Quantcast

epstein conference cubsChicago Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein was in Boston late last week, and spoke with WEEI on a variety of topics. You can listen to the full interview here, and although the focus is (obviously) Red Sox-heavy, there were a handful of very interesting Cubs bits.

Among Epstein’s thoughts:

  • The most incredible bit shared by Epstein was a team policy on pre-arbitration and arbitration extensions (i.e., long-term deals for guys in arbitration or before arbitration (double i.e., already under team control)). “You get as many free agent years as makes sense and you get a club option. We established that policy. We would not do a deal with an arb or a pre-arb player without getting at least one free agent year and without getting at least one club option. That’s a policy that I took with me to the Cubs. I think it makes sense if you are going to give that kind of security, the club should get a benefit in return.” I agree with Epstein on the security/benefit dichotomy, but I’m surprised that this is something of a formal policy. It sheds new light on the oft-rumored Jeff Samardzija extension discussions (club options, by definition, inure to the benefit of the team, not the player), and will have to be kept in mind as other young players come up. I’m one for flexibility, but obviously I do like pre-arb extensions that lock-up free agent years and come with team options.
  • Epstein confirmed what many have said for years: the changes to the draft and free agent compensation was “the biggest challenge” upon arriving in Chicago. Epstein says teams no longer have control over how much they can emphasize the draft. As part of the strategy in Boston, Epstein allowed certain free agents to walk (gaining two draft picks for them), spent way over slot in the later rounds to get additional 1st/2nd round talents, and traded prospects for shorter-term players, knowing that the loss of prospects could be recouped relatively easily.
  • On spending big on Masahiro Tanaka, as opposed to older free agents, Epstein suggests he simply doesn’t believe there has been much great value out there for typical free agents. A selected quote: “I can’t say I’m surprised [Tanaka received so much money], because, to answer your question, it just reflects the dynamic that there are many, many teams with lots and lots of dollars to spend and very few places to spend them. [There are] very few players that represent sound investments for the dollars. I think anytime in this market that you find a player who will be in his prime years, or pre-prime years, or close to his prime years and has been healthy, and has sort of recognized tools and has a track record – in this case not even a track record in the Major Leagues – but a track record that you can point to, that player is going to draw significant interest and probably get more than is expected just because the supply and demand dynamic dictates it. There are lots of teams demanding talented, prime-aged players and the supply is really a trickle because fewer and fewer players of that ilk are reaching free agency.” All reasonable, and all true. At some point, to support a competitive team (and to support your young players), you’re going to have to go out and sign older players to deals that may look a little ugly. But, to optimize the value of those deals, you want to time them as close to your actual competitive window as possible.
  • Epstein emphasized the importance of makeup when identifying (and locking up) core players. As Epstein put it, “You really want to make sure that your core players are team first guys and are pretty unselfish and are competitive and love the game and driven to win and good teammates.”
  • After some time for transition, Epstein believes the Cubs’ scouting and player development machine is now running at full speed. It seems fair to say that the 2013 draft looked very impressive on paper, and the 2013 minor league year – from a development perspective – was a clear success. Hopefully 2014 mirrors 2013 in that way, because the Cubs will need another solid year from the machine to position the organization for sustained success as soon as 2015.
  • Epstein added that drafting and developing players effectively is the clear way to long-term success. Not that we didn’t already know this, but it sounds like Epstein believes it even more in the post-2012-CBA world.
  • itzscott

    I agree with the strategy/plan but this is beginning to remind me of a Supertramp song….

    “Take The Long Way Home”

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      “The long and winding road … “

  • MightyBear

    The more I listen to Epstein, the more I believe he and his staff will lead the Cubs to become a consistent winner.

    • Jon

      He does speak great confidence and intelligence, Indeed. “Clinton-Like”. I will say the crying about the new CBA though is getting old.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        Yeah. When they asked him the biggest challenge after 2011, he probably just should have lied or said “pass.”

        • Kyle

          His biggest challenge continues to be the ever-evolving nature of the game that makes his brand of smart less and less valuable every year if he doesn’t evolve with it.

          • YourResidentJag

            And to further reiterate that point, I’m sure that Theo and Co will make up 20 wins from the current win totals of the past two years through the farm system. It’s those additional 10 wins that he very likely will have to make up with typical FAs (that he doesn’t like to sign) that appears to be very, very hard for him.

      • ssckelley

        Although I have to say he has done a real good job rebuilding the farm system even with the CBA restrictions. It makes me wonder how much better the farm system could have been had the CBA remained the same.

        • Jon

          Well, when that’s your only goal, and comes at the cost of ignoring your big league club, it’s all kind of a given.

          The Astro’s have a great farm system too.

          • ssckelley

            So does the Red Sox, in fact they have 9 of the top 100 prospects. The Cardinals system looks pretty good to and they keep on winning year after year. I think that is the model Theo is looking to build here, not the Astros.

            • CubSTH60625

              I agree.

              Anytime I begin to resent the fact that we are not currently the Cardinals or the Red Sox I remember how much a joke the Tribune is/was as an ownership group.

              Winning in the 2000s was fun, but I also remember the moment Wrigley started falling on people and then the Soriano contract…and then I started to think: no one really has a clue what’s going on.

              I applaud Theo for his patience to the plan.

            • Jon

              ” I think that is the model Theo is looking to build here, not the Astros”

              You could have fooled me.

              • ssckelley

                No, after reading your comments for months and seeing your views there is no “fooling” you. I am not about to change your mind, I choose to buy into Theo’s plan and remain optimistic that there is a light at the end of the tunnel while you choose to bitch about it. If you choose to believe that Theo is using the Astros model of success then good for you, at least that will give you more fuel to come on here to debate anybody that chooses to remain optimistic. May be you will succeed in dashing some Cub fans hope about the future, it will not be mine.

                • Kyle

                  It’s pretty much indisputable that he’s using the same model as the Astros.

                  Both the Astros and the Cubs are hoping that they can use this model to get to the point where the Cardinals and Red Sox are and copy them from there.

                  • ssckelley

                    Oh so the Astros also paid over their draft pool in last years draft to sign their picks? They also spent way over their allotment to acquire IFA’s? Did the Astros build a new academy in the Dominican to appeal to the youth there?

                    • Kyle

                      The Astros completed their shiny new Dominican academy in 2010.

                    • ssckelley

                      Oops, I am wrong 1 out of the 3.

                  • BT

                    Define “The Astro model”. Other than they are both “rebuilding”, I don’t see what you are talking about. The Astros have been, by far, the worst team in the major leagues 3 years running, and this year is the first year they have signed anyone of import. Even after the Scott Feldman signing, according to baseballreference their payroll is still less than half of the Cubs. Assuming nothing goes right, the Cubs could end up being as bad as the Astros were for 3 years, but they’d only be doing it once.

                    • Jon

                      Over the past few seasons the three worst teams in baseball have been

                      Cubs 283 losses
                      Twins 291 losses
                      Astros 324 losses.

                      All of them are alot more “similar” than they are different.

                    • ssckelley

                      See this is why there is no debating you, you are going to believe that the way the Cubs are doing this is wrong. Obviously the teams that have the most losses over the past 3 years are doing it exactly the same, so that means the teams that have won the most the past 3 years are doing it the exact same way.

                    • Kyle

                      “you are going to believe that the way the Cubs are doing this is wrong. Obviously the teams that have the most losses over the past 3 years are doing it exactly the same, so that means the teams that have won the most the past 3 years are doing it the exact same way.”

                      It makes roughly 8000000 times more sense to compare the Cubs to those teams than it does the Red Sox and Cardinals.

                    • Jon

                      I’m never said the way the Cubs are doing it is “definitely” wrong. It’s simply the choice they have made. We will evaluate these teams in a few years. Pre-CBA, there was no evidence whatsoever to suggest massive tanking was a ore-equisite to long terms success. (IMO, I don’t this is true for post CBA, but we will see).

                      The worst three teams the past three years now have the three best farm systems in the game. There is nothing magical(i.e “competitive advantage) to what the Cubs are doing. 3-4 years of tanking usually yields a good farm system.

                    • ssckelley

                      Holy crap, 8 million times more sense? Damn Kyle how in the heck do you come up with that number? It is especially odd you chose to mention the Red Sox being that the Red Sox are what Theo is trying to emulate with the Cubs.

                    • Kyle

                      Proprietary formula.

                      The Cubs may be trying to emulate the Red Sox, but they are getting there through a wildly different path than the Red Sox did. There may be a plan to get to the point where we can implement the Red Sox plan, but piling up awful seasons isn’t the Red Sox plan.

                    • ssckelley

                      No it isn’t, the Red Sox were already a playoff team when Theo took over while the Cubs were no where near a playoff team. During his time with the Red Sox Theo maximized what the CBA allowed at that time. He piled up the draft picks by acquiring or keeping players that were going to be free agents. During the 9 years he was GM for the Sox they had 23 picks in the first round. He is still maximizing what the CBA allows, obviously using different methods. Measuring the difference with wins and losses is unfair since the Sox were not exactly broken when Theo took over.

                    • BT

                      Sorry, bit busy yesterday, so I wasn’t able to see how tenuous this argument is. Yes, the Cubs are in the bottom 3 with the Astros. That’s where the similarities end. They have won an average of almost 14 more games per year. They have also outspent the Astros by nearly TWO HUNDRED MILLION DOLLARS in those 3 years (187 million to be exact, if Cots is to be believed). Those aren’t remotely similar. The Astros are a clear outlier.

                      Here’s some fun math. The Astros have lost 41 more games than the Cubs in the last 3 years. The Cubs have lost 41 more games than the Pirates the last 3 years. In Jon/Kyle logic, the Cubs are following “The Pirate Plan”.

                      So if you want to say the Cubs are losing a lot, fine. They aren’t following the “Astros Plan” anymore than they are following the “Twins Plan” which would technically make more sense, as their records are more similar, but doesn’t sound as bad, so it’s not as useful when ripping “The Plan”.

                    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

                      Anyone who says the Cubs have been doing what the Astros have been doing without caveating for the obvious differences in the extremity of what the Astros are doing (not just record, but trading away everyone making more than a couple million bucks and not signing anyone until Feldman this year) loses both credibility and coolness points.

                      Making moves commensurate with acquiring young talent (in trades, and in tanking)? Yes, they’ve both done it. But the extent to which the Astros have done what they’ve done, and to which the Cubs have done what they’ve done, are not even remotely in the same ballpark. I would be embarrassed to try and argue otherwise.

                  • bbmoney

                    Oh people probably could dispute it. But they’d almost certainly be wrong. It’s pretty clear they’re doing the same thing the Astros are and to a lesser and I’d argue less mischievous extent the Marlins have done a couple times.

                    To me that’s not a problem though other than it’s painful for a few years. I think it’s the highest percentage play given the circumstances they were facing (which were different than what say the Red Sox faced when Theo took over). But it needs to start showing fruit at the MLB level pretty quickly and as I said on Saturday start shifting towards backing it up with FA spending as well.

                    • ssckelley

                      It is not the same, the only similarities is after July 31st it has been a race to the top of the crap standings. The Astros have simply tanked and are unwilling to spend money on anything, they even leave pool money unspent. The Cubs have spent money, they have have spent it on “value” type free agents that they turn around and flip before the trade deadline if they are not in the hunt for the playoffs. They have also still spent money on free agents that they feel can help them win down the road in Edwin Jackson. They have spent to the maximum allowed in the draft, while paying penalties, and over spent in the IFA market. While we complain about the Cubs dumpster diving that is all the Astros have done. If you think our off season moves have been horrible go take a look at the Astros the past 3 years, I think their biggest move was signing Brett Myers back in 2010. The Cubs are not rebuilding like the Astros.

                  • ClevelandCubsFan

                    The difference between the Astros and Cubs will become clear when the talent arrives. Then we’ll see if the Cubs still behave lile the small market team. But Epstein seems to have been great at finding new ways to exploit value.

                • Jon

                  The thought is that “tanking” is the only way in the new CBA. Yet the new CBA is only 2 drafts in. The Cubs and Astro’s are a great case study, but at this point, it’s just a case study. I think you have to wait 3-4 years to make a full judgement on the best post-CBA rebuild approach.

                  • bbmoney

                    That’s an extremely reasonable comment.

                    We don’t know yet if it worked, or how well it worked. I still think it was the right approach given the circumstances they faced, but I really can’t prove it and don’t really know it yet.

                    I guess we’ll never really know if it was the best approach because something else always could have worked better. But hopefully we’ll see when looking back that it at least did work.

                  • BT

                    The Yankees signed McCann, Ellsbury, and Tanaka this winter. Zips gives them a 1.7 percent chance of winning the World Series. Baseball Prospectus has them winning 82 games. “Tanking” isn’t the only way under the new CBA, but certainly the old Yankee way of buying your way into the playoffs is gone.

                    • Noah_I

                      While I like ZiPS, I think percentage chances of winning the World Series is an exercise in futility, where short series create unexpected results. I’m more focused on likelihood of winning the division (which guarantees you at least a five game series) and making the playoffs. But I know those numbers are not particularly positive for the Yankees either.

                    • BT

                      Right. ZIPS has the Yankees at 85 wins, regardless of playoff chances, which isn’t going to do much in that division. The point is, after a huge spending spree, they still are a pretty average team.

              • Abe Froman

                Let’s see how bad the Astros are in two years. Same guys that helped build a winning franchise in St. Louis are taking the short term hits of completely tanking a few seasons to get a lot of talent in the draft, IFA, and trading off pieces for prospects.

                Yes, the Astros have a similiar plan, and I think they too, like the Cubs, will turn out succesful.

                • ssckelley

                  I still look at the Astros as being cheap. While the Cubs tried to maximize every draft pool dollar to sign their players the Astros saved almost a million dollars by paying under slot and leaving draft picks unsigned. Granted they do have a good farm system but I am not hopeful they will start signing free agents any time soon. For them it is either prospects or bust, perhaps it will work for them.

                  • Funn Dave

                    I think that if they did reach the point where they were just a few FA’s short of being a great team, though, even the ‘Stros would pull the trigger.

                    I liked your response to John, btw. The best way to combat negativity on the internet is to remain levelheaded and positive in spite of it.

                    • Big Daddy

                      Will somebody please give Jon a hug? I think he needs one.

                  • Abe Froman

                    Fair distinctions. I am curious what their payroll will approach in 3 or 4 years.

                  • YourResidentJag

                    But the Astros due have a more measured variance in players in their farm system than the Cubs, granted some of it may have been there before Luhnow started as GM.

    • Steve

      The more I listen, the more I think the new CBS has Epstein befuzzled.

      • DarthHater

        Yea, especially the new season of “Under the Dome.” I mean, what the hell is that all about? :-P

        • YourResidentJag

          I was thinking more the show “The Millers”. I watched that show after the Beatles tribute and it sucked.

          • Jon

            “2 Broke Girls” sucks too. I also don’t’ get the new CBS.

            • miggy80

              Han (Jon): I’m not going out with you. Last time I passed out and you drew a penis on my face.

              Oleg (Darth) : Traced a penis on your face

      • ssckelley

        I disagree, I think the new CBA simply forced Epstein to use different methods. Now instead of acquiring players to get extra draft picks he acquires players that he can flip for other teams prospects while also using IFA’s. Theo is still taking what the market will give him.

    • Hee Seop Chode

      I love MightyBear’s posts. Generally positive, never sarcastic.

  • Jim

    So Theo says FA are rarely worth the investment, and young cost controlled players are the path to goodness? Clearly he must read BN…

  • VanceLawblawsLawBlog

    And the crying on here about Epstein not getting the job done will commence in 5…4…3…2…

    • Kyle

      Posting just so there’s a gap between this post and my next post…

  • Kyle

    The lack of “core player” additions in the last calendar year (the only one was our first-round draft pick) is disappointing. This offseason continues to stand out as an uncreatively botched opportunity.

    He laid out very clearly in the interview the two types of major FAs he’s interested in: The right age pre-prime guys, and something like the Cardinals’ situation where they are adding a single piece to an already dominant team.

    There’s no room in that philosophy for going out and signing a couple 30-year-old pitchers to add to a bad 2014 team with some interesting young talent for 2015. Expect another quiet offseason, *maybe* an Edwin Jackson-type signing, next year.

    • ssckelley

      About the only FA I am disappointed they did not get was Tanaka. To me guys like Ellsbury or Choo would not have made much of a difference in this upcoming season.

      • CubFan Paul

        They could of traded for a core player too

        • ssckelley

          But it appears they are building the farm system right now not trading it a way. I do not see much point in trading away top prospects to get a guy like David Price who is not a final piece the Cubs need to reach the playoffs in 2014 or 2015. To trade for a core piece with another team all trade conversations will start with Baez and Almora.

          • CubFan Paul

            Teams with prospects surplus trade said surplus to help the ML team or to stock the Farm in other areas.

            “To trade for a core piece with another team all trade conversations will start with Baez and Almora”

            That’s false/small thinking. Not every trade has to be a block buster or David Price (Hello Ruggiano).

            • ssckelley

              Sure teams trade away surplus from the farm system, and I am sure the Cubs will as well when it comes down to only needing 1 or 2 pieces in order to make a respectable playoff run. Right now the Cubs are not in that situation so they are acquiring as much future surplus that they can get their hands on.

              BTW, you think Ruggiano is a core player?

              • CubFan Paul

                “Right now the Cubs are not in that situation”

                Not every move has to be a block buster or David Price.

                There’s an echo in here I think. Or to be more clear, not every move has to a “playoff” move. We’re building, trading for ML ready players builds up the foundation (Theo’s words, not mine).

                • ssckelley

                  IMO, to trade for or to sign a big name player would be a playoff move. Again I think if the Cubs were only 1 or 2 players away from making a playoff run they would have pulled the trigger even this off season.

                  • CubFan Paul

                    “IMO, to trade for or to sign a *big name* player would be a playoff move”

                    We’re not talking about the same thing

      • Kyle

        Plan to be saying something similar next year.

        • ssckelley

          You can plan on that, I will stop trying to guess what will happen next off season. This season we should start seeing results from the farm system so I will remain hopeful that the Cubs will fill in what they need using free agency next off season to be competitive in 2015. If not we can all sit here and bitch about it next off season as well, I am sure you will spend hours upon hours debating everyone about this very topic.

          • mjhurdle

            I plan on being very upset next off-season.
            Unless I am not upset, then I plan on not being upset next off-season.
            Either way, I will debate for hours.

            • YourResidentJag

              And yet, Kyle’s on point with his comparisons to the Astros, which makes the EJax signing bizarre.

            • Kyle

              Schroedinger’s emotional state

      • When The Musics Over

        To continue our conversation the other day, would Choo really be so bad in 2015? I don’t get it. Do the Cubs really expect to patch all holes next offseason?

        No, and it’s absurd to think so. You’re likely looking at what Kyle said in terms of free agent signings, which means expect the Cubs to continue to wait until guys like almora and soler are ready and then very minorish hole plugs after that. That means you’re looking at 2016+ until this team is really ready to roll. That’s wild.

        • YourResidentJag

          Yep, with respect to your 2nd paragraph. Been my thoughts for a while now. If Markakis could revert back to his 2012 form this year, I’ll take him in RF next year.

        • ssckelley

          No, I don’t necessarily think Choo will be that bad in 2015. But I do believe that if you sign a player like Choo the best value you are going to get out of that contract will be their first 2 years. So my point is why waste a contract like that in seasons you have no intention on winning any way?

    • Norm

      If Scherzer, Bailey, Lester, and Shields are off the market, you’re probably right.

      I lost track of Friday’s talk when I left work. Seems there are two sides to this neverending debate. Theo’s way is right or Theo’s way is wrong. I don’t think either of those is true. Theo’s way is just a way…neither right nor wrong.
      People can disagree all they want, but I’m going to believe that Theo weighed the pro’s and con’s to doing it this way. He thought about the benefits of being an 80 win team and what that would do for revenue and FA’s and concessions and advertising and draft slots/dollars and everything else, and he compared that to the costs/benefits of being a 65 win team and decided that being the 65 win team is the better route to long term success.

      If Theo did NOT weigh those different methods, THEN I’d say he’s the wrong guy for the job. But they aren’t idiots. I’m sure they did, and maybe they decided it would not the quickest way to some success, but they believe it would be the BEST way for long term success.

      I’m on board til it doesn’t work.

      • YourResidentJag

        Well, we’ll see what 2015 and 2016 offseasons bring, I suppose.

      • Noah_I

        I’m in the same boat as you. Here’s the thing: if Theo’s way isn’t showing significant progress by the end of 2016, if too many of the prospects bust at the MLB level or the Cubs trade them for established MLB players who quickly decline or get injured, the Cubs are unlikely to bring Theo back for 2017. I could see the first five years of the contract being the time to build a contender, and if it looks like that has happened by the end of year 5, they’ll keep going with the plan. This isn’t to say that the Cubs will in fact have to make the playoffs in 2016 to bring Theo back, but they will have to be a team that, at the end of that season is looked at and viewed as a legitimate contender for 2017.

      • Kyle

        Quite frankly, I’m less interested in whether it’s the right way or the wrong way at this point.

        I’m interested in “can he make it work from here.”

        The answer is clearly “maybe.” Anyone who thinks it’s fait accompli that we’re going to have a run of success because Farm System is fooling themselves.

        • Norm

          Anyone who thinks what happens year after year in the future is a guaranty isn’t someone worth debating with.
          Believing that building Theo’s way give the Cubs the *best chance* at a run of success is simply believing that the front office did its job of looking at every possible way to make this team a World Series contender and concluding that this is that way.

          • Kyle

            The front office’s job goes much, much deeper than merely picking a “way.”

            It’s time to start caring about their execution. If they are going to get the sort of success they are promising, their execution needs to be better than it has been in the “Oops, we broke Castro” and “We’ll just pass on this whole offseason” era we’ve seen lately.

            • Norm

              Passing on this offseason is part of the execution. They had one impact target to go after, didn’t get him, they aren’t going to sign someone else they don’t believe is best for the teams long term outlook.
              It’s just a part that you and a lot of fans don’t like.

              • Kyle

                It’s a part that is making it less likely for them to reach the presumed goal of winning the World Series.

                • Norm

                  And this is where we go around in circles and I say that I believe Theo and the front office weighed the pros/cons of NOT passing on this offseason and decided it was best to stay away from this years free agent crop and trades that were made.

                  • Kyle

                    If by “go in circles” you mean you espouse an apologistic stance that implies that the front office is literally incapable of doing anything wrong, then yes.

                    • mjhurdle

                      isn’t it a bit early in the day for “you disagree with my forecast of the Cubs situation so you must be a front office apologist/hater” rhetoric?

                    • Kyle

                      Not when the argument is literally “I’m sure they thought of it, so what they did must be right.”

                      Arguing that the Cubs’ FO is doing things the right way doesn’t make you an apologist. Arguing that it’s the right way because the Cubs’ FO is doing it does.

                    • Norm

                      Or I just believe that they are smarter than you.

                    • Norm

                      Not when the argument is literally “I’m sure they thought of it, so what they did must be right.”

                      That’s not what I said.
                      My original post:
                      Seems there are two sides to this neverending debate. Theo’s way is right or Theo’s way is wrong. I don’t think either of those is true. Theo’s way is just a way…neither right nor wrong.
                      —-
                      Never did I say that if Theo does it, it must be right.

                    • Edwin

                      I think Norm may be begging the question.

                  • Kyle

                    Being smarter than me is not relevant to whether or not they are doing things in an optimal manner with regards to running a baseball team.

                  • Kyle

                    ” I say that I believe Theo and the front office weighed the pros/cons of NOT passing on this offseason and decided it was best to stay away from this years free agent crop and trades that were made.”

                    When challenged on whether or not the decisoin was right, you simply responded that “Theo and the front office” made the decision. That was your defense.

                    • Norm

                      How can you possibly know if it was right or wrong to stay out of this years free agent crop?

      • scorecardpaul

        Norm, I agree with you on this, but let’s not say that we aren’t being out played by the astros, because we are.

      • scorecardpaul

        Norm, I agree with you on this, but let’s not say that we aren’t being out played by the astros, because we are.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      It’s pretty unfathomable to me to imagine an offseason where the Cubs (1) have money to spend, (2) have severe upper-level pitching needs, and (3) where there are several quality age 30-ish free agent starters are on the market, and the Cubs don’t aggressively add pitching. (This offseason was actually close to that in some respects, but the young core isn’t on the precipice.)

      No one – not the front office, not ownership, not the players – wants to suck in 2015. Yes, not sucking in 2015 is going to require some fortuitous development in 2014. But if it happens (as I think it’s reasonable to project), why in the world would they sit on their hands next offseason? I still don’t see any indication that they will.

      • Kyle

        It’s unfathomable to me that you could see it as unfathomable.

        They will sit on their hands because sucking in 2015 may not be desirable to them, but it’s less undesirable than giving out large contracts to 30-32 year old pitchers.

        Given the choice between signing potentially bad FA contracts and sucking, you should already know which evil they will choose.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          I don’t know that. I know what they’ve chosen to do so far under different circumstances, which are only faintly informative of where things will stand a year from now.

          • Kyle

            I think the differences you are seeing in the circumstances are extremely minor.

            • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

              If Baez and Bryant are projected to be on the big league team (making the minimum), and if Castro and Rizzo have bounced back? Each is a year older and closer to prime. More money has come off of the books.

              You sure about that?

              • Kyle

                Yes, I’m sure.

                Even if we all four of those things happen, this is still going to be a losing team coming off a bad year that doesn’t project to be a contender in 2015 without massive upgrades at multiple positions.

                • Kyle

                  ????/Sweeney/????
                  Bryant/Castro/Alcantara/Rizzo
                  Castillo

                  Samardzija/Jackson/Wood/Arrieta/?????

                  Even if everyone bounces back and breaks in the way you hope, *and* we don’t trade Samardzija, that team needs three major acquisitions to be in the conversation for a top-5 team in the NL.

                  • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

                    Not to use the phrase du jour, but you just moved the goalposts by a few football fields.

                    The argument isn’t whether the team will project, internally, to be a top 5 team in the NL heading into 2015 (or even that it would so project after three major acquisitions).

                    The argument is whether the circumstances facing the org, as a possible contender, will be different a year from now than they are today. Given the possible prospect development, the major league piece development, and the money coming off of the books (and I didn’t even mention the farm depth to make trades – very realistic in a year, if not already), the circumstances could easily be very different.

                    You also omitted Baez.

                    • Kyle

                      Derp on missing Baez.

                      It’s not moving the goalposts. You just disagree on what circumstances are informing their decision.

                      My contention (pun intended) is that if it’s going to take multiple high-quality FAs to get the team to contention, then they’d rather wait another year.

                    • Brocktoon

                      There really isn’t that much money clearing off the books. With br’s numbers there’s ~15m coming off he books when figuring arb awards. We’ll probably lose that much in ticket sales alone this year

          • Kyle

            And he’s telling you *right there* in the interview which one he will choose.

            When he’s talking about which major free agents he’s interested in, I don’t see “31-year-old pitchers who, if we sign two or three of them, make us contenders but we’re not contenders without them” on that list.

            • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

              You have massaged what he actually said to fit a very narrow, two-part-only schema. He mentioned the attractiveness of prime age free agents (and noted how rare they are). He mentioned that it’s great to be in a position like the Cardinals and Red Sox to pick and choose in free agency.

              That’s the extent of what he said. Neither of those things is incompatible with signing other free agents in other circumstances.

              • Kyle

                Well, when he mentions the attractiveness of 30-32 year old pitchers for teams coming off 90-loss seasons, I’ll comment on that. I’m not holding my breath.

                • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

                  Don’t. Why would he comment on that? Why would he offer anything but platitudes if asked about it specifically?

                  • Kyle

                    I’m confused. Now we’re off of the usual chorus of “They’ve always been upfront about the plan” and on to “They’re being super-secret about their plan because they don’t want everyone to know.”

                    I’m not going to say it’s impossible that they are planning a big pre-2015 splash. I’m just flabbergasted anyone believes it’s likely, given all their actions and the reports.

                    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

                      Not proclaiming to the world that you are GOING to sign more than one impact starting pitcher in a given offseason /= “being super-secret about their plan because they don’t want everyone to know.”

                      There are several good reasons not to discuss that publicly, not the least of which is it’s a freaking year away, and things might not actually play out that way. You’re punishing them for not publicly laying out all of the reasonable possible future paths they might take.

                      All I’ve ever said is that signing more than one quality free agent starter in 2015 is a reasonably possible path. Nothing they’ve said or done neuters that possibility, and not discussing it now has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not it actually IS a reasonably possible path.

                      “I’m not going to say it’s impossible that they are planning a big pre-2015 splash. I’m just flabbergasted anyone believes it’s likely, given all their actions and the reports.”

                      Now I’m confused, since no one in this conversation has suggested it is likely – only that it would make the most sense IF the three predicates were met.

                  • Kyle

                    He could have spoken in vague wording about how sometimes you have a lot of young talent on the edge and then add several big-money signings in one offseason to push yourself over the top.

                    I’m not “punishing” them. I’m predicting. I’m sure an argument could be made that not making a push next offseason, even if it means passing on pitchers that could help, is the right choice for the franchise. In fact, I’m pretty sure that argument will start being made a lot in about 10 months.

        • Kyle

          Which isn’t to say I think they will flat-out suck in 2015.

          Baez for sure, Bryant probably, a few guys like Alcantara and Hendricks taking up spots.

          You’ll start to approach/hover around a .500 projection without doing anything. But given the choice between “Man, everyone look at all these amazing prospects and bask in the glory of our improving young team that may not quite be good enough to win the division” or “7 years, $175m for a 31-year-old pitcher”, I don’t think there should be much doubt at this point which they will choose.”

          • Eternal Pessimist

            Precisely when picking up a couple of 31 year old FA type pitchers start to make a lot more sense. I think you have completed the other side of the obvious argument for why the Cubs are far more likely to be buyers next year than this (assuming your projections of being around 500 w/o doing anything are correct). But just because the timing is right doesn’t mean they will want to lock in a pitcher until he is 38/39.

            Maybe a 5-6 year contract will make sense. And how many teams are really locking up pitchers until they are 38/39? We have a few position players, but few pitchers signed up for anything like that.

            • YourResidentJag

              Depends. With the fluctuation we’re seeing in the FA market in terms of long term contracts (and as long as it doesn’t involve draft compensation), that might not be true in the future.

        • Jon

          Who even knows what the FA pitching class will actually look like next year? They could have all the money in the world and wind up on a bidding war for James Shields.

          Which is why some times, you have to get good players when you “can”. Regardless of the stage of your rebuild.

        • YourResidentJag

          Would you trade Baez for a TOR prospect, Kyle?

          • Kyle

            I wouldn’t trade Baez for three TOR prospects.

            • YourResidentJag

              Well, if that’s the case, where does that TOR come from? The upcoming drafts and then wait a couple more years for him to develop, CJ Edwards?

              • Kyle

                They’re going to continue to hope for a TOR trade to pop up, probably something from Samardzija or Castro, but otherwise I think they’ll just have to work around not having a TOR pitcher.

                If the 2016 Cubs lead the league in runs and have a killer bullpen, I can live with a rotation of 3s.

                • YourResidentJag

                  Wow. They’d better hope it comes from Edwards or the draft then. Or hope that your 2nd statement holds true, which may work, I suppose.

                  • Eternal Pessimist

                    3’s can be picked up in the FA market, and this is a much smarter way to take your shot while preserving your prospect flow IMO.

                    • YourResidentJag

                      As long as it works. It will to beat out lesser competition during the regular season. It may not when your team is facing the most dominant rotations deeper in playoff competition, because, well, that’s why they’re there in the first place.

                    • Eternal Pessimist

                      True, but by holding onto our prospect bats until they are productive MLB’rs we might still outscore them.

              • Jon

                They had TOR arms available as FA’s the past few off seasons. Arms that still projected to be TOR arms even in 2015-16. They passed each time.

                So if they are in a situation with the position players ready, but a poor rotation, they can only blame themselves.

                • YourResidentJag

                  Well, I don’t know if that’s true but getting one involves measured risks, that’s for sure.

  • Stu

    The FO seems to always think they are the smartest people in the room. That strategy might backfire as other teams FO’s start resenting it a little.

    Part of life is sometimes to let people underestimate your talent and not see you coming.

    • Jon

      Does anyone really believe Theo is smarter than say a Jeff Luhnow at this point? (not knocking Theo or Luhnow specifically either) but they essentially have similar timetables, have taken similar approaches, and have experience similar results up to this point.

      • YourResidentJag

        No. Also the guy who convinced the A’s to sign Cespedes was on MLBNetwork today. He’s is assistant GM of the A’s with a PHD in Econ and holds degrees from Cal-Berkeley and MIT.

      • Noah_I

        There are vastly more smart front offices than there used to be, so no, that doesn’t provide an advantage. But I think Theo is good at working with other smart GMs (Jon Daniels, twice now) to say I have an established starting pitcher that is more valuable to you than he is to me, and your prospects are more valuable to me than they are to you. Let’s make a deal.

      • Kyle

        I’m mostly worried about whether he’s smarter than Jocketty, Huntington and Mozeliak. Smarter enough to make a big difference in the long run.

        • Jason P

          Yup. I think they’re probably comparable, but the Cubs started with less, putting Epstein/Hoyer at an inherent disadvantage.

          Do we have enough to eventually get to the point where we can consider the rebuild a success? I think so. Enough to on this nearly unprecedented run of sustained success with mostly cost-controlled, homegrown players? Maybe a bit more fantasy than reality.

          • YourResidentJag

            Well, at least we don’t have Luhnow as part of that group anymore.

        • Noah_I

          I’m not sure there’s much Jocketty can do with the Reds at this point unless the Reds are bad this season and he can start selling. They’re a declining team to me, and up against their payroll limitations with a lot of core players due for pay raises shortly. But they’re in that no man’s land, where I see them as an 80 to 85 win team, and area that can be difficult to become a seller in.

          And I don’t know that Epstein/Hoyer need to be smarter than Huntington and Mozeliak. The Cubs needed a modern front office, so they brought in guys who had already built that. It’s not just a question of if the Cubs are smarter, but resources as well. So when the current front office took over they were at a huge talent deficit as compared to Cardinals and Pirates, and have had about equivalent money to spend as the Cardinals and Pirates. Hopefully, once the Cubs have closed the talent deficit gap at the MLB level, the Cubs will also be able to increase payroll and outspend them.

          Do I think Epstein and Hoyer are smarter than the other guys? No. Do I think they may have had less growing pains (and the growing pains were still significant in getting the organization set up her) than, say, Rick Hahn may have? There’s a strong possibility of that.

          • YourResidentJag

            Well, he could attempt to trade Bailey for prospects during the upcoming trade deadline.

          • Kyle

            I think believing the Reds are a team on the decline is a fantasy.

            They lapped the NL Central field in WAR from players 25 and under this year. They have a pretty decent base of young talent.

            • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

              I see that the “WAR from players 25 and under” is a talking point of yours now, even though we had a little exchange about that which demonstrated that the vast majority of that WAR was from guys who were exactly 25, and the vast majority of whom are about to get very expensive.

              I’m not picking, by the way – I’m just not going to let that one get adopted wholesale. It’s totally misleading.

              • Kyle

                Those things are true, but it’s not misleading in the slightest.

                • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

                  You wouldn’t make the “look at all the 25-and-under WAR, Reds are fine for the future!” point if you weren’t trying to suggest to folks that the Reds have tons of young big league talent that will prevent a regression in team performance over the next three years. That’s the precise point you’re trying to make, and it’s completely counter to the actual ages and contract situations of the very players to which you’re pointing. That’s the definition of misleading.

                  • Kyle

                    Why on earth do those facts counter it?

                    26-28 is still pretty much the heart of a player’s prime. Having great 25-year-old players is a *really* good sign for your next 3 years.

                    • Eternal Pessimist

                      Brett seems to be making the point that the Reds do not have(and likely will not have) long term control over many (most?) of those players since their Arb years are running out. Projecting them to continue to be contributing members of the Reds is misleading.

                    • Kyle

                      That would be incorrect. They may be getting more expensive entering their arb years, but none are on the verge of being 27-year-old FAs or anything.

                    • Jason P

                      It is, but that’s about the age those players start getting expensive in arbitration.

                      Without Choo, probably Bailey and a few others the Reds aren’t going to be a playoff team. Unless they add more young cheap talent to what they already have.

                      And fangraphs projects them at under .500 this year.

                    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

                      “That would be incorrect. They may be getting more expensive entering their arb years, but none are on the verge of being 27-year-old FAs or anything.”

                      http://www.bleachernation.com/2014/01/07/the-menacing-strength-of-the-cardinals-and-pirates/comment-page-1/#comment-512453

                      Actually, Latos and Leake (kind of important guys) are two years away from being 27-year-old FAs. When it comes to the timeline relevant to the Cubs, that’s pretty much squarely “on the verge.”

                    • Eternal Pessimist

                      No one was arguing they would immediately plummet, but they will soon become expensive.

                      Reds 2014 FA class
                      Aroyo
                      Reds 2015 FA class
                      Bailey
                      Reds 2016 FA class
                      Bernadina
                      Latos
                      Leake
                      Marshall
                      Parra
                      Pena
                      Simon

                      Only includes the arbs (low cost) that are “graduating and not other FA’s…and they are stuck with a couple of questionable contracts for longer (Phillips).

                      Looks to me like the &#%* hits the fan in 2016

                    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

                      2016 is also when Votto’s salary jacks up to $20 million, Phillips’ to $13 million, and Bruce’s to $12.5 million. The impending issues the Reds face are neither imagined, nor limited. It’s going to face them on multiple fronts, and they know it – that’s why the did things like go after one year of Choo last year.

                    • Kyle

                      We’ll just have to wait and see, then. I’ll this one next to “once Pujols leaves, the Cardinals will finally fall apart.”

                      Sure, the Reds face challenges. But they have a little money, a lot of brains and plenty of talent to work with. I’m not quite willing to dance on their 2016 graves.

                    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

                      “once Pujols leaves, the Cardinals will finally fall apart.”

                      For what it’s worth, I don’t remember anyone thoughtful who was saying that. I feel like I remember more people hoping the Cards re-signed him to a 10-year deal.

                    • Noah_I

                      While some Cubs fans may have been on the the Cards will fall apart when Pujols leaves bandwagon, many were not. And the sabermetrics community certainly didn’t feel that way.

                      With the Reds, the issue for me, and many, is twofold: they are losing too much of the best part of their team, the rotation, in the near term, and they have too much money tied up in too few players.

                      The Reds’ 2013 payroll was $107 million in a year that many, before the season started, said may have been the last of their window. That was $19 million higher than their 2012 payroll. So I don’t know if the Reds can afford to stay north of $100 million, or if that was “go for it” spending. It looks like the Reds’ payroll for 2014 will be right around that mark, and that is likely the Reds’ upper spending limit, considering they added no one of consequence this offseason.

                      So let’s be generous and say the Reds will be able to go up to $115 in 2016. I doubt that’s true, but we’ll just say that’s the case. If they can, then 39.6% of their payroll will be spent on Votto, Phillips and Bruce. If the Reds can only sustain at $90 million, then just over 50% of their payroll is devoted to those three players.

                      So the issue isn’t that X star player is leaving. That gets overrated. The problem is that something like 5 of their 7 most valuable players are hitting free agency, and the Reds have no way to replace them internally.

              • Kyle

                One thing that might help Cubs fans get some perspective is to cruise around other teams’ fan sites and see what they are saying. I don’t post anywhere but Cubs sites, but I make the rest of the division a regular stopping point.

                Pirates fans, of course, are enamored with their young core and the sustained success they believe is coming. They look forward to Polanco the way we look forward to Baez.

                Reds fans are in love with the team’s young pitching, and think that pitching health held the team back in 2013 and is going to reverse itself in 2014 and make the team even stronger. Also something about Billy Hamilton being a 2-win baserunner *outside* of his SBs.

                Brewers fans think their organization has a lot of underrated young talent and a chance to compete immediately if they stay healthy.

                • YourResidentJag

                  And what’s being stated nationally about guys like Shark, too.

                • Edwin

                  Cardinals fans are pretty excited about this new “Fire” thing they’ve discovered.

                • mjhurdle

                  As a non-Cardinal fan in STL, i have to seek out other non-Cardinal fans with which to watch/discuss baseball with, so that I don’t ruin the Best Fans in Baseball with my obvious ignorance.
                  As a result i spend a good seal of time talking with some Reds and Pirate fans in my area (no Brewer fans for some reason).
                  I agree with your Pirates take. The Pirate fans i know are very excited about where they are right now in regards to young talent and talent on the MLB level. They do want Burnett back to ease the transition to some of their younger pitching.
                  I think that Red fans might be a bit more tentative about their future though. The ones I talk to seem to have lost a lot of faith in Hamilton over the last year, viewing him as a possible Tony Campana (gamechanging speed, cant get on base enough). Their pitching is solid, and they are happy about Baker being out as manager. But the salary concerns that come with the young pitching on top of what they are already paying Bruce, Votto, etc makes them wonder how much of the team the Reds will be able to keep going forward. They don’t talk about their minors with much excitement, but that could be due more to the fact that they have been able to pay more attention to MLB action than MiLB actions the last few years.

                  Cardinals fans here are obviously happy, knowing that their young pitching will continue to dominate with no regression, and Johnny Peralta will become the SS version of Mike Trout for them this year (and with their voodoo magic, it just might happen)

                  • When The Musics Over

                    The Reds still have a very encouraging farm system. BP just did their annual Top 10 writeup and said it was a top 10 system. The Reds still have a nice pipeline to draw from in the near future.

                    • Noah_I

                      Their farm system has some interesting high ceiling talent in it, but it’s largely players who are pretty far from the Majors. Their top prospect is a starting pitcher, Robert Stephenson, who has promise and will return to AA after a cup of coffee there to start the season. He could potentially be ready in 2015. He is a guy who could reasonably make a difference for the Reds in the near future. After that, though, you’re looking at a lot of relief pitchers or guys in the lower minors.

                      Also, BP appears to be significantly higher on the Reds than the other rankings. I’d say the quality of the Reds’ system depends heavily on if you think Billy Hamilton is a starting center fielder or a bench piece. Players whose one huge tool is speed don’t really impress me that much, so I lean to the latter.

                  • sethdiggs

                    So are there any bars in Stl that have a Cubs following?? I’ve been here about a year and can find a healthy Bears crowd every Sunday, but I can’t say the same for Cubs fans.

                    • Pat

                      The Bears thing is because when the Cardinals left a lot of the town transferred to Bears fans and didn’t change back when the Rams came. I can’t say for 100% certain, but I’ve spent a fair amount of time there and I don’t think you will find a “Cubs bar” in the immediate area. At best you will find a few places that are tolerant. Generally speaking the smaller the place the better chance you have of not having an issue. If you find a place to frequent, and generally get along woth the regulars, they will put up with you for the head to head games – always fun to have someone to root against good naturedly.

                • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

                  And, by the way, the comments about the Reds’ young players comes from an entire post that acknowledges the strength of the Cardinals and Pirates in the long-run:

                  http://www.bleachernation.com/2014/01/07/the-menacing-strength-of-the-cardinals-and-pirates/

            • Noah_I

              On offense that’s specifically not true, since the Reds had only one regular under age 25 in 2013 (Mesoraco). Votto was 29/30, Bruce 26, Frazier 27, Phillips 31/32, Cozart 27/28, Heisey 28. Mesoraco was in his age 24/25 season, and Hamilton is 23, but all their other significant offensive contributors were over age 25, and I’m not a Hamilton guy.

              It was all on the pitching front, largely from pitchers who were exactly 25 and are approaching free agency: Latos (free agent after 2015), Leake (free agent after 2015), Chapman (can become a free agent after 2014). Cingrani is younger and has a lot of team control left, but the Reds stash of under 25 talent from 2013 largely isn’t going to be under 25 in 2014, and is largely very close to free agency, as well as their pitchers in the age 26-28 range.

              I love the Reds pitching staff in 2014 as well, but I think they’re offense is going to be bottom third. The odds of the Reds being able to afford more than 2 of Latos, Bailey, Leake, Chapman and Cueto are very slim (I’m betting they go with Latos and Leake), and the Reds’ farm system doesn’t have much in the way of starting pitching candidates or guys in the upper minors.

              I think the Reds COULD compete in 2014, and even potentially 2015. I hope they do. I hope they CAN’T trade Bailey and Latos because they are in it, and have to accept just the compensatory picks in return for their players. But this is a team that has its top 4 pitchers by fWAR from 2013 hitting free agency within the next two seasons, and has very few ways to improve their offense internally over the next couple of seasons.

              But I think their inability to score runs in 2014 leaves them a significant step below the Cardinals and Pirates (and I think the Pirates will be a significant step below the Cardinals).

  • Funn Dave

    Back in Boston, huh? I know where his loyalties lie. EPSTEIN’S A DOUBLE AGENT! COLLUSION!COLLUSION!

  • Stu

    With the acceptance of sabermetric principles throughout major league baseball and the closing of loopholes like overslotting, etc., how much extra advantage can be squeezed out?

    I’m not saying that the FO is not competent, they are just not Gods when trying to put together a winning team. It will eventually come down to spending the money at SOME point and until they do that, the ticket prices are not a good value.

    Cub fans today are paying for future value and enjoyment.

  • itzscott

    When every team has the same basic strategy…. focus on developing their own, controllable players, etc, etc…… and they all share the same way they view the economics of players…..

    then it becomes virtually impossible to deal with other teams other than both possessing different organizational surpluses of equal value yet different needs.

  • Dan1886

    Boston’s 2013 World Series has Theo’s imprint (and prospect building in particular) all over it. The following players who contributed to some degree were homegrown or acuired via trade of home grown talent:
    Saltalamacchia
    Pedroia
    Middlebrooks
    Ellsbury
    Nava
    Iglesias (traded for Peavy, also had a huge first half for them)
    Bradley
    Bogaerts
    Doubront
    Buchholz
    Tazawa
    Workman
    Britton

    The system is stocked (his last draft in 2011 was a masterpiece). The whole point is to build a player development entity that only needs to be supplemented by FA pieces. Patience is critical. 2015 is when real results should be felt at the major league level.

  • jammin502

    “You really want to make sure that your core players are team first guys and are pretty unselfish and are competitive and love the game and driven to win and good teammates.”
    Would this seem to be a dig at Samardzija?

  • cubfanincardinalland

    Are you all so sure the Cardinals are better off without Pujols? Yeah, when he is 39, the money is too much. But they won the World Series the last game he played with them, and have not won it since. I personally think they have missed him a lot in the playoffs the last 2 years, and not having him in the lineup was the reason they crashed and burned.

    • N.J. Riv

      Pujols has been away from the Cardinals to only two years and they have been in the NLCS and World Series since he’s left so…

  • Diehardthefirst

    Did anyone ask why in Boston? Sumpins up?!

  • Blackhawks1963

    I’m 100% supportive of Theo. I don’t get how anybody can rip the guy. He’s actually very flexible in approach. In Boston he built a world class organization and farm system. But he also was able to spend big. In Chicago he hasn’t (yet) had that later luxury handed down to him by the Ricketts. Can’t fault the man therefore for being very careful with his limited funds. The farm system is an fantastic shape and getting better by the month. This thing WILL payoff. It remains to be seen however when / if the Ricketts give Theo a prime time payroll. Then he can truly be turned loose in a year or two to make Josh Beckett – Hanley Ramirez type trades and be a big dog in free agency for the right piece or two.

Bleacher Nation Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. Bleacher Nation is a private media site, and it is not affiliated in any way with Major League Baseball or the Chicago Cubs. Neither MLB nor the Chicago Cubs have endorsed, supported, directed, or participated in the creation of the content at this site, or in the creation of the site itself. It's just a media site that happens to cover the Chicago Cubs.

Bleacher Nation is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

Google+