In conjunction with the season ticket holder event this weekend, Chicago Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein spoke several times about the offseason, and the Cubs’ plans.
- Epstein threw cold water, per Gordon Wittenmyer, on the idea that the Cubs will be trading top prospects this offseason to acquire big league talent and improve the near-term outlook. “In our situation, where we have to make every asset count and every dollar count and we don’t want to get in our own way with our development plan …. The possibility of trading significant assets so you can then acquire someone and then reward him with a nine-figure contract is not as appealing as keeping your core prospects if they’re guys you really believe in, and then at the right time adding that impact piece from outside the organization.” That feels like a reference to David Price, who is expected to command a gigantic extension if a team that trades for him is to retain him beyond 2015. Epstein did make sure to caveat, however, that the front office will always explore the trade market and see what’s what.
- As mentioned earlier, Epstein was asked at the event about the Edwin Jackson signing, and his response indicated that, from a financial standpoint, if the front office knew then what they know now, they may not have proceeded with the signing, believe it was too soon. Couple that with several references to the Cubs being “a couple years away” from having the business plan come together (i.e., meat of the Wrigley renovation underway, new TV deal kicking in) at the same time as the development plan (i.e., core prospects theoretically breaking through in the bigs), and it’s starting to look like 2014 could resemble 2012 and 2013 in most meaningful ways.
- That said, Epstein suggested to Carrie Muskat that the front office is not looking to grab a bunch of pitchers to flip at the deadline in 2014 this offseason, and instead are looking for pieces for the future. How best to square these things? The Cubs are feeling good about their pitching depth right now, such that there isn’t much reason to go out and sign several one/two-year types like they did last year. But if they can get a quality starter at a decent price that could contribute in 2015 and beyond, maybe they go out and make that happen. But there’s no urgency.
- Supporting that theory, Epstein told Jesse Rogers about the starting pitching, “We need to add some quality. I think we’re in a little bit better position than we’ve been as far as quantity.” Masahiro Tanaka, anyone? Jed Hoyer said the Cubs would be involved in that process, and Tanaka, 25, certainly lines up with everything Epstein has laid out. That includes these comments, per Colleen Kane: “We’re going to look for moves that make sense for now and for the future. We wish there were a free agent market for young players, as we talked about. There’s not. Every now and then that situation pops up, and you harbor your resources for that one guy who might make sense.”
- Also on the pitching side, Epstein said something interesting about the relief market. Per Carrie Muskat, Epstein said that having an open closer’s position gives the Cubs a special opportunity when shopping for a top-end reliever. That’s quite true: the ability to say to the top setup men on the market that, with you, there’s a chance to become a closer and rake in bigger bucks the next time around, is a big asset. Given the makeup of the bullpen, it already made sense for the Cubs to go after at least one reliable, veteran reliever. I think we’ll see it for sure, now.