Theo Epstein Speaks: Samardzija, Tanaka, Spending, Syncing, Prospects, More

theo epstein about thatChicago Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein addressed the media this afternoon at the Winter Meetings in Orlando. From the outside, it’s been a very quiet set of meetings for the Cubs, but the front office isn’t down there to get a tan.

His remarks were live-tweeted by those in attendance …

Obviously, the first issue on folks’ mind was that meeting with Jeff Samardzija’s agents.

Epstein addressed Scott Boras’s comments about the Cubs not spending, acting small market, etc.:

So, when will the Cubs make some big splashes? Well, it’s pretty much as I laid out earlier:

And a little more on the same issue:

That’s all the expectation, because, well, when the money is there and the young talent is there, the Cubs would have no reason not to be more active. Of course, we all want to know is that next year or the next year or the next year – not that Epstein can answer as openly as he might want to. I’m sure it gets frustrating having to try and express the same thing over and over without being able to go into the details for competitive reasons.

But are the Cubs doing anything right now? Well, yes, le duh:

Hey, those are usually the moves that I get excited about. We know of several starting pitchers and relievers in whom the Cubs have interest, and it seems a pretty good bet that the offer out there for a positional player is an outfielder.

As for Masahiro Tanaka, Epstein gave no indication that the Cubs won’t be involved, as we expect them to be:

And in case you were worried that The Plan merely involves waiting on the prospects to come to the bigs and solve everything, that has never been the case:

Prospects, alone, aren’t the answer. Expecting all of them to come up and coalesce into a repeat contender over the course of the next decade is an absurd disaster waiting to happen. Do you need to be reminded that the front office is not populated by idiots? They surely recognize that the team needs to have productive veterans in place when the prospects come up (1) to help ease the transition for the prospects and not place so much pressure on them, and (2) to win help win games.

And a quick nod to the lefties in the pen/prospect pitchers, just for the hell of it:

I really like the idea of seeing whether Raley can succeed as a LOOGY, because I don’t see a long-term starter there.

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

127 responses to “Theo Epstein Speaks: Samardzija, Tanaka, Spending, Syncing, Prospects, More”

  1. Mtrlill

    The Cubs sell out every game up until September and Wrigley Field is the biggest bar scene in Chicago, so please explain to me how they are not making pots of money? Are you kidding me? Who are they trying to fool?

  2. jradey

    incremental cost of a crummy team (decrease in revenue) is less than incremental costs of fielding an adequate team….people need to stay home

  3. Senor Cub

    Brett – that’s awesome stuff from the FO. Thanks for bringing it to us. I’ve been on pins and needles all week but in the end, I am not disappointed in the outcome this week, it pretty much went as I expected. A surprise would have been nice of course, c’mon they could throw us die hards a bone to keep us excited.

  4. Durbin

    Everyone needs to calm down. I just drove to Chicago today from St. Louis to purchase season tickets. They are making improvements to the ballpark. I saw it myself.

    You need to put yourself in the Ricketts place for 5 minutes. Imagine you had the opportunity to purchase the Chicago Cubs(the team you have loved your entire life). They are experienced businessmen. They recognize the things that need to get done from a business stand point. They hired Theo Epstein to BUILD (building takes more time than 3 years)a successful baseball team. How long would it take you to build a successful team?

    Making improvements to wrigley will help attracts players to the club. They needed to happen to continue future operations. The Cubs are now building an organization from within.

    I bought season tickets assuming the Cubs would not be playoff contenders this year. Why? Because I want to be a part on this team when they are playoff contenders. I believe this will happen by 2017. You need to trust that the owners(passionate Cubs fans) will do what is necessary to have a competitive franchise for the future.

  5. Reality Check

    One thing a cubs GM or President or owner should never do is use the word “promise”.
    After 106 yrs, and multiple owners, and various “plans” throughout the years; “promise” is something we have heard just like we’ve heard “wait till next year”.

    Best to stop “promising” anything at this point. The only thing this poor excuse of an owner and FO can “promise” is the sun will come up tomorrow.

    Really sad to think the 100th anniversary or Wrigley will provide the worst team in baseball and why anyone would go to Mesa this year to see this poor excuse of a team is beyond me. Mesa may be very sorry they spend 99 million on the new stadium. Go early and see the 1st 10 or 15 games when the so called prospects play; once they are gone; nothing here to see.

    The Cubs should start providing scouting reports on this year’s draft class and next year’s as well; as it appears headed towards a top 2 pick. At least then, the team will be providing us fans with “something”. Maybe there could be “scouting reports” giveaway days and show the draft on the new jumbotron……..assuming that “promise” happens too.

  6. Rebuilding

    “They surely recognize that the team needs to have productive veterans in place when the prospects come up (1) to help ease the transition for the prospects and not place so much pressure on them, and (2) to win help win games.”

    Hmmmm…well, that’s most likely starts this year.

  7. Die hard

    A Philly friend says local buzz has Amaro putting a package together for Price

  8. Zach

    If the cubs lose the bidding on tanaka to the diamondbacks they better kick themselves in the buts

  9. CubsFaninAZ

    No one complains about the Rays not spending money, yet they watch superstar after super star leave the organization, or they have to trade em to get something outta them . And the Rays and others like the A’s are considered brilliant. YOU ALL FORGET the Rays were absolutely HORRIBLE, for a very long time and wasted money on , Jose Canseco/ Wade Boggs deals just to have a name on their roster. They have stadium issues as well, lack of money, they cant afford to keep stars like David Price. They will stay competitive for a long time though because their young players and ones they’ve acquired have blossomed and continue to.Last time the Yankees were a dynasty were when they had a core of “home growns” (Jeter, Pettite, Bernie, Brosius, Posada, etc.. come up and blossom, before them the Yanks were terrible) It took awhile for the Rays to happen, but their patience have paid off, they’ll be competitive for years to come despite playing in a division of big spenders like the Yanks, Red Sox an Blue Jays. Now imagine all the stadium renovations done, TV deals done, and a core of 20 something years olds blossoming into stars. Thats when the Cubs will spend big, create the dynasty like the late 90′s Yanks. But with money to keep all their studs unlike the Rays. Cubs then will be very good for a VERY long time. I’m excited for the Re-build, its being done right. Itll be worth the wait. I’m ready to root the kids on, thats just as exciting to root for, seeing the kids turn into All Stars, and watch them compete for their team and make a name for themselves as every kid thats ever touched a Baseball has ever wanted to do! Sammy Sosa was picked up as an high upside kinda guy for proven veteran George Bell. That worked out for us, but even with Sammy and all the Money Hendry spent, 2 names made our playoff season happen. Kerry Wood and Mark Prior, Draft picks who came up fast. Cant wait for the ones who make the climb this year, Baez, Bryant, Pierce Johnson, wont be surpised if the Cubs werent making moves because they wanna make sure they can insert these guys into the lineup if they have a hot first half of the season down in double and triple A. Ive been a Cubs fan my whole life and this is the first year I’ve ever been this excited by the possibility of who can be called up in the next couple years. This to me is better than overspending for free agents.

    1. Kyle

      a) Nobody complains about the Rays not spending money because they have better reasons for their revenue to be minimal and they don’t really have any fans to do the complaining.

      b) The Rays lost heavily for 10 years and have since made the playoffs 4 out of 6 with no championships. I’m not exactly ready to call them a model franchise that i want to emulate.

      c) This may be the first time you’ve been excited by the minors, but it’s not the first time they’ve had an exciting minor league system.

      1. Jason Powers

        Well, Kyle, 4 out of 6 ain’t Meatloaf Bad if you reduce that fraction.

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k5hWWe-ts2s

      2. DocPeterWimsey

        Also, “nobody” complains about the Rays not spending money because the Rays have so few fans. What fans they do have do get very upset by the fact that they cannot easily retain players.

        1. Hawkeye

          Absolutely it can be said of all players. That is why I am concerned that we are not really using a “dual front”, as they say, approach. If you are utilizing both ways (player development and quality free agents) the odds of success obviously increase.

          1. Hawkeye

            Sorry, responded to the wrong Doc post.

          2. Jason Powers

            That makes TOO much sense. Dual fronts. The concept good leaders try: any legal means to reach success.

            BUT, and this is the BUT, how does THIS OWNER define success? Return on investment first? PR war won in Chicago? On-field – playoffs – 2nd or 3rd? Metrics they have posted as a feel good for accountants and debt collectors?

            Once you know that answer, you get to the crucible of what makes this organization tick.

        2. wilbur

          beach ballpark, beach ballpark, beach .

      3. SK

        Can’t knock a team for not winning it all. You know the playoffs are a crapshoot once you get there. The Braves only won 1 WS title in the 13 consecutive years they made the postseason way back when. And they were a model organization.

    2. Hawkeye

      You mention Tampa Bay but no talk about Kansas City. The fact of the matter is World Series winners have spent to bring in Free Agents to fairly large extent, maybe we will down the line. However to me it is very disappointing that the Cubs have disregarded it Major League roster to this extent. Now most aren’t on here advocating for Cano but I also don’t see a reason the major league team has to be this bad. The odds are very strong that 2 of the big four don’t turn out to be impact type players and my fear is this is a sort of never ending quest of waiting for the next top prospect to become a star so we can start assembling something that looks like a competitive major league roster. To me you would be hard pressed not to acquire a great deal of prospects when you pillage/disregard a ML team to the level as we have.

    3. Hawkeye

      Really shocked that you bring up Mark Prior as a reason to get excited about prospects and sustained success. Also that playoff team was helped a GREAT amount by free agents. Alou, Karras, Beck, on and on also made that run happen.

      1. Luke

        Why wouldn’t Prior be a reason to get excited? The hitting prospects in the system now are some of the best overall prospects the Cubs have had since Prior came up.

        And just because Prior had his career derailed by injury doesn’t mean all the Cubs best prospects always will suffer the same fate.

        Prospects do bring excitement to an organization when they come up. I don’t think it is such a bad thing to be looking forward to a little of that excitement arriving in the nearish future, and continuing to arrive as the Cubs build into sustained success of their own.

        That doesn’t mean we can’t criticize the present, but being grumpy about today shouldn’t preclude us from being excited about tomorrow. Tomorrow, like it or not, is actually pretty exciting for the Cubs.

        1. Hawkeye

          Because Prior under 60 starts for the Cubs over the next 3 season and never pitched for them in the playoffs again. A perfect example of no matter how highly rated a prospect you may be it doesn’t guarentee that you will be contributing to organization even the following year.

          1. Luke

            Let me quote myself.

            “And just because Prior had his career derailed by injury doesn’t mean all the Cubs best prospects always will suffer the same fate.”

            1. Hawkeye

              I saw your quote the first time. It’s great to be exited but again a large percentage of top prospects just don’t pan out. My point has never been not to be excited about the prospects, my point is that this isn’t a given and the status of the MLB team and spending is, to me, disappointing/puzzling.

              1. SK

                Same could be said of free agents. There are no guarantees anywhere.

              2. terencemann

                PercentRankedBy20.jpg

          2. DocPeterWimsey

            The same can be written of any ball player, not just prospects. Indeed, many of the FAs for whom people on this site clamored 12 or 24 months ago have had these fates befall them already.

        2. rockin' dawg

          Well said, Luke. It’s hard not to be excited about having 8 current or recent Top 100 Prospects (Baez, Bryant, Almora, Soler, Alcantara, Olt, Edwards, Viscaino). But it’s also easy to get impatient with a FO that’s not ready/willing to add the other pieces necessary to expedite the rebuild.

      2. CubsFaninAZ

        I bring up Mark Prior and Kerry Wood for how fast they rose from the minors and became a two headed monster, put those teams on their backs, yes injuries happen to pitchers its part of the game. Point being they came up fast and were awesome, we have a few of those who might do the same. And yes we added alot of free agents, duh , whole point being when kids come up and are playing at a high level thats when you spend big to fill wholes. Not to put them on a team to be the “role model”. Sure everyone wants an Andre Dawson MVP on the leagues worst team. But remember Dawson wanted to play at Wrigley and signed CHEAP. That aint happening anymore these days!

        1. Hawkeye

          See, I guess this is the philosophical difference we have. I feel you add your prospects to a decent team and then you may have a good team. It seems you feel let’s hope this kids are legitimate big league players and if they are then we may add some talent to the team. Seems passive to me.

          1. CubsFaninAZ

            I get what your saying, but in a complete rebuild thats not how it works. Why would you get an Ellsbury for that kinda money now and in 2 years a stud Free Agent CF comes available and you cant pursue him cause your locked in with a hurt CF? And your money needs to go to pitching and extending younger players? AKA Shark turns the corner and is the Ace, Cubs will then need the money to keep him in Cubbie Blue, which is another reason I think the Cubs will ask for the moon from now till he’s a free agent. BTW in a year all our logjams at positions like SS, 2nd, 3rd, OF in the minors will help us land the David Price type pitchers on the block. Which is the other reason to stockpile talent below you. I mean in next years winter meetings you could be looking at a rotation of Tanaka, Shark, Trade for Ace, Wood and Jackson/edwards/arrieta. And a ton of money to sign other holes on the roster. All of a sudden we just got good in a hurry! Thats a very possible rotation going into 2015 if the chips fall our direction! But you need your minors to develop not only for the Big League team, but for trade value as well. Cubs are just waiting for their assets in the minors hit peak value and the renovation and TV deals are done at the Big League level, then they’ll flip the switch.

            1. Hawkeye

              See, I guess the term “complete rebuild” bothers me, I’m not even sure what that means. I am almost certain I have never heard or Theo or Jed ever say we’re going through a “complete rebuild” either. It seems to me this is a term that fans who are optimistic about our future use. Seems kind of like propaganda to me. Also not sure how you can say “that not how a complete rebuild works” as I’m fairly sure teams have rebuilding a variety of ways. Also to your Ellsbury example by your theory why sign the “stud free agent cf in 2 years” when 2 years after that there may be another “studlier” free agent, it’s a never ending way of thinking. Also I highly doubt we have a logjam of talent as again a high percentage of these prospect that many on this board pencil into the 2016 lineups as quality big leaguers just won’t pan out.

              1. CubsFaninAZ

                Not signing big free agents, or not trying to put a playoff team while fattening your farm system, is basicly baseballs terms of a complete rebuild mode, see also the Astros! They can claim to be in complete rebuild mode as well.

          2. wilbur

            your decent team would not help the cubs prospects advance nor would it help the farm team get better. It would be more a hindrance than a help and more bad contracts to boot. Better to add value players and build from within with high draft picks. The cubs current prospect list is improved, but it barely covers what the big league team will require from it, there is no margin for error, flameouts, and forget about any surplus for making trades based on prospects for top tier major league talent. Just not enough there yet to risk it. You stillneed the redundancy that theo was talking about, then you have room for error, prospects falling short, gettting talent to the bigs, and using prospects for trades. they ain’t there yet.

  10. Rebuilding

    I think the comments will cleanup quite a bit when we get Tanaka. I’m sure that comment will produce a lot of scorn, but every reading between the lines leads me to that conclusion:

    (1) There is no way to analyze the Cubs financially or to look at their past few payrolls and think that $100 million payroll stretches them or breaks any financial covenants. Our payroll is at $75 million. We have talked about adding a reliever or two, Scott Baker, Roberto Hernandez, Jason Hammel, etc…But as it stands now we have a rotation and lineup that’s pretty much full. Quality? No. But essentially full.

    (2) Before today the FO had indicated that they have room for big signing. They said that several times. Nothing likely changed between now and then.

    (3) It was reported that posting fees did not violate the Cubs financial covenants or at least weren’t counted. That was leaked or confirmed by someone in the FO. It didnt just materialize out of thin air.

    (4) Tanaka fits with everything the Cubs need right now. A top SP, young and with enough buzz to give them a publicity bump. He doesn’t cost prospects and he fits with the Plan.

    (5) It has been reported over and over that the Cubs will be in on Tanaka

    (6) Neither the Cubs nor the Ricketts are cash strapped. The Ricketts have seen tremendous wealth growth this year. In addition the value of the Cubs, if tracking other high end assets, has likely increased $150-200 million since they bought the team. The Cubs Portion of national TV money doubled this year. It’s reported that the Cubs annual TV take alone is now $90 million.

    There is no way we run a $75-$80 million payroll. It seems they have room for 1 $20 million player and are just letting other teams spend their resources while they go for the big one.

    We’ll see if I’m right

    1. Blublud

      I’m almost positive that the Cubs will win on Tanaka if posted. I believe they are the front runners, despite reports. Just my opinion of course, but they may be willing to slighly overspend to land him. They may need to. I also believe they were in on Choo. Maybe the price got to steep for them. If I’m the Cubs, the only 2 players I would have been willing to give a big contract or overpay would have been Choo and Tanaka.

      1. Rebuilding

        Totally agree with everything you just said. The part about Choo is why I think we heard from Mr. Boras today.

      2. cubbiehawkeye

        Couldn’t agree more

    2. Jason P

      If we don’t make a decent effort to land Tanaka, then I think it’s reasonable to start getting upset. Another second place finish would be frustrating, but it would at least ease some financial concerns. And also, a second place finish would probably mean some team went above and beyond and way overpaid.

      This can’t be one of the free agents the Cubs wait back on to see if he falls into their lap. They actually have to make a real effort to go get him.

  11. Stu

    This franchise should be embarrassed if they don’t spend at least $125-$150M per year.

    This diatribe of saving it for when it really matters is such silliness it really is an insult to anyone with an IQ above 80.

    1. Jason P

      When you factor in minor leagues, ballpark maintenance, scouting (both international and domestic), front office salaries, charity, and more, the organization spends well above 125-150 million a year.

      Speaking strictly of big league payroll, it’s not really all that big an embarrassment for a rebuilding team to not be in the top 4-7 in payroll.

      1. Lou Brock

        Then if you are not in the top tier of payroll because of rebuilding why are the Cubs in the top 5 of ticket prices ? To see the ivy on the bleacher walls ? To have the privilege of drinking a warm $8.00 beer ?

        1. terencemann

          They’re going to charge whatever they feel maximizes profits.

          1. Jason P

            Exactly. And because they are much more ticket-revenue dependent than other MLB teams who have big TV deals/jumbotrons.

    2. cubbiehawkeye

      That’s a silly statement. So if they go into the year feeling good about where they are as a team as far as competing but they’re at 115 mil you’re saying they need to sign another player at 10 mil so they can make the quota.

  12. Die hard

    If Shark is Cubs best pitcher 2014 to be a 68 win season

  13. CubsFaninAZ

    Hey Brett, I was curious on whats the outlook for Brett Jackson? I guess I’m still rooting for him to take off and be the player we all wanted.

    1. Luke

      Not good.

      The list of successful major leaguers who struck out more than 30% of the time in over 250 Triple A plate appearances is a very short one. That’s the trend Jackson has to buck.

      1. CubsFaninAZ

        I agree with that, my hope was that he was playing winter ball somewhere and putting up good signs of coming out of his funk.

        1. terencemann

          I think it was reported he’s working with one of his college or prep coaches over the winter.

    2. Stogie

      I’d trade him for a bag of balls. Or just a ball.

  14. Sacko

    It’s actually pretty simple Shark is talked about getting traded and he won’t.
    We’re looking for 2 starting pitcher via FA and possible BB help.
    And a RH bat in the OF.
    It just hasn’t happened yet.

  15. Cusifer

    Huh? They told shark they might trade him, extend him, or just let things stand the way they are. Oh well good. I’m happy murdering him is off the table. This meeting sounds like a huge waste of time.

    Like most of this FO talk it seems to me that they’re really saying nothing at all. Can someone even tell me what goals there are for 2014? I also have no idea why you’d fire Sveum if this season is basically over before it begins. Why would you pursue girardi to coach a team that won’t compete til at least 2016, safely 2018?

    1. Turn Two

      Ummm yeah, this

    2. terencemann

      Because they didn’t feel like he was a strong enough leader or good enough at mentoring young players or didn’t manage games well enough? These are really good reasons not to retain a manager.

    3. CubsFaninAZ

      Because Girardi was successful guiding a young Marlins team in rebuild mode before he was the Yankees skipper! Throw in great PR move and it only makes sense to kick the tires on him. Because thats all it was, Girardi was never leaving the Yanks.

      1. Cusifer

        Long term firing Sveum was terrible public relations. It’s just a bit to quick to give up on a guy we heard was going to be good for the club. Two years with an awful lineup was not a good way to measure Sveum. Seems to me they thought they could get Girardi even though everyone else in the world knew it wasn’t going to happen.

        1. Rebuilding

          I don’t imagine there are more than a handful of Cubs fans in the world who give a damn about Dale Sveum being fired

  16. Cusifer

    They didn’t “not retain” him. He was fired. I saw nothing from the guy to suggest he was so poor at his job that firing was their only option. And if that is true, my faith in their hiring skills is quite low. Seems equally likely that they went fishing for Girardi which is also confusing.

    1. CubsFaninAZ

      When you manage players that need to show progress and instead regress, it will get you fired everytime. Plain and simple. See Mike Shanahan of Redskins in a month. Only players that improved were pitchers collectively, which is why Chris Bosio and Lester Strode were retained!

  17. Durbin

    Anyone think the Cubs are in on this? Brown and papelbon?

    One club told Peter Gammons (Twitter link) that the possibility of attaching Brown to Jonathan Papelbon in a trade is in play for the Phillies. In that scenario, Philadephia would use the savings to pursue starting pitching help.

    1. FarmerTanColin

      It sounds good at first but then thinking about it starts to not make sense. Brown is a low OBP poor defensive kind of player. Then factor in the Cubs are said to be strapped for payroll. He’s owed 13 million for 2-3 seasons if the vesting option vests. It would improve the team maybe if they literally take a couple filler prospects I could see this. Would have a shot to move Papelbon during the season I’m sure. See if Brown is forreal or not.

      1. Durbin

        Domonic brown only makes 500k next year. If the phillies eat 3 mil per year on papelbon so salary and we only give up 2 nd tier prospects like Vitters and Jackson etc….. I think it would work.

        Brown hit .272 last year with 27 home runs.

        1. FarmerTanColin

          I’m with you I think it would be an upgrade especially since we’re looking at Bogusevic starting right now or playing a whole lot. Yet he is sort of the guy that this FO is looking to avoid. So if it costs little to nothing then yes but otherwise I see a pass. He also hit 23 of his HRs before the all star break and 12 in May. Some red flags…the .324 OBP is another.

  18. cubsin

    I’m very pessimistic about our chances of adding Tanaka this winter. I think our chances will improve if he’s posted next year instead. (The team should look more attractive going forward, the revenue base should be growing and the stadium improvements should be underway).

    Chicago doesn’t have a large Japanese population, but New York and the West Coast Cities do. Even if the Cubs are willing to outbid all of ,the Yankees, Dodgers, Giants, Angels and Mariners, I’m not convinced he’d sign with the Cubs.

    1. OlderStyle

      “Chicago doesn’t have a large Japanese population, but New York and the West Coast Cities do. Even if the Cubs are willing to outbid all of ,the Yankees, Dodgers, Giants, Angels and Mariners, I’m not convinced he’d sign with the Cubs.”

      This is entirely true. And if we go by how Fukudome’s time in Chicago went, it may be difficult to attract the top Japanese players to the North Side.

  19. BAIRSDEN

    For the right price Papelbon & D Brown are obviously intriguing. My idea of intriguing is something built around EJax in return. :)

  20. ajbulls23

    I would love to see the Cubs work Vizciano in as their closer next year. Strop would make a great setup guy.

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