javier baez aflTaking the kiddos to an aquarium today, which is the kind of self-contained wonder that seems easiest for a couple of on-the-go youngsters these days.

  • Andy MacPhail was Theo Epstein with the Cubs before Theo Epstein was Theo Epstein with the Cubs, or so the narrative goes. A good read from Patrick Mooney on MacPhail, and his thoughts about the Cubs’ gig. In the piece, there are more quotes still from Epstein on the unrealistic nature of counting solely on a core of prospects to come up and turn your team into a winner. That’s a great point, but, this time around, it wasn’t really offered in tandem with thoughts on why that makes it so important for the Cubs to add some quality veteran players to help ease the transition of the youngsters (and to help hide their struggles in the early years). Instead, it was mostly offered as a reminder to fans to be patient when the youngsters come up and struggle (if they make it at all). I’ve got no problem with that point, and it’s quite right, but there’s a tenuous balance right now between the marketing machine of the Cubs that is all about selling us on the prospect core – since there obviously isn’t going to be significant spending at the big league level right now (which is still arguably the right approach) – and the reality that you don’t want your fans expecting that prospects will be a panacea (as Epstein puts it). Which is it? Are we supposed to focus on the prospects with all our vigor and dollars, or are we supposed to understand that they’re fun to dream on, but success is not guaranteed? This offseason might not be the right one to bring in the veteran talent, for any number of reasons. But, next year? Even if just to help the prospect transition and increase the likelihood of general success, it should be.
  • Gammons Daily has a short blurb on Kris Bryant, though it’s mostly just a “hey, did you notice that this kid had a ridiculous time in the Arizona Fall League?” kind of thing. Yes, we did notice. Guaranteed success! Er, I mean ….
  • Mark Grace is back in baseball, having accepted a job as the hitting coach for the Diamondbacks’ A-ball team. I guess he was technically involved in player development last year, too.
  • Fergie Jenkins is Canadian, so of course he’s awesome at hockey.
  • The Renterias and their offseason/holidays.
  • Blackhawks1963

    Brett, you do a great job and a relish this site. But my goodness have you been a blend of schizophrenic and apologist of late. Breathe…step back…Recalibrate. The Cubs have had an abysmal offseason, and honestly Andy McFail hits the nail on the head.

    My fear is Theo is getting disgusted and will soon be ready to pull a Dallas Green and abruptly quit.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      If you can explain how what’s written above triggered that comment, I’d love to hear it.

    • commander bob

      Dude-you never want to win the offseason. See what happened to those stinky Angels. Don’t want to be like them. Better to do nothing and win 60 games. Now that’s winning!!!!

    • Alex

      With all due respect, but I don’t understand what your even trying to say here. I don’t see Brett apologizing for anything, and if he is it’s because were horrible right now and although were being built up that in a few years were going to be great with all these prospects, now were hearing to not put our faith entirely in the kids. If anyone is being “skitsophrenic”, which really isn’t the word to use here, it’s theo. One minute it’s all about the kids, the next its don’t put all your hopes into them. Make up your mind then because we’ve all waited and endured long enough. And again with all due respect, but to insinuate theo wants to quit because they aren’t spending? All ill say is look at theos last year in Boston after signing Crawford and lackey. They just won it because of guys like Lester and Pedroia, whom he drafted. That’s his plan and will continue to be so lets not get ahead of ourselves. Keep it up Brett, I’ve seen nothing but spot on reporting and predictions from you, and bleacher nation continues to be my go to site even before mlbtr. Nothing but compliments & gratitude from my end.

  • http://hockeenight.com Fork

    I don’t think the Cubs are banking solely on prospects, but I also think Jepstink thinks at this point there’s no point in dropping heavy coin until they see who pans out and who doesn’t.

    I think once some of the guys start coming up they can better evaluate where the holes will actually be. And there will be players who can be moved for other assets. Whether they want to tell us or not, I just don’t see both Baez and Castro staying on the Cubs long-term.

    This is still very much a work in progress. It’s too early to grade pass/fail.

    • DocPeterWimsey

      There is no reason why the Cubs cannot keep both Castro and Baez. After all, there have been many infields over the years in which the 3B, SS and 2B all played SS in the minors. In many cases, guys make the switch from SS->2B or SS->3B at the majors. (Most 2Bmen in particular are former SS.)

      • Rebuilding

        If Alcantera develops and Baez moves to 3rd we’ll have an all SS infield (minus Rizzo of course). It would actually be interesting to see what Barney could do in a full year at SS. If we wouldn’t have had Castro it would make his trade value much higher

  • rbreeze

    Theo once said on radio shortly after he came to the cubs that he would take 9 sis anytime and make a team out of them. Shortstops are usually the best athletes on the field.

  • Moe C

    Here let me just say this putting pressure on those young guys to perform and be stars is def going to hurt our chances of winning. We need a combination of Veterans and rookies/young guys that can produce thats always been the way of winning and will always continue to be the way of a winning team. Im not saying that you cant win with all veterans cuz you can and same with young guys but ideally you want a mix of the two. In 2003 we had that with prior wood zambrano ramirez sosa alou and again in 08 with Theriot Fontenot Soto Lily Dempster Harden Samardzija Wuertz DeRosa hell even foe jim edmonds helped out. Its walking a fine line between young guys and vets to win. And when vets get too pricey replace them with another vet willing to helpout. Sure we didnt win but we were highly competitive and thats what it all boils down who gives you best chances of winning and the 2014 cubs really didnt do anything to help their chances for winning now or near future. I saw another post that said cubs have too many holes to fill to make them compete, which is true but if you dont add pieces now you cant expect to win in future cuz the holes wont go away. And if Rizzo and Castro have terrible years again now you will have to add SS and 1st base yo the mix of holes that you have.

    • DocPeterWimsey

      There is and never has been an “always” to the “thats always been the way of winning” concept. (A different view that holds that getting all of your players from your own farm system is the “right way” or that you want a lot of veterans to win is equally bunk.) You win by getting players that outperform their opponents. How you get them is pretty moot. (Over the history of baseball, you can come up with examples of all ways of assembling players: what you mention is common NOT because it’s particularly successful, but because it actually describes the majority of teams in baseball at any given time.)

      At any rate, when young players fail, it’s not because of pressure. It’s because one or more of the warning flags raised by their miLB performances becomes a lodestone in MLB. We’ve seen a lot of Cubs prospects fail over the years, and it’s always been because of the absence of one or more critical tools that gets exposed at MLB.

  • rockin’ dawg

    Call me crazy, but I think the Big 4 (Baez, Bryant, Soler, Almora) are all going to succeed.

    • Jason P

      Not impossible, but depends on you’re definition of succeed. If you’re expecting them all to become either above average starters or stars, that probably won’t happen. If all 4 of them contributing on a major roster is success, then I could see that.

      • praying the cubs get ready to win

        The 4 of them will hit 120 HRs or more and drive in300 RBIs or more.

        • TOOT

          This seems very probable, although not before 2015.

        • TOOT

          Oops! RBI’s very probable. Homers really not. But having said that, if Rizzo hits 30 as one might assume by projections, we see 120 homers by our top 5.

      • TOOT

        See below. The Cubs could be truly devasting come 2015-2016.

      • DocPeterWimsey

        This is, indeed, highly improbable. Here is a great article that came out three weeks ago looking at the success rates of prospects, divided up by peak Baseball America rankings: http://camdendepot.blogspot.com/2013/12/death-to-tinstaapp-updating-mckinneys.html.

        This is a wakeup for the “homegrown = right way” school. Except for players ranked in the top 10, “bust” rates always exceed “success” rates: and it’s about 50:50 for guys ranked in the Top 10. Basically, the expectation is that 1 or 2 of these guys will become successes. The probability of all 4 doing so is going to be less than 0.13, and probably a bit less than 0.10.

        On the other hand, this study also contradicts a basic tenant of the “It’s all about heart” and “sign all the players” schools, too: you can see a very strong correlation between not just success vs. bust rates and where guys were ranked on the top 100, but *how* successful they are and where they were ranked. Yes, not all prospects work out: but it’s far (very, very far!) from random: to use a line that I’ve seen used repeatedly, this is nothing like trying to predict which kindergartners are going to Yale, and more like predicting which high school seniors are.

  • arta

    crazy, agree.

  • Jon

    I just want to add the shit about Sam Zell makes me sick. He’s a white collar criminal and should be thrown in jail.

  • Rodrick

    I genuinely do not believe that the Cubs should try to win right now, and maybe not for a while. The last owners were so bad that we have to pay some penance first, and then we can start getting pieces as we need. But spending money on players who don’t deserve it (Choo, Cano, Pujols) just undermines free markets, so I think we should mostly draft players until they are good. If we draft for a long time then the team will be good, and then we will win.

  • Mike

    My feeling is that the Cubs will spend a little next season on a nice free agent…a higher caliber player than they have been, but certainly not at the level of Choo or Cano in terms of dollars/years. They will spend because I believe Bryant and possibly Baez will be up sometime this season and will hopefully be successful, at which point you can start saying that the rebuild is winding down and the competing is going to start. I think the offseason after that they will spend even more money, and the Cubs will be a blend of prospects and quality, impact free agents.