Theo Epstein on Spending, Progress, Drafting, and The Plan

epstein conference cubsChicago Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein addressed some of the bigger picture items yesterday as the Cubs opened up Spring Training on the eve of a season where that big picture is pretty much all fans have on which to hang their hat.

  • Epstein confirmed that this offseason, unlike the two offseasons prior, the baseball operations department did not spend all of the money allocated to it. Although he did not say so explicitly, the implication there is that money was held back for Masahiro Tanaka all offseason long. Having missed on Tanaka, there’s money available to be spent – but that doesn’t mean the Cubs are going to spend it. “This is the first winter where we ended up keeping some [money] in reserve to be used on players [that are] hopefully prime age, impact-type players down the road,” Epstein explained. “It gives us a bit of a leg-up as we look toward next Winter or an in-season move that might make the present and the future better …. Rather than just spend the money to spend it, if we can book that and have it available to us to sign that international free agent who comes along in the Summer, or to acquire a player in a trade who carries a significant salary but fits for the long term, or to just start out next offseason knowing we can be a little more aggressive on the guys we really want early because the money will be available to us, that made more sense than spending the money now just to spend it.”
  • Obviously everyone wants the Cubs to have hundreds of millions of dollars available to spend at any moment on any player. But, given that financial freedom is not the reality right now, I’d much, much rather the front office hold some money in abeyance for next offseason than spend it on short-term BS that isn’t going to change the ultimate result in 2014. That money wouldn’t make much of a difference in 2014, but it could make a huge difference in 2015. And, to put it plainly, we will all remember these comments next offseason.
  • Naturally, then, Epstein remains committed to The Plan, explaining that he sees the Cubs still moving in the right direction, even as outside evaluators dump on the current team. “I think there is a real dichotomy in the way the organization is perceived from the outside and how we look at it internally,” Epstein said. “There is a tremendous amount of talent in this organization. The prospects we have are getting a lot of attention, and they are moving their way up the ladder. The organizational depth, for instance, in the bullpen … there is no comparison to the quality arms that are in camp now than where we were two years ago. Our coaches and scouts, I believe, are impact and we believe we are on the verge of something special.” You can file that into the very-nice-to-hear-and-the-Cubs-probably-really-do-believe-it-internally-but-it’s-little-comfort-when-staring-down-yet-another-crappy-year department. The Plan, The Plan, The Plan. It takes time and patience. That sounds sarcastic, but I mean it.
  • Epstein discussed the draft just a little bit, saying that the focus will once again be pitching. That doesn’t mean the Cubs will take a pitcher with the number four overall pick – the better odds still tend to fall with position players at the top – but they need more and more arms. When paired with an international focus that necessarily skews positional-heavy (it can be very hard to accurately project 16-year-old arms in the Dominican Republic, for example), it makes sense to keep your draft pitcher-heavy, especially in the upper rounds (though maybe not always first round).

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

184 responses to “Theo Epstein on Spending, Progress, Drafting, and The Plan”

  1. Noah_I

    I’m curious what the miss on Tanaka says the Cubs’ potential spending limit this season would have been, and how they would have counted the posting fee in that equation? If your remove Hammel from the equation, that gets the Cubs down to an $80 million payroll, and I’ll go with the most conservative report on the Cubs’ offer to Tanaka: 6 years/$120 million. That would, in honesty, have made the Cubs’ effective payroll $120 million this season, although their actual payroll would have only been about $100 million.

    Considering Soriano comes off the books after next season, the Cubs could do a whole lot with a $120 million payroll in 2015. I’m not saying they will, or that $120 million is the figure available for 2015… but at least we have some idea as to the money available to spend on the Big League team RIGHT NOW is, and that’s somewhere between $100-$120 million.

    I’m hoping once all the revenue issues are taken care of, that number jumps about $50 million.

    1. Senor Cub

      The best team in baseball by any measure is the St. Louis Cardinals. Their payroll for 2014 will be in $105-110M. They have one of the best farm systems every year and have the best team in baseball for 2014 according to many.

      Sooo… the Cubs will catch up to them by spending $80M in 2014 and $100-120M in 2015???? It’s simple math as far as I’m concerned.

      I better stop, I am getting agitated by these postings here!

      1. mjhurdle

        By the measure of who won the championship, wouldn’t the best team in baseball be the Red Sox?

        1. CubFan Paul

          “best team in baseball for 2014 according to [the money]“

        2. DocPeterWimsey

          The Sox also were simply a better team overall than the Cards were. And, yes, the Cards’ system is very good: but so is the Sox’s system.

      2. Scombs

        Senor Cub, your point is not clear – could you please explain your comparison a little more?

      3. Noah_I

        I didn’t say the Cubs will catch up to the Cardinals next year, and catching up to the Cardinals next year shouldn’t necessarily be the goal, at least if the idea is to follow “The Plan”, which is to be more concerned with developing a team that can be competitive over a long period of time instead of focusing on a specific year in which the team must win. All I’m saying is that it’s nice to know that the Cubs CAN spend more than this.

        And per mjhurdle’s comment, the Red Sox are widely regarded as having a superior farm system to the Cardinals right now. The Cardinals are expect to have a better record, although I’d argue that the two teams are essentially equivalent talent-wise and the difference in record is that the Cardinals play in the NL Central and the Red Sox play in the AL East.

        1. cubfanincardinalland

          Cardinals hit .330 with runners in scoring position last season. They lost Beltran, and their best players are all getting older. Well see how these second year players they have in the hall of fame already will wind up.
          And their farm system, you take Taveras out of the equation, they don’t have a position player that projects any better than an average major leaguer at best. Media darlings will be baseballs biggest bust this year.

          1. YourResidentJag

            Nah, I actually see that coming from the Indians. Sorry.

    2. mjhurdle

      We will never know for sure, but I wonder if the full NTC and opt-out after 4 years were what the Cubs wouldn’t match as opposed to just the $$$ and years.

    3. BenRoethig

      It says that a 25 year old pitcher in his prime was available for a long term deal. That doesn’t happen very often. They will spend money if it makes sense for the team. They won’t spend money just to spend money.

  2. Senor Cub

    Sooo…was Edwin Jackson all part of the plan? I know he had a down year in 2013 and perhaps he gets back to his usual .500 mark, I doubt at any point in time he was ever part of the “plan”. Can’t have it both ways. So they missed on Tanaka, big deal. Other quality pitchers were still on the market that could have been had for around the same money as Jackson was a year ago ( Feldman, Santana, Jimenez, Arroyo, etc..).

    Look I don’t want to bash the FO but every other team also has a FO that is just as smart. Maybe they have the wherewithall (balls) to take a shot. This FO seems more scared about making the wrong move then taking a shot. I will save everyone the suspense, they will miss on some just like they will hit on some. Every other FO is the same. You need credible history just look at the last few shots they took while in Boston!

    1. mdavis

      right. because every other FO is so smart is probably why jiminez and santana are still FA….

    2. josh ruiter

      The “shots” they took in Boston netted them 2 World series titles, and a farm system that is still producing solid players. They made a “go big” offseason with Crawford and Gonzalez and lost the bet. What they didn’t do was ransack the farm to make it happen. And they did it when the team was already poised to make a run, only needing a few additions. It didn’t pan out the way they hoped, but they lived with their plan there, and the Sox are still reaping benefits.

  3. mdavis

    still think at some point, round 1, you need to take a big time pitcher. in the top 50 prospects, 23 are pitchers, 19 are first rounders and 10 of those are top 10 picks. Yes, its a crapshoot, but thats also some telling numbers.

    1. Big City Mick

      I was a little surprised that when Jonathan Gray fell to us at #3 that we didn’t take him but I was also really happy that Bryant was available too. I like their draft strategy in just taking the best players available regardless of their position and then using every other round to grab high upside pitching. This coming draft though could be really interesting if Trea Turner’s still available at #4 for the Cubs considering our SS depth and how they rate Turner of course.

      1. DarthHater

        Cubs picked second.

      2. jp3

        Not a big turner fan unless you’re talking of him as a 2B. We have a few other bats that play better at SS than his does. He’s faster and got a little more pop but I could do without another Barney

  4. CubFan Paul

    “there is no comparison to the quality [bullpen]arms that are in camp now than where we were two years ago”

    Yeah, we noticed Theo.

    Thanks for doing your job this year?

    1. Jason P

      I’m not really sure what you’re getting at. He was asked about the progress of the organization, and he pointed out one area where it could be seen.

      1. CubFan Paul

        …the bullpen sucked out of Camp two years in a row (on purpose (…the plan)).

        1. Jason P

          If by on purpose you mean because they didn’t commit significant resources to improving the bullpen, I’d argue that big money deals for relievers rarely work out anyway.

          1. CubFan Paul

            “on purpose you mean because they didn’t commit significant resources”

            No, quality was the topic.

            1. Jason P

              And I’m not sure how exactly you think they could have added quality in bulk without committing significant resources.

              1. CubFan Paul

                see below.

        2. DocPeterWimsey

          Except that Camp actually pitched pretty well in his first year. Of course, as he was a reliever, that had about zero predictive power for how he would do the next year.

          Bullpens have the biggest crapshoot level of any part of baseball. We just saw another example of this: the 2012 Orioles’ bullpen was awesome, particularly in high leverage situations; the 2013 Orioles’ bullpen of largely the same people) was pretty “meh” and the did not do anywhere near as well in high leverage situations. There is a really good chance that we’ll see this in 2014 with the Pirates, who had great relief work in 2013: indeed, the Pirates provided the “before” and “after” lessons in 2012 alone, as their bullpen kept them in the playoff picture until mid-August, and then imploded with the force of about 15 black-holes, contributing to a sub-0.500 record in the end.

          1. CubFan Paul

            There’s no Rule 5er this year, and there’s a 2nd lefty (among other quality vets)


            1. Jason P

              Rondon looks like he’s going to turn out pretty well. A second lefty would have helped slightly, but only enough to improve their overall bullpen rank from 28th to about 23rd.

              Mostly, their bullpen has been terrible because the farm system has failed to produce quality relievers. It took 2 years, but now it’s producing.

              1. CubFan Paul

                Weak Sauce.

                1. Jason P

                  Strong sauce.

                  1. CubFan Paul

                    “Strong sauce”

                    No, not really.

                    Corpas, Dolis, Wells, Coleman, Castillo (5er), Cabrera, Rondon, Camp (’13), Bowden (’13), & Marmol (’13) would like to say hello

                    1. Jason P

                      Listing all the terrible relievers the Cubs have had the past 2 years bears no relevance at all to what I just posted.

                      I’m not arguing that their bullpen wasn’t terrible the past 2 years or that their farm system did a good job supplying the team.

                    2. Edwin


                      Who has their farm system supplied them with for 2014 though?

                    3. CubFan Paul

                      “Listing all the terrible relievers the Cubs have had the past 2 years”

                      WAS the original point & topic: Quality.

                    4. Jason P

                      Edwin – I replied to that point below.

              2. Edwin

                Is there something about Rondon that I missed? Looks like he had a 4.40 FIP as a reliever last season.

                Also, what good relievers has the Cubs farm system produced or are producing right now? They signed Veras and Wright, and traded for Strop and Grimm.

                Not that I’m bashing Theo, but the Cubs bullpen depth doesn’t seem that special to me.

                1. cubfanincardinalland

                  Rondon was like a lot of pitchers who have Tommy John surgery. The second year is when they really start getting their best stuff back, sometimes even better. Rondon was throwing bullets in September. His velocity went from low 90′s early in the season, to touching 97 at the end of the year. I am looking for a big season from him in 2014, would not be surprised to see the Cubs consider transitioning him back to being a starter.

                  1. Edwin

                    Ahhh. Normally, I like to have more data on a pitcher than 1 month, especially 1 month of RP innings, before I start prediciting future improvement. Still, the velocity spike is nice.

                2. Jason P

                  I was counting Grimm even though he wasn’t technically drafted/developed by the Cubs organization.

                  Grimm, Parker, Rosscup, Vizcaino, Russell if you go back a little further, Rivero, Ramirez.

                  I guess more than just the farm system, I should broaden my point to say the Cubs have started to accumulate power arms better than than they have really at any point in the past decade.

                  That probably sounds like a ridiculous overstatement, but if you go back and look at their bullpen velocity by years, it’s been consistently low for a long time.

                  1. Edwin

                    Cool. I think Parker could be a good contributor this year. The rest of the names you mentioned I’m not so sure of.

                    They’re starting to improve their bullpen, and I think it will get even better in a couple years once more of Theo’s drafts start to come through.

          2. woody

            Well Doc we had 26 blown saves last year. And then there were hold situations where we relinquished the lead. Not sure where to find that stat, but Camp let quite a few go during his swan dive into obscurity. Let’s just say for arguments sake that with blown holds and saves we had 34 games lost. If we had been on the right side of 50% of those games we could have won 83 games and been above .500. Add to that the down offensive years for Castro. Rizzo and Barney and you have to wonder about the potential of this team, this year. Just with an improvement of those three guys and a breakout from Samardzija combined with a solid bullpen could make us a .500 club. The big problem last year was that we got creamed within our own division. And without a doubt it was the toughest division in the NL. I really don’t know what to think. When you look at it from that perspective of the blown holds and saves combined with three starters that tanked offensively you have to hold out hope that there is chance of respectability if those factors can be reversed.

            1. TWC

              You know that blown saves and “blown holds” (a non-stat) do not equal losses, right?

              1. woody

                I realize that, but with the frequency thay Wood and Samardzija lost games that they left with the lead you have to wonder. Not only Camp sucked big time, but Russell was getting hammered also in the second half.

              2. Patrick W.

                Here’s a good one. 3 blown saves in the same game, one by the Giants and 2 by the Cubs.


            2. DocPeterWimsey

              Blown holds are tallied as blown saves. Also, not all blown saves are loses: at least as of mid-August, the Cubs led the NL in games in which they won and blew a save. The Cubs also had games in which they had two blown saves.

              Now, none of this takes away from the fact that the Cubs bullpen hurt them. However, it is a mistake to equate 1 blown save with 1 loss.

              The other problem with this line of thinking is that the Cubs had a lot of hold/save situations because their offense failed to create runs that would have made it a non-save or a 2-run or 3-run instead of 1-run lead save. There is a huge difference in how easy it is to blow those saves.

        3. Big City Mick

          Cubs unveil new mascot Clark to mixed reviews #ThePlan

        4. Big City Mick

          Tickets to see Billy Joel at Wrigley on sale now #ThePlan

          1. Patrick W.

            I got $5 says you’re the kind of guy who non-ironically says “Hashtag” in conversation, annoying the shit out of your friends.

            1. Scombs

              Man, I wish there was a “like” button in these blogs.

              1. Fishin Phil

                Not as much as I wish there was an “ignore” button.

  5. woody

    It seems like the top position player this year will be Trey Turner. I wonder if he would be an option considering our abundance of SS prospects in the system. I did a little research a while back looking at past Cy Young winners in the last 12 years and the majority of them were 1st round picks. Kershaw and Lincecum were both 1st round choices and two time winners. Considering the prices these elite arms command in FA I have to believe that the only way we are going to aquire one will be through a first round pick. Maybe they will determine that this years class doesn’t have that potential and take Turner. Most of the experts forecast the Cubs to be a top contender for the reverse standings so maybe that future impact pitcher comes next year.

  6. Scombs

    Brett, definitely agree about not having “BS” signings just to spend money (though getting Tanaka still would have been nice). Those short-term signings, assuming they “help” the club in 2014 (and for some, in 2015) since any signing should presumably add value, would not only use up this money that better be rolled over to next offseason, but also hurt the Cubs’ draft position for next year. I hate to pull the Tank Race card, but this is another year where I would definitely prefer to be in the bottom 10 than be in the bottom “teens.”

  7. Kyle

    I imagine that money will be needed to make up for the 300k in fans we lose this year. The squeeze all this losing is putting on revenue is problematic.

    1. Scombs

      Well, that’s a good point. Shall we propose a short-term increase in available season tickets? haha

      1. Brocktoon

        They’ve been desperately reaching out to people over the past couple months in an attempt to get season tickets sold. – People who’ve passed, people who dropped their packages, people who passed last year. And this is after they churned through a huge portion of the list last year (and maybe this year too?) I fear the attendance numbers drop even further than originally estimated because ricketts figured the season ticket holders would always be there

        1. Noah_I

          I can tell you there’s still a huge backlog in getting season tickets. I got on the list in 2007 or 2008, and my waiting list number for this season is still in the 10,000s. That may not continue with another two years or so of MLB irrelevance, but they’re selling through all the season tickets.

          1. Brocktoon

            They don’t update the numbers until the season begins. I’d bet quite a bit you get the call next year

          2. Darth Ivy

            that’s surprising. I signed up for the waiting list right before the 2007 started (yep, soriano excitement, you guessed it) and got the call last year when I was in the 20,000s. Then I got bumped off the list after I didn’t show up to buy tickets.

            I actually signed up for the list again a couple weeks ago. #92, 434. It took 6 years to get the call with 2 playoff appearances and huge attendance. I’m guessing it shouldn’t take more than 4 this time. Here’s hoping they don’t win the WS before 2018!!

            1. Darth Ivy

              man, since I posted that, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about what it would be like to be in wrigley and watch the cubs win the world series. I can’t decide if it’s is a blessing or a curse

  8. Senor Cub

    Scombs – “…but this is another year where I would definitely prefer to be in the bottom 10 than be in the bottom “teens.””

    Did if feel good making that statement? How about being the worst for the next 5 years so you can draft 1st?

    I don’t know statistics as well as some people on this board but Baseball is not like Football where one year you can be at the bottom and the following year you can be contending for a SuperBowl. I am pretty certain that being the “teens” as you put it is closer to the top then being at the bottom.

    1. Scombs

      If we are signing long-term deals that put us on a sustainable upward trend, then yeah, I’m totally fine with not being in the bottom 10. But if the signings are 1- to 2-year deals, they are counterproductive, IMO. Obviously, the team won’t go from 90 losses to 95 wins in a single season, but trying to get to mid-70′s wins with players we can’t keep doesn’t make sense to me.

    2. Scombs

      An no, making that statement does not feel good. But I haven’t felt very good about the team’s prospects since 2003.

    3. Noah_I

      You definitively can be at the bottom one year and then competing for the World Series the next in baseball. The Red Sox finished dead last in the AL East in 2012 with 69 wins, and won the WS last season. The Orioles won 69 games in 2011 before winning 93 and making the playoffs in 2012. Oakland won 74 games in 2011 before making it to the playoffs the last two seasons as AL West champs. Arizona was a 65 win team in 2010 before winning the NL West in 2011. When the Rays took their jump to relevance, they went from being a 65 win team and perennial cellar dweller in the toughest division in baseball in 2007 to a 97 win team and AL pennant winner in 2008.

      Indeed, the idea of parity in the NFL is something of a joke to me, considering how much the past 13 seasons have been dominated by a handful of quarterbacks: Brady (3 wins, 5 appearances), Roethlisberger (2 wins, 3 appearances), Eli Manning (2 wins), and Peyton Manning (1 wins, 3 appearances). Of 26 potential quarterbacks to appear in the Super Bowl, 12 of them, nearly 50%, belong to just 4 players. If you throw Kurt Warner in there, you have 14 appearances belonging to just 5 players. In that time frame, the Patriots won 3 Super Bowls, the Steelers 2 and the Giants 2, so more than half of the Super Bowl victories belong to just 3 teams.

      The only thing that makes quickly moving from worst to first in a division in the NFL possible is the way the schedule is skewed: the worst team in the division the prior year gets two games a season against two other terrible teams, while the best team in the division plays good teams in those two games. And look at the divisions these sorts of scheduling issues matter in. Did they ever matter in the AFC East with the Brady led Patriots? No. Did they ever matter in the AFC South with the Manning led Colts? No. It allows mediocre teams to win mediocre divisions, and then quickly get bounced from the playoffs.

  9. Brocktoon

    “I’d much, much rather the front office hold some money in abeyance for next offseason than spend it on short-term BS that isn’t going to change the ultimate result in 2014.”

    So why jason hammel???

  10. itzscott

    Just wondering at where the Cubs’ level of progress resides within “The Plan” if it’s too risky to draft a pitcher at #4 where the probabilities of losing a season to TJ surgery are the greatest if that pitcher’s talent isn’t far and away superior to what will be available in round 2 and beyond.

    1. bbmoney

      I don’t think it has anything to do with the plan. I think it has everything to do with BPA and if a pitcher is the BPA (at least according to their valuations) than I’d expect them to take a pitcher.

  11. Sacko

    To me the only position player that would look really nice would have been Ellsbury but his contract is not worth that. I would have like to see us do a 3 year deal on a SP, don’t ask me who but there were a few available.

  12. Blackhawks1963

    The Cubs could have an oustanding trade chip IF he salvages himself and if Javy Baez can play shortstop and Alcantara can play 2nd base His name? Starlin Castro. The best case situation is that Castro, Baez and Alcantara all take impressive strides this season…enabling TheoJed to trade Castro to the highest bidder in the winter. He’s the sort of player who “could” bring back a blue chip, major league ready pitcher.

    1. Senor Cub

      Blackhawks1963 – you want Castro traded in hopes that someone else in your minors is better than him? Castro is 23 yrs old and a two time All-Star. So your plan is subtraction by addition. I know it’s Valentines Day and perhaps you went out and got a little some’ for yourself, so what are you Smokin? I would like some as well.

    2. Jon

      Have not you called Castro “garbage” in the past? So from “garbage” to this outstanding trade chip that will bring back a blue chip major league ready pitcher. That’s quite interesting.

      1. woody

        I remember that.

        1. CubFan Paul

          It was very over the top.

        2. DarthHater

          There is a 0% chance it could be forgotten.

          1. ClevelandCubsFan


      2. Isaac

        That was one of my favorite debates on here. A 23 year old SS with 692 MLB hits and he is “garbage”. Probably an appropriate time to remind people Jeter had <400 at the same age.

    3. cooter

      The odds are slim on the prospects since they will have to carry the team. Since the cubs are treated like big business ( the bottom line is the dollar) you would think that they would want to get a few vets to take off the pressure. Yah, it probably won’t make us better for 2014 but like in any business it takes money to make money and it will increase the odds of our prospects. So it kind of seems they are just pitter pattering around until the tv deal. Makes me PISSED!

    4. ssckelley

      I find it funny how everyone is willing to trade Castro but few here will entertain the possibility that Baez could be the one dealt.

      The Cubs have 2 main areas of surplus in the organization infielders and power. If Castro returns to hitting at 100+ in OPS+ and plays a solid glove at third, the Cubs FO may not be interested in trading him. Baez plays a premium position and hits for power, if the Cubs are shopping for a TOR arm he might be your best trade chip. But few here want to entertain that idea because Baez is the shiny prospect. Power is what other teams want and the Cubs are one of the few organizations that have it.

      1. ssckelley

        oops, solid glove at short…not third.

  13. Diehardthefirst

    Theo is featured on upcoming 30/30 Sun nite explaining how in 2004 he worked out trade for ARod that fell thru at last minute- good to learn more how he thinks- be sure to watch

    1. DarthHater

      He’s the very best at working out trades that fall through at the last minute. ;-)

      1. aaronb

        And finishing 2nd in free agent bidding.

        1. cubfanincardinalland

          And building championship baseball organizations.

          1. aaronb

            He took over an organization that was coming off a 93 win season. Dan Duquette built the 2004 team. He does get credit for the 2nd title. However his Sox outspent every non Yankees team in baseball by almost 30 million dollars.

            I think he’s absolutely an upper 3rd MLB executive. I’m not ready to dub him St. Theo.

            1. Kyle

              The kind of scary part:

              By the time Epstein left Boston, they’d missed the playoffs 3 out of the last 6 and were about to miss a 7th.

              Getting lucky in short series a few more times than you’d expect has really helped Boston look better than it actually has been (not that they haven’t been really good).

              1. aaronb

                They were also the Dodgers in terms of spending during his tenure. Sure makes it easier to paper over mistakes when you can spend to fix them.

                Which is also why I don’t buy that the only way the Cubs could have turned it around was to act like the Astros for 5 years and counting.

                1. ClevelandCubsFan

                  I’m OK being the Dodgers but first we need Dodgers money. And we don’t have it. It’s not just about the market. You have to be able to capitalize on that market. The Cubs are currently not capitalizing on the market lile rhe Dodgera (hamstrung in a few areas) pkus the LA area is a bigger market. I think it will come though.

                  As for the Red Sox. .. look at that division. If we can reproduce the Sox in Chicago… well it’ll be like the Sox having a division with KC and CHW instead of NYY and TOR in their division.

              2. BT

                Kyle, did you take a parsing class in college? One might say “by the time Epstein left Boston, he had made the playoffs 6 out of 9 times”, instead of cherry picking the last few seasons (then giving him credit for the season he wasn’t there). One also might add that the 2 years at the end of his tenure that he missed the playoffs, the Red Sox won 89 and 90 games respectively. They made the playoffs 6 times under Theo, they easily could have made it 8 times. They won the World series twice. Not astronomical odds exactly.

                If that’s “The kind of scary part”, then I’m all ready to be scared.

                1. Kyle

                  By consensus, I thought we agreed that nothing that happens in the first three years of an Epstein regime is up to him, it’s all on the previous regime.

  14. Cheese Chad

    “And, to put it plainly, we will all remember these comments next offseason.” I’ll totally forget but I can’t wait to re-read it in a link on this blog next year:)

  15. Patrick W.

    Guys, I just got back from the future and some of you are going to be so shocked around July 1, 2014.

    Also I win the MegaMillions tomorrow so you won’t be seeing me much any more.

    1. DarthHater

      Oops. Chaos Butterfly just flapped its wings and changed the course of events. You should have stayed in that future when you had the chance. :-P

      1. Patrick W.

        Yeah except I just went back a week and all butterflies are now extinct. Look out your window, try to find one, it’s terrible, will be all over the news tonight.

        1. DarthHater


  16. Big City Mick

    The frustrating thing to the SS depth dilemma is that there probably won’t be a clear cut decision to make by the end of this season. Even if Baez, Alcantara, and Bryant all tear it up this year, Castro’s only 23 years old and still probably hasn’t become the player he’s ultimately going to become. He still has the potential to be a triple crown type of player at a premium position. So, even if he only makes a slight improvement, he’s still probably worth more than what other teams are willing to trade for him.

    1. aaronb

      Castro will NEVER be a triple crown player….At any position

    2. DocPeterWimsey

      If all three of those guys tear it up this year, then there is no dilemma. You put two of them at 2nd and 3rd later in the season or in 2015. Bryant just started pro ball last year, so even if he tears it up in 2014, then he probably won’t be in MLB until the 2nd half of 2015. If he’s still tearing it up (and at this point, we are hoping for a tough 3 for 3), then he goes to corner OF.

      And, of course, you can always trade one or more of them in an attempt to get a good starting pitcher.

      1. Brocktoon

        Bryant is starting the year at AA, if he tears it up all season he’ll be up in 2014

    3. Patrick W.

      Castro could win the triple crown if he goes to three different Burger Kings on his birthday.

    4. woody

      You must be thinking of horse racing.

  17. Jon

    Yeah, I can’t see Castro leading the league in HR’s

    1. Jon

      Well maybe if he could um…ya know :)

    2. DocPeterWimsey

      And he’s not going to bat in a spot that will let him get a lot of RBI. Of course, given the lack of OBP on the Cubs (and in their system, still!), it would be really hard for a Cubs player to lead the league in RBI.

      Of course, HR are the only one of these three stats that matter, anyway.

  18. woody

    I just wonder if come allstar beak we will have worked out a deal with the rooftops? So much of this plan is out of Theo’s hands. Clearly the revenues from the signage and the plaza etc. were to create revenues to sign FA’s when the future arrives starting in 2015. We should be half way through that process and nothing has happened. Given the financial restrictions employing the Astros stategy may be the only means available to improving the long term viability of the club. Theo’s position is similsr to a one legged man in an ass kicking contest. He doing the best he can with what he has to work with.

    1. brickhouse

      Once the rooftop deal is completed won’t the money from the rf sign and jumbotron go to Ricketts to help pay for the renovation and not Epstein for players

      1. woody

        Maybe you are right. I guess the TV money is a better bet. But I wonder how the lack of progress in the renovation plan is affecting the TV negociations?

        1. brickhouse

          I don’t think the renovation has any affect on the tv negotiation. It will be more based on a winning team producing higher ratings.

      2. ClevelandCubsFan

        Ultimately, as my grandfather said, it all goes down the same red lane. I think strategically though the rennovations pay for themselves over time while the ad revenue helps fund the team. But like I said… it’s one big pot.

  19. 29bigcat

    Yoon for three years w balt…..hammels gets more for one w us….im not sure i get this.

  20. Cornish Heat


    Is your patience beginning to thin? At least to me, some of your words in Bullets 2 and 3 hinted as much…

    1. cubs2003

      I’m not Brett, but I noticed the same thing. I really wish I knew more about the delegation of responsibilities between Theo and Jed. As far as I know, Theo’s in charge of big picture stuff and Jed does the small picture stuff. Is that right? I’m starting to lose some faith in Jed. He seems to be too much of an inside the box thinker running on ideas from a decade ago. I have no doubt he works really hard, though. If Theo and Jed are just tag teaming it, then good luck. Hard to hold either accountable. Not a great management strategy.

  21. cubfanincardinalland

    I am in the same place. These guys know what they are doing. They know the difference between good and bad ballplayers.
    I liked Theo’s comments yesterday. Between the lines, you could almost hear him saying, “you know the talent in this organization really sucked when I got here”.

    1. cubs2003

      Yeah, every time I hear Theo talk there’s an undertone of “you have no idea about the mess I inherited”.

      1. bbmoney

        I feel that too and I’m patient. I think the moves they’ve made so far are all defensible and reasonable given the specific circumstances they were facing. That obviously doesn’t mean all the moves worked perfectly, but I think the overall plan has made sense given the context.

        That said, the time is getting close to where they need to start backing up all the talent acquisition they’ve done in the minors with FA spending. If they don’t start doing it soon, probably by next season, I’m not sure there will be many valid reasons they can use to defend it.

        Unless something disastrous happens, I think we’re going to see some of that talent they’ve acquired start contributing to the MLB club the second half of this year and while it would have been nice to have some more FAs (or veteran talent acquired via trade, etc.) in place to back it up this year, if they aren’t there next year its going to be quite frustrating….to say the least.

      2. Jon

        If Theo believes that then what a load of shit. You want to talk about a mess, that is what Andrew Frieman delt with and still deals with in terms of a tiny payroll and no fan support.

        1. DocPeterWimsey

          And this far into his tenure, Friedman had fielded two last place teams. The good team that was about to emerge came almost entirely through the Rays farm system, too, augmented by a couple of “dumpster diving” FA signings that worked out well for the Rays.

          1. When The Musics Over

            Depending on who you want to believe, the Cubs have literally had triple (or more) the financial resources during their rebuild and might have quadruple (or more) the financial resources on a perpetual basis going forward.

        2. When The Musics Over

          There are alot of people that have whole heartedly taken to the story that rebuilding the Cubs after Hendry’s “epic mess” has been one of the most difficult and challenging feats in modern baseball.

          Now I’m using exaggeration on purpose here, but it’s to serve a point. Exaggerating the Cubs rebuilding effort as some sort of beyond reproach heroic feat that no other front office could possibly undertake with better results should be fought with equal, yet opposite exaggeration.

          1. Jon

            Funny how “Hendry’s mess” includes 2 out of the 5 best prospects including the top one.

            1. When The Musics Over

              Plus so much more than that. There were alot of assets on this team, some that are still here, others that were moved for other assets. Now I’m not saying he then Hendry would have converted them as efficiently or not (he was no slouch in trades), but the cupboard certainly wasn’t bare.

              Marshall = Wood
              Cashner = Rizzo
              Dempster = Vizcaino
              Ramirez = Johnson
              Pena = Blackburn
              Soriano = Black
              Garza = Olt, Edwards, Grimm

              Etc, etc, you get the point. The had far more ingredients to work with than people think.

              1. Jon

                But “Taking over the worst farm system in baseball” and a “roster full of albatross contracts” is a more dynamic narrative. :)

                1. Patrick W.

                  Who are you quoting?

              2. mjhurdle

                Just looking at that list seems to actually contradict your point.
                If the most obvious assets are so scarce that you have to include an unproven, lower level prospect (Vogelbach) then maybe the cupboard isn’t as stocked as you think.
                I think that the Cubs were definitely in a bad spot when Theo took over, though I agree it wasn’t the dire straights some like to pretend it was. Add to that some challenges that are unique to the Cubs (ie Rooftops) and I do think that Theo and Co have had a big mess to deal with.
                And I think they have done a good job dealing with it, as referenced by your list where more than half the assets mentioned are only assets because of what the Front Office got for them (the Dempster, Soriano, and Garza in particular).
                Time will tell how it ends up, maybe they only succeed in making a bigger mess. But I think if they turn it around, they deserve quite a bit of credit.

                1. Jon

                  If the most obvious assets are so scarce that you have to include an unproven, lower level prospect (Vogelbach)

                  Whatever, Keith Law :)

                2. CubFan Paul

                  “unproven, lower level prospect (Vogelbach)”

                  ..Vogz is borderline Top 100

                  “I think that the Cubs were definitely in a bad spot when Theo took over”

                  Kyle likes to have fun with that.

                3. When The Musics Over

                  The vast majority of the rest of the obvious assets were accumulated through very high drafts picks via tanking seasons. I don’t consider that a creative, other-worldly respect worthy skill unique to the epstein.

                  1. Napercal

                    It’s better than the skill displayed by Jim Hendry who selected Vitters ahead of Wieters.

                    1. YourResidentJag

                      Or turning Choi into Derrick Lee :)

                    2. aaronb

                      Bobby Hill into Aramis Ramirez.

                    3. YourResidentJag

                      Signing Ted Lilly.

              3. bbmoney

                I’m sure the narrative is overplayed, but reading that list doesn’t really make me think that they had a lot to work with. Castillo is the only prospect that has come up the last two years and made any kind of meaningful impact. Sure you can resign Dempster, Ramirez, Pena and hang on to Soriano and Garza and the team wouldn’t have been as bad.

                But it still would have been pretty bad without spending a lot more money in free agency. Or you could have just been bad instead of really really awful at the cost of acquiring guys like Almora, Bryant, and the guys you listed as compensation picks.

                I don’t feel like there were a lot of realistic paths to success the past few seasons (short of a Dodgers like spending spree) given the roster when Theo and Jed came in. From that perspective, and what they had to work with, I like what they’ve done. But as I said above, they need to start backing it up.

                1. Brocktoon

                  Almora wasn’t a result of theo tanking, his draft slot was due to the 2011 cubs. He was essentially(via his existing draft spot) an asset they started with

                  1. Napercal

                    Baez wasn’t a tank pick either. Only Bryant is directly attributable to the Tank Plan.

                    1. bbmoney

                      You’re both right, although I never mentioned Baez. Doesn’t really change my perspective on it though, just insert this years pick instead. Similarly I’d imagine pointing out that Mahlom is the guy they traded for Vizcaino and not dempster wouldn’t change much either.

                  2. bbmoney

                    True… But also helps show the team was quite bad already….

              4. Kyle

                It is interesting how often it’s glossed over how many inherited assets Epstein was able to use to acquire prospects.

                1. When The Musics Over

                  Crap, I can’t believe u forgot about Shark as one of the main assets as well.

                  It would have been very cool to see up a parallel universe where Hendry had a similar draft budget and was told to gut and rebuild the team. I wonder how different things would look.

                  1. When The Musics Over

                    *I forgot. Stupid phone keyboard.

          2. TSB

            Hey, it worked for Obama; six+ years; any problems with the economy is still Bush’s fault. So give Theo another few years if needed. (sorry for the political angle)

            1. Greenroom

              no politics. thanks

            2. Jon

              Unemployment February 2009 : 8.3%
              Unemployment February 2013: 8.3%

              N’uff said. BushShit supporters crack me up.

              1. Jon

                Unemployment Februrary 2009 : 6.6% I mean.

                1. Jon

                  I mean Unemployment February 2013: 6.6%, fuck it I give up :)

                  1. Darth Ivy

                    the more accurate number is around 13%. The U3 is distorted by a 30 year low in the labor force and a shift from full time part to time work. To Obama’s credit, even that higher number has been falling along with the U3 (the usual report). The right direction is still the right direction, right?

                    1. Brocktoon

                      Maybe because the boomers who fucked over the country don’t need to work full time anymore

                    2. Darth Ivy

                      there aren’t enough to warrant the numbers. It’s actually harder to retired since 2008 because of low interest rates, so less people are retiring than there should be

                    3. Darth Ivy

                      and that 13% number doesn’t count retired people anyway. People retiring don’t pull it up.

            3. TWC

              ” (sorry for the political angle)”

              No, you’re not.

              1. Greenroom

                +1 haha

          3. Eternal Pessimist

            “the Cubs rebuilding effort as some sort of beyond reproach heroic feat that no other front office could possibly undertake”

            I’m just relieved that the FO is finally doing what seemed like an obvious thing for years…don’t trade away important, long term, cost controlled pieces for that quick fix. If it takes 3-4-5 years to right this ship the right way, so be it.

            If they don’t spend later when the fans return, the revenue is fixed, and the team is on the precipuce, then I will be a pissed Cub fan.

            1. YourResidentJag

              But what does that really mean, though? I get spending to buy extra wins that the FO can all possibly predict to come from within, but those FAs have to be within their criteria and price range.

            2. Brocktoon

              When was the last time the cubs traded away important long term pieces for a quick fix? Chris archer? Josh Donaldson? You act like they trade a jon garland every other year

        3. cubs2003

          I think the debt structure of the Ricketts’ purchase and the state of the overall organization at that time are a big deal. How Zell was allowed to buy and flip a Chicago MLB team, I have no idea. Maybe someone can educate me. Clearly, the back end of Tribune ownership and the Zell era had very little regard to anything besides MLB profits, later to be sold. I honestly believe the current ownership group are doing everything they can to correct this. I feel like I have the right, as a fan, to criticize moves, managers, etc. I’m not an apologist for lost seasons, but I do believe the current ownership has their heart in the right place. That’s a big step forward. At least I hope so.

    2. Kyle

      “They know the difference between good and bad ballplayers.”

      Then they should really figure out who hijacked their checkbook the day Concepcion was signed.

      1. DarthHater


        1. Kyle

          Well, if people would quit forgetting how many mistakes our front office makes, I’d quit having to remind them.

          1. DarthHater


            1. Professional High A

              I don’t always agree with Kyle but he does occasionally have valid (if not very fun points). This exchange caused me to shoot milk out of my nose. I was in the middle of grading papers. This will be a hard one to explain to my students.

      2. cubfanincardinalland

        The Concepion signing is a great example of how smart these guys are, and how much they do their homework. They signed Concepion in March of 2012. Guess who his best buddy and pal in Cuba was. Jorge Soler, who they signed 3 months later, beating out a dozen other teams for his services.

        1. aaronb

          We should have spent the money on Puig, Cepedes, Darvish and Ryu’s best friends instead.

        2. woody

          So the Concepcion contract was 7 million guaranteed and was probably instrumental in signing Soler. And Soler signed for 9 years at 30 million. So even if you add the 7 million for concepcion to Soler’s contract you have 37 million over 9 years. I don’t know the structure or details of his contract, but if you throw out last year and this year you still have 7 years of control with Soler. for about three million dollars a year. If he starts in 2015 and even has the success of an average corner outfield he will be a bargain. And his upside is way above that. You guys kill me with this 20/20 hindsight shit. The fact is that in the prospect game nothing is certain and the same goes for IFA’s too. I’m sure if you dug into the details of most of the GM’s in the game you will find similar instances. I’m not the great defender of Theo, but you can’t discount his organizational skills. How else do you explain pulling a failing farm system out of the toilet in such a short time on a shoe string budget?

          1. Brocktoon

            I’m almost certain once soler is arb eligible he can rip up the contract

        3. Kyle

          That’s certainly one theory.

          Of course, the fact that we paid through the nose for Soler probably had a bit to do with getting Soler, too.

          1. woody

            Nine years at 30 million comes out to 3.3 million a year. Forget about the first two years of the contract. If Soler makes the team out of ST next year 7 years of control will look like a bargain the way prices are going.

            1. Kyle

              Well, yeah, of course it looks great if he succeeds (although he’ll be able to go to arb and make it less of a bargain).

              And if he doesn’t make it in the majors, it’s like two years of Soriano at his worst.

              1. DarthHater

                By consensus, I thought we agreed that it’s better for our players to succeed than to fail.

                1. Kyle

                  If anything’s ever going to be unanimous on BN, that surely has to be it? I hope?

                  1. DarthHater

                    We’ll need a ruling from Patrick.

                    1. Patrick W.

                      With no deliberation I can emphatically rule that the statement “It’s better for our players to succeed than to fail” is indeed consensus but is not unanimous at BN.

                      I rule against Kyle.

                    2. DarthHater

                      I’m pretty sure Jon will dissent both from the consensus and from the ruling. :-P

                    3. Patrick W.

                      He has no standing. There is no appeal.

                    4. Kyle

                      Dang it. I should have hired Brett.

                    5. Patrick W.

                      Brett filed an Amicus brief arguing against your side so hiring him would be like signing Ian Stewart to a second contract.

                    6. Kyle

                      That’s a pretty strained analogy. Nobody would be awful enough to give Ian Stewart a second contract.

                    7. Patrick W.

                      Certainly not my best analogy. If my best analogy was a half full glass of water, this analogy would be a glass of water with a hole half way up …

            2. aaronb

              What if he doesn’t graduate from A Ball to starting in Chicago by next year? Dude was fairly ordinary in A Ball last year.

              I like spending on some prospects. But he is FAR from a sure thing. I’d bet him 50/50 to have more than a token MLB career at this point.

              I’d have rather spent the 30 million on Santana or Ubaldo Jimenez this offseason. Or on Cespedes instead of Soler at the time.

              1. CubFan Paul

                “Dude was fairly ordinary in A Ball last year”

                You didn’t see him in A-Ball last year. Soler was impressive.

                “I’d have rather spent the 30 million on Santana or Ubaldo Jimenez this offseason”

                The money is there now for those guys. I’m all for Santana at his reduced price

  22. When The Musics Over

    Wait a minute: I thought it was a fairly commonly held belief that the Cubs have been hoarding excess baseball operations funds the past 2 years in order to be used later. I guess theo just fisted that belief. If that’s the case, it really might mean the Cubs finances are more shaky then people think.

    1. Brocktoon

      It means tom ricketts wanted another rocket car

    2. ClevelandCubsFan

      I don’t think that was ever the understanding. It’s always been about the business plan and the competitive window coming together.

  23. Diehardthefirst

    Watched 30/30 other nite … was more about Theo and Jed than ARod– interesting to see how they think and operate- put off a little bit by Theos arrogance and Jed’s naïveté – hope both have matured

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