1. baseballet

      It is possible, likely even, that Theo intends to send Baez to AAA just to spite Hansman.

      1. hansman1982

        I am absolutely shocked. Considering his K rate jumped at the end of the year. Then again, maybe they think his reworked approach broke down and that is what caused the spike so they want him to taste some failure.

        Although, I did get this text message from a Boston area phone number late yesterday:

        “SUCK IT TREBEK!”

        1. Norm

          I think they do want him to taste some failure and the fact that he still succeeded at AA even with the K rate means the FO wants to expose him to the refined breaking balls he’ll see in AAA.

          1. hansman1982

            I’m back to the track that it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if he is traded this winter. That K rate scares the shit out of me and the BB rate didn’t get anywhere special this year.

            1. Edwin

              Power rate plays nicely, though.

            2. Blublud

              Hansman, you crazy if you think Baez is traded.

              1. wvcubsfan

                Not sure why that would have to be crazy. If you want to trade for top shelf talent you will have to give top rated prospects back in the deal. I could see Baez involved in a Price or Stanton deal.

  14. Edwin

    Maybe the Cubs can kick the tires on Kelly Johnson, Ben Zobrist, or Kevin Youkilis. Maybe Hunter Pence for the OF?

    1. mjhurdle

      i would really like Zobrist, but i think the Rays have an option on him, and i think they will exercise it. could be wrong about that though.

      1. Edwin

        You’re probably right. I was bored, so was browsing MLB Trade Rumors FA list, just looking for ways the Cubs can put a better team on the field. Obvioulsy C, SS, 1B, and at least one OF spot are probably already locked down by Castillo, Castro, Rizzo, and Sheirholtz.

        It’s too bad, because the Cubs have some holes at positions to play around with, but there doesn’t seem to be too many options out there.

        Maybe the Cubs can kick the tires on that time machine?

  15. Kyle

    Obviously, buying all the best players would be awesome.

    But within a limited budget, concentrating our money on a single target makes more sense this year than it did last year.

  16. Kyle

    “We’re not necessarily in a position to do that (again), depending on the price tags and needs that we have, the way the market evolves,” Epstein said. “That would be nice if we could find the right guy and the right contract and drop him in.”

    That’s in reference to the $52m we gave Edwin Jackson. If we can’t even afford an Edwin Jackson this offseason, this kind of sucks.

    1. bbmoney

      It does. But I don’t think he’s definitively saying that.

    2. wvcubsfan

      If they can’t afford to pick up an Edwin Jackson type contract then yes, it kind of sucks. If they can’t afford to pay $50M over 4 years for an under performing player then I can see the point.

    3. wilbur

      Still paying Soriano again next year too right? Be nice to have that money available.

  17. hansman1982

    Like you said, it all depends on what your thought was on the Cubs finances before he spoke.

  18. Rudy

    It’s all about Tanaka for me… With a side of Granderson!

  19. Cubbie in NC

    I am all for the Cubs getting pitching as long as it is not for 8 years the last 4 of which the person is past their prime as long as they are a higher end guy 1 or 2 starter, or experienced back end bullpen guy. The Cubs are loaded with 4 or 5 starters and so so relievers.

    I can also see a centerfielder with speed and can hit lead off.

    Theo is not going to give his plan away, and so other than being patient not a lot that can be done now. I do not want to give guys huge deals that in 2 years do not fit. Look at all the guys he has gotten rid of since he got here. Baez, Bryant, Soler, Olt, Alcantra, could quickly fill the positions of need. I think that he is prudent to not give anything away as I can see the Cubs creating a package to get a top flight guy.

    As far as Dale goes I think that he has done a pretty good job for the most part polishing the turd. He is getting guys (other than Watkins) into the game so they have a chance to develop. He is being asked to manage more like a minor league guy than a World Series guy. He knows his job is about developing and then winning. He needs a chance to prove what he can do when winning is more of a priority.

  20. BD

    What about Ubaldo Jimenez? Any chance he comes cheap enough that the Cubs are in on him?

    1. Rudy

      Just saw a tweet on him. Sounds like he is have a great 2nd half. I’d love to have him too but he might price himself out.

  21. miggy80

    We all like to speculate about who or which FA to sign. Yet I wonder how many FA’s look at Wrigley and think “the facilities suck there. I’ll instead go to team X for about the same money and modern facilities” or “hey the Cubs are not going to be competitive I’m not signing there”. I believe it’s a mistake to think every FA would like to play for the Chicago Cubs at this point in time.

    1. Cubbie in NC

      I agree it has to be a two way street. I get to lose and go to bad facilities?? Where do I sign up for that?

    2. Pat

      Surprisingly, as far as big market clubs go, there is still some appeal because the overall taxes are much lower (never thought I’d refer to Illinois taxes as low) than New York or L.A. Equal contract means a bigger take home here, especially in comparison to NY.

  22. jon

    I think for most FA’s, the mainly see green.

  23. cubfanincardinalland

    75% of it is the money. Cubs have a good reputation among players. Organization treats the players well and Chicago is a great city to play ball in. Read Bryce Harper’s quotes on how excited he was to play at Wrigley for the first time this summer.
    A guy like Cano would want to be on a playoff team, but most guys follow the money.

    1. Mr. B. Patient

      “Cubs have a good reputation among players. ”

      Is this true now?

  24. Gutshot5820

    Just watched the movie Major League again. Awesome movie, Reminds me of the Ricketts, an owner out for only profits. Would be nice if we could have a baseball fan owner that would spend a bit of money regardless of new tv contracts and sponsors’ etc… This turd of an owner we have will only spend money until all his debts are paid and he is guaranteed a profit. Theo has assembled a team of misfits, has beens and never will be’s. Thank you Ricketts for four great years of declining payroll along with the highest ticket prices in baseball. You cheap greedy owner.

    1. jon

      I wonder if Laura is prancing around the locker room grabbing Rizzo’s jockstrap?

      1. Cubbie Blues

        Uh, doesn’t she play for the other team?

        1. jon

          Maybe she’s a switch hitter?

      2. Gutshot5820

        I’m sure we have our own version of Willy May Hayes, Jobo and Wild Thing somewhere in our lineup!

        1. jon

          If we are lucky we will have our “Tananka” next year….

    2. mjhurdle

      Are you trying to out-DieHard DieHard?
      Because, no matter how hard you are trying, i just don’t think that it is possible.

    3. deej34

      Are you being dramatic or do you really believe Rickett’s only wants profits? Yea, we aren’t bidding on the Prince Fielders and highest end free agents, but do any of us want declining/injury ridden players on the back half of their career?

      Just looking at the international signings and draft says Ricketts is more than willing to spend money! When it is smart and an investment in talent and progress.

      Maybe you mistook the Cubs for the Astros and their ability to sell players to make money with a loser.

      1. Gutshot5820

        You just proved my point. Now we have people/fans pointing to the Astros as the reason why we are not cheap. LOL Ricketts have done a real good job brainwashing the fans and lowering our expectations. Have we set our standards this low now? How about comparing the Cubs to comparable large market teams and teams with comparable ticket prices? No, that would make too much sense.

    4. Rich

      GutShot….really dude? That is a pile of crap and you know it.

      1. MichiganGoat

        Hi Rich have you met gunshot?

    5. Gutshot5820

      They should just put up a life size picture of Tom Ricketts and Laura in the locker room and peel off a section of their clothing every time they lose. That should motivate them to win,.

  25. MightyBear

    I’ll be disappointed if they don’t go after Ellsbury. I’m sick of the we’ll go after Choo because he’s a cheaper option. He’s cheaper because he’s not as good. Worst defensive CF in NL last year. Ellsbury is a gold glove player with a good OBP, speed and some pop. He will be 32, 33 when the kids get there, he’s a professional and he’s won a world series ring. There’s no one in the organization to man CF when the kids do get there. Almora is too young and too far away. He is the one high priced FA that would fit the “Plan” and help the offense tremendously, which is what they need. Now and in the future.

    1. bbmoney

      Choo should in no way shape or form be considered a CFer if the Cubs sign him or for whoever he signs with. He’s not even a very good defensive corner outfielder anymore by most reports. He’s been good enough this year to outweigh his terrible defense, but he is terrible in center.

    2. Edwin

      I’m sure the Cubs are interested, but in the current FA crop, Ellsbury will probably be the best FA on the market other than Cano, so I’m sure a lot of teams will have interest. The price might be driven too high.

      I imagine that if the Cubs sign Choo, they’d stick him in LF. The Cubs might go after Choo because he’d be better value than Ellsbury.

  26. jt

    fro Cubs
    2013 OBP from 2B 0.270
    2013 OBP from RF 0.295
    2013 OBP from LF 0.306
    just sayin’

  27. Aaron

    “I don’t think we’ll have the ability to add multiple impact pieces in free agency.”

    Translation: We will be adding one (1) key impact free agent. My choices are Shin-Soo Choo or Jacoby Ellsbury. It will be exciting to see what this one new lead-off hitter can do for the rest of the lineup.

  28. Jim

    The comment about him expecting Baez to be the starting shortstop at AAA next year, I found very vanilla and worthless information. I am not sure what the question asked was, but what else could he really say? Well I expect him to take Darwin Barney’s job next year … Or, we are going to shop Starlin Castro this Winter to open up a spot for Javier?

  29. Mr. B. Patient

    “It sucks that the baseball operations department doesn’t have an unlimited supply of cash to use however they want, but we’ve known that was the case for a while now.”

    Do we know this to be absolute fact?

  30. Aaron

    Jim…I think Cubs will be open to to trade Starlin Castro this off-season. But it would take a tremendous deal for the FO to do that, but it would be a bold statement.

    I think Starlin is a major talent and has some fantastic eye-hand coordination. But he may never be a superstar player. If we have enough talent coming up through the minors around him, does he need to be one? I say give Castro at least another season to get back to where he was just a few years ago before making a decision on his long-term future with the club.

    1. Jim

      Yes, my problem with trading Starlin is that you would be really selling low on him. There is still a lot of value there, but not what it was a year or two ago. I would give him another year as well. Best case, he rebounds and the Cubs have one of the better infields in baseball.

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