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theo epstein and jed hoyerJesse Rogers snagged Chicago Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein for a 10-minute interview yesterday, and he put it up on ESPNChicago in the form of a podcast. If you’ve got 10 minutes, give it a listen. The two get into Jeff Samardzija extension stuff, prospect evaluation/preparation/promotion stuff, and expectations for the 2014 season.

A portion of the interview was dedicated to the process of building up a sustainably successful big league organization, while still recognizing the reality that you want to win games at the big league level. I want to touch on some things in that part of the interview, and address, specifically, how we can square belief in “The Plan” with what outwardly looks like a never-ending cycle of punting and disappointment at the big league level.

To begin with, it’s possible that Epstein regrets the sticking power of that initial “parallel fronts” comment – which, if I remember correctly, was an off-hand remark – from a couple years ago about how the Cubs’ rebuilding process would progress. The implication, of course, was that the Cubs would be heavily focused on building up young, controllable talent while simultaneously competing at the big league level. At the same time, again and again, even from that first offseason, Epstein was emphasizing what a tough road lay ahead for the organization (“you can’t turn an ocean liner on a dime“), and I don’t think any thinking Cubs fan expected the team to compete in 2012 or maybe even 2013.

That said, I do think it was reasonable to believe, as of pre-2012, that the Cubs could be competing by 2014 at the big league level (while also having a fantastic organization built up). It doesn’t look like that’s going to happen, which has always been disappointing. Has the front office just be bad at the parallel fronts thing? Or was it always a part of “The Plan” to tank a few years away?

Well, as is so often the case, the answer is more complicated than the questions imply. If you pressed me, I’d have to say the answer is “neither.”

In the interview with Rogers, while addressing the idea of parallel fronts, Epstein conceded that the front office has had to tweak its approach to the rebuild in response to some external factors.

“We haven’t tried to hide the ball. I think we’ve had to adjust a little bit along the way,” Epstein explained. “Initially there were some hopes, I talked about duel fronts and parallel fronts and really trying to compete at the big league level while we built up for the future. We’ve had to adjust. Some things have not gone our way in different areas that have made our path more clear. So we have probably been more single-minded about building for the future even than we intended to be initially.”

How do I translate that? Well, to me, the front office probably always expected that there would be a down season or two, because that’s the nature of a deep rebuild (and, incidentally, given the dramatic changes to the 2012 CBA, having a couple crappy seasons isn’t the worst thing in the world if you’re trying to build up a talent base – in fact, I could argue that it’s unfortunately necessary, if you’re trying to build up the base quickly). But I think the front office also probably expected to be further along at the big league level by this point.

Why aren’t they? Well, Epstein mentions that “some things have not gone our way in different areas,” and I can only make educated stabs at those “things”: some poor development from key big league pieces, missing on some young international players, a serious delay in the renovation/improved monetization of Wrigley Field (plus the inability to secure public funds for the same), and other financial restrictions that probably became more oppressive as the Cubs’ revenues were squeezed by rapidly falling attendance.

So, to what extent was the crappiness of the 2012 and 2013 outcomes, and the projected crappiness for the 2014 season, a product of explicit planning? I don’t think it’s fair to say this is what the front office wanted. I do think some crappiness was going to happen organically as a byproduct of the rebuild, but maybe the depth and length of the crappiness was never part of “The Plan.”

See, here’s the thing about “The Plan” that the quotes and capitalization bely: it was always flexible. Sure, there’s some core tenets that were going to remain regardless of any external “things” that didn’t go the Cubs’ way – add young talent, improve organizational health at both player and developmental levels, clear away ugly contracts, change the culture, etc. – but to act as though these smart, smart guys weren’t planning on being agile enough to adapt when necessary is silly.

What matters is that the front office wants to win, and it wants to put the organization in a position to win consistently for a long, long time. They are doing things to make that vision happen (“The Plan”), while adjusting as necessary to the realities that arise outside of the theoretical vacuum where best laid plans are developed. In this way, the front office can keep The Plan on course for the long haul, even as the big league team once again projects for a disappointing season.

Lest anyone be confused, I’m not telling you not to be frustrated that, once again, the big league team does not looking a playoff contender. I’m very frustrated by it. But, just as The Plan necessarily adapts to that which affects it, I adjust my expectations and hopes to meet reality. It sucks that the Cubs don’t look like a playoff team on paper right now. But the front office has to keep doing its thing, because it’s still the right path. And, along the way, I’ll try to satisfy myself with the kinds of victories that don’t count on the scoreboard in 2014, but might in another year or two.

  • Edwin

    I think the Cubs are doing some really good things, and there is a chance things turn out quite well long term. But I’m disappointed in where the Cubs are at, and I’m disappointed that the front office hasn’t been able to do more at the MLB level so far.

    • Noah_I

      This is an extremely reasonable response to this. In some ways, I’d like the Cubs to be up front about something that I believe happened in regards to the current CBA, but they do get hammered for whining a bit whenever they mention it.

      I think the Cubs planned on bringing in more David DeJesus type free agents initially. Guys who would only cost them about $5 million per year, maybe guys up to $10 million per year, but would require 2-3 year commitments, in an attempt to be quasi-competitive, when they thought they’d still be able to spend freely in the draft and international free agent markets. Then the CBA hit, and the amount of money they’d be able to spend would be heavily connected to how bad they were in the prior season. So the Cubs found it more useful to get higher picks and more international spending money, and they focused on guys they could flip more quickly.

      • aaronb

        Not sure I follow this logic?

        The plan was to spend on a bunch of 5-10 million dollar players and spend freely on the draft and IFA market.

        So the CBA enacted spending caps TO SAVE OWNERS MONEY and the Cubs reacted by NOT spending money anywhere?

        In theory the Cubs should have MORE money to spend on free agents. That was the whole point of the CBA changes in the first place.

        • http://www.w2wn.net Cerambam

          The point Noah was trying to make was that if the big league team signed these $5-10 MM players they would be more competitive implying a worse draft position. Pre CBA the draft position was less important because you could spend as much money as you want, acquiring better talent in later rounds. HOWEVA, post CBA teams get allotted round money, so the Cubs cannot spend freely. Because the cubs cant/couldnt spend freely, they decided against the $5-10MM talents creating a worse team with a higher draft position and greater allotted money for the draft.

          • aaronb

            That just doesn’t have any basis in reality though. Unless you believe that teams used to not draft good players, because bad players were cheaper.

            The top prospects went at the top of the draft…Always.

            • http://www.w2wn.net Cerambam

              That’s just not true. Compare the 2012 draft to other drafts. The cubs were able to use extra money to lure top highschool talent that would have otherwise gone to college.

              Top highschool talent is unpredictable meaning they have high ceilings and low floors. The players that are too risky as 17 year olds sometimes become top college talents at age 20-22 and get kris Bryant money. If the cubs could spend freely they could grab more guys they like with high ceilings because the risk could pay off in great reward

              • aaronb

                How do we know those kids were going to college? And even if they did. All it would mean is that those kids would be right back in the draft.

                The Cubs didn’t win an open bid for ANY of those kids. They drafted those kids and were able to sign them. Just the same as they have done in the drafts before and since.

                • http://www.w2wn.net Cerambam

                  We know they would go to college because every single time they explicitly state the college they are going to attend if they aren’t drafted OR don’t sign once drafted because the money won’t sway them.

                  “All that it would mean is that those kids would be right back in the draft”

                  Exactly! After one more year of playing at a higher level and potentially ridding themselves of any concerns scouts had on them making them more attractive and thus drafted earlier and for more money!! Meaning it is more difficult for the cubs to get them.

                  I don’t really know what we’re arguing, this isn’t an opinion, it’s what happened. The new CBA stopped teams from spending lavishly in later rounds of the drafts for talent that would have otherwise been fine waiting for the next draft and a higher position/more money.

              • aaronb

                And to add again…The pool of players is the same.

                Extra bonus money DOESN’T make a prospect great, or turn them into Kris Bryant. If that WERE the case there would have been 100 Kris Bryant’s in last years draft.

                Toronto (a deep pocket team) drafted him back in 2010. Them not signing him had nothing to do with the old CBA. Us drafting him and signing him had nothing to do with this CBA.

                • http://www.w2wn.net Cerambam

                  Okay, well if you think you really know more about how the CBA has effected teams than all the GMs, writers, and fans that have explicitly and consistently reiterated the simple fact that teams can only spend a limited amount in the draft which in turn hampers teams that were otherwise willing to spend more for younger, more risky talent later in the draft then there isn’t anything further to discuss. It just isn’t a matter of opinion.

                  /run on

                  • aaronb

                    The pool of players IS THE SAME.

                    The old CBA didn’t make 457 players every year be “First round talents”. There is just as many “First round talents” in the draft today.

                    The owners just pay less to aquire them.

                    • http://www.w2wn.net Cerambam

                      Listen, I hear what your saying, but you aren’t understanding it.

                      I’ll give you an example.

                      SCENARIO 1 (this is the pretend the current CBA always existed)

                      Let’s say the cubs scout Kris Bryant in highschool as a 18 year old senior in 2010 (not sure if this is the right year, it won’t matter).

                      The cubs scout reports back to his gm saying “this kid has a lot of potential (maybe even as a future top pick) but he just isn’t showing the power I think he can have quite yet. ”

                      Despite this, the cubs select him in the 20th round and say, “we will give you 50,000 dollars to sign with us because we like you but we have a limited amount of funds we can spend to get you.”

                      Kris Bryant believes in himself and says “thanks but no thanks I’ll go to college and try to get drafted again for more money.”

                      2013 roles around and he gets drafted number 2 overall for 6+MM because everyone wants him and he won’t make it further in the draft.

                      SCENARIO 2 (no CBA restrictions)

                      Kris Bryant is a senior, the cubs like him scouts say the same thing as before but now there is no spending restrictions.

                      So the cubs select Kris Bryant in the 20th round again and say “ok kris will give you 50k” kris responds “no thanks I’ll go to college and try to get more” gm responds “ok fine, how about a life changing $400k” kris says “I believe in myself, but I could get injured or never get an offer like this again. Okay, I will sign for 400k”

                      So the cubs were able to spend $350K more without spending restrictions and still end up with a younger kris Bryant (who will hopefully turn into the talent they think he can).

                    • http://www.w2wn.net Cerambam

                      The old CBA didn’t make 457 players every year be “First round talents”. There is just as many “First round talents” in the draft today.

                      Also, no there isn’t always as many first round talents. Kris Bryant is an example of a kid who was eventually, maybe going to be a first round talent, so the cubs would have hypothetically taken a risk and signed him BEFORE he became a first round talent. But this often requires more money because kids often believe they can get better in the future and score more money.

                    • http://www.w2wn.net Cerambam

                      That first part is what you said and should be I quotes

                      “The old CBA didn’t make 457 players every year be “First round talents”. There is just as many “First round talents” in the draft today.”

                    • aaronb

                      If that scenario with Bryant is really how it used to go down. Then how did ANY player make it to college?

                      The truth is that players choose to either sign or go to school every year under any CBA since the draft began.

                      Guys like Tim Lincecum got drafted by the Cubs and chose college. Guys like Mark Prior got drafted more than once in the 1st round. The CBA change had nothing on the whole to change that.

                      The same number of picks are going to be made by the same number of teams regardless. Weather those picks are HS kids or guys coming from college. Ultimately the same prospects are going to eventually come through the draft.

                      Just as NBA prospects used to be predominately College Seniors, now they tend to be College Freshman…..The guys who end up in the NBA are STILL THE SAME PROSPECTS.

                    • http://www.w2wn.net Cerambam

                      “If that scenario with Bryant is really how it used to go down. Then how did ANY player make it to college?”

                      Because some teams didn’t value this approach, but it is clearly an approach Theo is in fsvor of AND no longer able to do.

                      By your logic teams never spent (pre current CBA) over the slot reccomondation late in the draft to entice a young, risky, not easy to sign (because of college) player and that is just unequivically untrue. It happened a lot. It just did. I’ll read whatever response you have – so I don’t just get the final word – but I’m done with this discussion on my end.

                    • aaronb

                      I understand that the narrative is that they used financial might to corral all these 1st round picks all throughout the draft. However it just doesn’t mesh with any sort of reality.

                      Sort through and find me the big money late round first rounders Theo picked up in Boston…

                      http://www.baseball-reference.com/draft/?query_type=franch_year&team_ID=BOS&year_ID=2003&draft_type=junreg&

                    • BT

                      Dude, you don’t know what you are talking about. Does Josh Reddick not count because he was drafted in the 17th round and given 140K to sign? He was clearly better than players drafted ahead of him, but it took a lot of money to sign him. The Red Sox took a flier on him, saw what he could do and threw money at him.

                    • aaronb

                      Josh Reddick was a small college guy. I’ll grant he was a good pick. But he wasn’t a sign away from a college commit, 1st round talent guy.

                      Sometimes players drafted in the 17th round pan out.

                    • benjamin

                      “Weather those picks are HS kids or guys coming from college. Ultimately the same prospects are going to eventually come through the draft.”

                      You just proved the point that Edwin was originally trying to make. If those same prospects are eventually going to come through the draft, the Cubs need a way to be able to sign them BEFORE other teams get a chance to.

                      Prior to the 2012 CBA, that way was to over pay the occasional late-round talent to go pro NOW, rather than wait until they developed and potentially got picked in later years, in earlier rounds, by a different team. After the 2012 CBA, the new way became tanking for draft position and pool money.

                      Signing more David DeJesus types was no longer a viable strategy. Would it have made the team much better? No, but continuing to build in that way (if successful) would have almost certainly taken the Cubs out of protected first round pick range, while at the same time many of those types were given qualifying offers, effectively killing the entire farm rebuild should the Cubs have continued to sign them (and lose picks in doing so).

                      Seems pretty logical to me.

                • terencemann

                  @Aaronbb

                  Literally the best player in the first draft after the new CBA did not sign because he wanted more money than teams could pay him in their slots so he went back to college.

                  So if you’re looking for an example of how the new CBA affected the draft, you can start with the first overall draft pick of the first draft of the new CBA.

                  Let’s start there.

                  • aaronb

                    Carlos Correa didn’t sign?

                  • CubFan Paul

                    “he wanted more money than teams could pay him in their slots”

                    The slots aren’t hard slots. The best pitcher in the Draft is worth more than the recommended amount for pick 8

                    “you can start with the first overall draft pick of the first draft of the new CBA”

                    Houston was penny pinching before the new CBA

            • Fearbobafett

              You seriously think the Cubs took Vitters over Weiters beucase he was the better player? No they took him because he was cheaper and easier to sign.

              • Voice of Reason

                They didn’t take Vitters because he was cheaper.
                Whatever you’re smoking why don’t you pass it this way.

              • Edwin

                I think they took Vitters because he was one of the top HS bats in the draft. And he signed for $3.2MM. The only players that would have been available who signed for more were Weiters at $6MM, Rick Porcello at $3.6MM, and Andrew Brackman at $3.2MM.

              • aaronb

                Vitters got 3.2 Million dollars in a bonus. Weiters got 6 million dollars.

                I seriously doubt the Cubs balked at what was less than Aaron Miles money between the two players.

                They liked Vitters more for whatever reason.

          • Brocktoon

            So where’d that extra money to that “the plan” initially planned on spending. Don’t tell me about your revenue issues suppressing you to only top 10 revenues in the sport rather than top 3 when you’re spending less money than you ever expected to

            • CubFan Paul

              “Don’t tell me about your revenue issues suppressing you to *only top 10 revenues in the sport rather than top 3* when you’re spending less money than you ever expected to”

              BOOM.

  • http://becomehealthier.com drcub1908

    I think this is the last season in the tank, so-to-speak. New tv deal, jumbotron and one more year of young players developing. I think this season can still be fun, and I am excited…but I am going to enjoy the season..hit the next Cub convention, and enjoy the team this year.

  • http://becomehealthier.com drcub1908

    Jeff Samardzija will need a great year and if the offer of great young talent is too good, then you move him this season. I think we see Baez and Bryant end of year…so the process is creeping forward…

    I do think Vogelbach is a healthy trade candidate to an AL team. The system has some tools to make moves and more $ is coming..

    It is all good Cubs fans!

  • Jon

    In terms of “things not going the Cubs way” I wonder Theo is also referencing missing out on key young FA”s that came on the market like Darvish, Tananka, Puig, Cespedes, Ryu…

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Good point. That’s probably in there, too.

  • JB88

    One question that I have (and don’t have the time to research) is whether Epstein’s “parallel fronts” comment was made before or after the 2012 CBA was ratified. If the former, I certainly appreciate how he could make that statement in good faith.

    If the later, it raises more questions for me, in particular: (1) does Epstein believe that Ricketts duped him; (2) did Ricketts promise more money to the FO than has been delivered; (3) did the ownership truly grasp the limitations on payroll due to the structure of the purchase; (4) what promises were made to Epstein about the nature of the renovation and availabilty of funds; and (5) does any of this impact whether Epstein/Hoyer/Macleod are more or less likely to re-up with the organization in 2017?

    • GoCubsGo

      I think there are just so many moving parts to this whole process that nobody outside the organization has a clear answer. Are funds limited because of Sam Zell? Maybe. Is Ricketts just cheap? Maybe. Has he not liked any of the FA’s they could have gotten? Probably. Did they whiff on the guys they would have liked? Probably. ETC.

      • JB88

        I take issue with the idea that Ricketts is cheap. The money poured into the front office, scouting department, renovating the field, buying assets around the stadium, etc., is not usually the actionso of someone who is cheap.

        I don’t know what he is yet. My hope, nay prayer, is that he is process oriented, here for the long haul, and recognizes that building a healthy organization is a marathon, not a sprint. I’m super glad he isn’t Jeffrey Loria (i.e., spend a ton of money, get scared when it doesn’t pan out, and sell off all the pieces within a calendar year of signing them). I hope he is a little bit of John Henry and that the pocket books will be open for good in 2016 (if that is the year that the artificial spending limitations due to the deal structure are no longer in play).

        • Kyle

          Outside of the real estate investments, that’s *exactly* what I would do if I were a cheap owner.

          • JB88

            Fair enough. I guess I usually equate “cheap” (when it comes to sports team ownership) with stupid. The Tribune was both cheap and stupid for twenty plus years; the Bears for the vast majority of my life have been cheap and stupid; Bill Wirtz was notoriously cheap and also insanely stupid.

            So yours is a fair point.

            • Voice of Reason

              If the Ricketts were cheap they would have kept with the formula that the Tribune used that had the money flowing in like crazy!

              Instead, they traded away everyone as part of a rebuild. They’re totally revamping everything from the bottom up to BUILD A WINNER! They’ve invested in the overseas players and the minor leagues. Once they are ready to win a World Series they will spend the money on free agents and through trades to get that ring. They’re taking a hit right now at the gate and they certainly didn’t need to do that. They could have kept it status quo and the goofy fans would have still kept coming.

              These are not signs of cheap owners!

              • aaronb

                Except revamping from the bottom up is MUCH cheaper than spending on actual MLB players.

                Did the Tribune not make their allotted June draft picks?

                People are so desperate to heap praise on Epstein and Ricketts that they champion the most basic, everyday procedural maneuvers.

                • Voice of Reason

                  aaronb,

                  You’re just going to have to be patient. We’re in the middle of a rebuild.

                  It’s not being cheap. It’s being smart. This is how you have sustainable success by building the minor leagues then adding free agents and making trades to fill holes. The blue print for the Yankees, the Devil Rays, the Red Sox (which Epstein built) are where the Cubs need to be to have sustained success for many years. It all starts with solid minor league talent!

                  We’re not at that point of the rebuild where we start adding free agents and making trades. Be patient, in a couple of years we will be there!

                  • CubFan Paul

                    “The blue print for the Yankees, the Devil Rays, the Red Sox”

                    None of those teams got to where they are by the using Epstein’s current model

                    • Voice of Reason

                      All of those teams had solid minor league players come up to the big leagues that they could build around. That’s the key here.

                    • BWA

                      The rays did. They sucked for years and every time a good player got expensive they traded them for three good prospects. They are still doing it.

                    • Voice of Reason

                      BWA,

                      That’s right! They keep restocking the minor league system. The Cubs are working to stock it’s for the first time!

                      The difference between the Cubs and Rays is the Cubs will be able to sign the great players and keep them instead of trading them away for prospects!

                    • Jon

                      “The Cubs are working to stock it’s for the first time! ”

                      *anecdote – 2/5 Cubs top prospects were here prior to November 2011.

                    • CubFan Paul

                      “The rays did. They sucked for years”

                      False. The Rays never sacrificed ML seasons while “building”. They competed.

                      Dual fronts.

                    • Voice of Reason

                      Jon,

                      No need for an anecdote!

                      I said they are working to stock the minor league system. That would include any prospects at all!

                    • Voice of Reason

                      CubFan Paul,

                      Saying they “Competed” is certainly open to interpretation!

                      The Devil Rays have been around for 16 years and they lost at least 91 games each of the first ten years losing 100+ games 3 times.

                      To me… that is not competing!

                    • CubFan Paul

                      “Saying they “Competed””

                      Yes, in the AL East. They tried with limited resources, hence “lost at least 91 games”. Still Dual Fronts.

                      The Cubs are in the NL Central are not trying. No Duel Fronts in Chicago.

                    • Voice of Reason

                      You can call losing 90+ games each year for the first 10 years in the league as competing.

                      I’ll take the other route. They sucked and they didn’t compete.

                      But, point being, they sucked for a number of years and look where they are now! That’s where the Cubs will be in a couple of years.

                    • JacqueJones

                      Yes the Cubs are in the NL central, but the NL Central is actually pretty good. One wildcard in 2012, both wildcards in 2013. The Cardinals are actually really good, so are the Reds, so are the Pirates. Heck even the brewers were over 500 in 2012.

                    • CubFan Paul

                      “But, point being, they sucked for a number of years”

                      Point and topic was: Dual Fronts and strategy

                      The Rays tried to win & ‘sucked for a number of years’

                      The Cubs aren’t trying to win & are sucking for a number of years.

                    • Voice of Reason

                      “The Rays tried to win & ‘sucked for a number of years’

                      The Cubs aren’t trying to win & are sucking for a number of years.”

                      So, what’s the difference? The end result is the same. Both teams suck big time.

                      Either you suck or you don’t. You can’t be kind of pregnant. It doesn’t matter what effort is being made.

                    • CubFan Paul

                      “So, what’s the difference?”

                      The topic.

                    • Brocktoon

                      Having the minor leagues contribute to the big league team is a plan only to the extent that every major league team has used that plan for 50 years

              • Brocktoon

                Or tom ricketts is ignorant, thought Wrigley would fill up in spite of trying and is paying for it now

          • CubFan Paul

            *exactly* +1

          • DarthHater

            It’s also exactly what I would do if I was trying to move forward on improving the organization while temporarily holding back on increasing player payroll for reasons other than cheapness. But, hey, cheapness is one of the possibilities, so there’s that.

        • CubFan Paul

          “The money poured into the front office, scouting department, renovating the field, buying assets around the stadium, etc”

          Doesn’t account for TV revenues rising at least $20MM for 2014 and payroll dropping to $85MM with NO significant signings or trades for impact players (Rizzo?).

          • JB88

            What I still don’t know, though, is how much of the payroll is an artificial handicap (i.e., related to the deal structure) and how much is due to Ricketts not wanting to spend money. I think that is a significant question, and, without information on that front, we don’t know whether what is being done in 2014 is indicative of spending in future seasons or a blip.

            • CubFan Paul

              “how much of the payroll is an artificial handicap…and how much is due to Ricketts not wanting to spend money”

              In a big market, when the payroll drops ~this low~ they should be more honest, because they’re looking disingenuous as revenues continually climb

              • JB88

                I’m no financial expert—and I will willingly concede on that point—but I wonder if the way in which the deal was structured creates some sort of definition that doesn’t include that sort of revenue in the calculus used to determine how high their payroll can be.

                It is also worth rememebering that Epstein said a few weeks back that they didn’t use all the money alloted them this offseason (presumably trying to sign Tanaka), so not all of this is on Ricketts.

        • SenorGato

          Ive always found it funny that Epstein bitches about money but always seems to find just enough for imaginary second place on a MLer or win outright on a prospect. Its as if hes a little full of shyte himself.

    • ari gold

      It was just before. He was hired I believe about 2-3 weeks before the CBA was ratified. Remember he was saying that they were going to pour a ton of resources into the draft to build up the farm, and then being frustrated when the new CBA was announced.

  • http://becomehealthier.com drcub1908

    I think Macleod is the first to go as he seems to be the rock star in many eyes..

    • JB88

      I have no doubt that is the case. But if he is still here at the end of the 2016 season, I want him to sign a new contract here, not seek another organization. Promotion is fine; attrition is not.

      • Noah_I

        You can only have so many GMs, though. If McLeod is offered a GM job somewhere, he should take it. And if the Cubs like Hoyer in that position, they shouldn’t move Hoyer to give McLeod the GM job.

        • CubFan Paul

          “You can only have so many GMs”

          Hoyer, Theo, Bush, Rehman, & Wilken would all like to say hello ;)

  • MightyBear

    Nobody ever won anything on paper. I think the Cubs will surprise this year.

    One thing I really liked about the Theo interview was his take on bringing guys up. They don’t set timetables on guys. They give them a list of items they have to do before being promoted and when they do them, they’re promoted. It isn’t dictated by time or AB’s (Well there’s some of that) but it has to do with readiness. He didn’t say it but I’m sure service time concerns are a factor.

    • Darth Ivy

      they’re going to win 63 games. Fact.

      • Fishin Phil

        Please let me know which 63 games so that I can schedule my TV viewing. Thanks!

    • CubFan Paul

      “I think the Cubs will surprise this year”

      You repeatedly say this, but never expound on it.

      • Jon

        The Cubs added Jason Hammel, James McDonald, Jose Veras, Wesley Wright and George Kotaras to a roster that 96 games in 2013. Also factor they lost Garza and Feldman which washes away anything Hammel & McDonald provide.

        I guess you could say the Cubs might surprise by winning 70 games?

        • Noah_I

          I’m guessing the Cubs will win 70-72 games. I think, long run, they end up as good this year as they were last year as far as run differential is concerned. I think the improved bullpen makes up the loss of Garza in the rotation, but no more, and improved performances at shortstop, second base and first base will make up some likely attrition across the outfield, but no more, and then just say the Cubs will play to their run differential instead of 4 or 5 games below it.

    • bbmoney

      He didn’t say it, because he’d get in trouble for saying it as it’s not supposed to be a factor according to the CBA.

      But yeah, I’m sure service time is a factor even if readiness is the primary factor.

    • Kyle

      Anything’s possible. Our best-case scenario is probably something like the 1993 Cubs: Some rando position player has a huge year, a mediocre rotation stays healthy and intact, we get some good bullpen performances and we get some pythagorean luck.

      • JB88

        And all of the players on the Cards, Pirates, and Reds have their worst years ever …

        • Kyle

          Well, the 93 Cubs still finished 4th. They just won 84 games with a bad roster.

      • Jon

        I tell you what though, could you imagine if both Rizzo and Castro explode into 4+ Win seasons, Ruggiano follows through on that insane Oliver projection, Shark pitches like a Cy Young candidate and the rest of the rotation stays healthy and this team challenges for a wild card? Theo would be like Rachel Felps in “Major League”. “They are supposed to be bad damn it!”

        • Kyle

          If all that happens, I’ve got them around 84 wins. Need a bit more luck in there.

          • JB88

            I really like the potential of the Cubs’ bullpen. That could be a real strength for them this year. With some decent rebound seasons from Castro and Rizzo and perhaps Baez and/or Bryant coming up at some point, the Cubs could surprise.

            With a bit of continuity, I think this is a team that is probably a 75-win team +/- 6.

            • Edwin

              I’m not too sold yet on the bullpen being a strength. I don’t think it will be a disaster, but I don’t see any elite arms in the bullpen.

              • TTH

                Just because the bullpen is improved, that doesn’t necessarily make it good. You’d have to try pretty hard to assemble a pen worse than last season’s. Even with the improvement, it is still the fourth best in the division, at best.

              • JB88

                I like the potential power arms in Strop, Grimm, Rondon, and potentially Vizcaino, and the balance offered by Wright and Russell. I think Veras is likely a pretty significant upgrade from Marmol/Gregg. Youth and power seem to be the mantra of the bullpen and I think that gives the Cubs a better chance to surprise on that front.

                • Voice of Reason

                  Bullpens are only as good as the starting rotations.

                  If the best bullpen is used in the fifth inning every day then it will be shown in the numbers it will have at the end of the year. A team cannot abuse a good bullpen or it will burn out.

                  If the starting pitchers go 6 or 7 innings consistently then an average bullpen can look outstanding!

          • Noah_I

            I agree, and the Cubs would have to be hot early to not sell. Even if the Cubs are hovering around .500 in July, I bet they still sell unless at least two of the Cardinals, Pirates and Reds seriously disappoint.

  • ari gold

    3 things have really impacted the rebuild negatively

    1. Regression of Castro and Rizzo (or at least lack of progression by Rizzo).
    2. Stalling of the rebuild
    3. The lack of funds available due to the purchase structure (could be debatable as nobody really knows for sure)

    • Voice of Reason

      ari gold,

      all three of your points are very weak to the point of being silly!

      1. Rizzo didn’t regress
      2. What in the hell does “stalling of the rebuild” mean?
      3. You don’t know if there is a lack of funds. Nobody knows.

      • ari gold

        Um

        #1 – Didn’t I say lack of progression of Rizzo. Try re-reading
        #2 – You got me here as I was typing too fast. Stalling of renovation
        #3 – Again, learn to read as I specifically said it’s debatable as nobody knows.

        • Brocktoon

          The renovations are going to be self sustaining. My assumption is the reason the advertising goes up first is because ricketts can’t afford/isn’t willing to spend the money required to renovate. i.e we see no money from renovations until 2020

  • Kyle

    The impact of the changes in the CBA continue to be vastly overstated, imo. And they were telegraphed, even as Ricketts and Epstein insisted they didn’t think they’d go through with them.

    But yes, this interpretation clearly makes the most sense and actually fits what happened.

    2012 – Don’t overcommit to anything, see what we have. Brett Jackson breaks himself.

    2013 – Spend $90m on short-term FAs and Edwin Jackson, try to dual front, fail miserably. We break Starlin Castro.

    2014 – Give up and wait, because the prospects are halfway here anyway and attendance has cratered.

    • Jason P

      I don’t think they failed miserably in 2013. They turned a 62-win team into a near .500 team before tearing it apart (which was the right move, considering how far behind the Reds, Cardinals, and Pirates they were).

      If Garza, Soriano, and Feldman were still on this team, and they had continued to build with a few mid-level free agents this offseason, I think we’d be looking at a .500 team on paper.

      Of course, then you’d have sacrificed some future payroll flexibility for near-term mediocrity.

      • Kyle

        Except it wasn’t near-.500, and I don’t think they spent $90m hoping for “near-.500″

        • Jason P

          I don’t know how they could have expected anything more. $90 million doesn’t turn the second worse team in the league into a playoff contender.

        • Patrick W.

          I don’t think it’s *that* unreasonable to call them a near .500 team. Starting 4/25 they won 41 of their next 82 games, ending on July 27th (and then won the 83rd). That’s half a season, consecutively, where they played .500.

          • Kyle

            Did the games before 4/25 not count?

            • Jason P

              Their record wasn’t that of a .500 team, but they played like one until about mid-July.

            • Patrick W.

              Do those games not count?

              The question is, can you reasonably suggest they were a near .500 team before the trade deadline (which came after game 103)? If you take the half season of games directly before the trade deadline they were near .500. It’s not true that they were near .500 for the entirety of the season up to the trade deadline, but it’s not unreasonable to say they could have been, based on the 82 consecutive games they played at .500. That’s not, in the scope of a season, a small sample size. It’s slightly more than half.

              • Jon

                I don’t understand the point of your exercise. You can chop a season like this for any team.

                If you factor they keep Feldman, Garza, and Soriano, they maybe win 71 games in 2013. Where are the other 10 wins that make them a .500 team?

                • Patrick W.

                  You don’t understand it wholly because you don’t want to understand. The trade deadline is not an arbitrary end point.

                  I literally JUST SAID “It’s not true that they were near .500 for the entirety of the season up to the trade deadline” but if somebody were to say they dismantled a near .500 team it’s not unreasonable to say, because for the 82 games leading up to the deadline they were absolutely playing near .500 ball. I chose 82 because that’s 1 game more than half a season. Sure, make it 81 and they’re a game under, which is objectively near.

                  • Jon

                    “dismantled” isn’t accurate, or maybe the best description as I noted below. They gave up 3-5 wins, at best.

                  • YourResidentJag

                    So then by that equation, didn’t Quade’s team in 2011 has one of the top winning percentages in the second half of the season, only, to say the Phillies?

              • Kyle

                Unless you have a really good reason to count some games and not others, the arbitrary endpoints are moot.

                • Patrick W.

                  What’s arbitrary about the half of a season of games leading up the trade deadline?

                  The Cubs didn’t have Darwin Barney to start the season, they didn’t have Kevin Gregg. I don’t know. It’s not like I said “If you count the games where they won, the Cubs were a 1.000 team!!!” What I said was, if you count the immediate 82 games before the trade deadline you have a .500 team. They were 7 games under before the trade deadline, they were 23 games under after.

                  • Kyle

                    Everyone has injuries, and it’s completely arbitrary.

                    There’s no good reason to count the immediate 82 games before the deadline, unless it’s to split out the 82 games that make them look the best.

                  • Jon

                    If you are going to base your arbitrary endpoints based on the addition of two players, make sure they are better players then Barney and Kevin Gregg.

                    • Patrick W.

                      Well I did add the “I don’t know” part. :)

                      I’ll just say this has been a good conversation, I’m sure you think you are right and I’m being an idiot, but I’m going to stand by my point that saying they were a “near .500″ team isn’t unreasonable. They were 8 games under .500 at the trade deadline, and 1 game over for the month before the deadline. That’s near in my book. I know you disagree. Neither of us care about what the other thinks.

            • hansman

              It’s reasonable to say that those games were not representive of the talent level of the team due to some HORRIBLE (as in record smashingly bad) offense.

              It wasn’t that we had a bad OBP that made the XBHs we had less valuable, it’s that we had a bad OBP AND didn’t hit any XBHs and we didn’t hit any singles. It was as if the gods of baseball just hate the Cubs.

              • Jon

                The Pythagorean for the Cubs last year was 71 wins. Keeping Garza, Soriano, and Feldman bumps it up to 75-76 maybe. Blame voodo, the gods hating the Cubs all you want..a bad team is a bad team.

                • Patrick W.

                  They were unquestionably a bad team.

      • Jon

        They didn’t tear apart the team last year. Garza missed the first month and a half of the season & gave the Cubs 11 starts before being traded. Lake essentially replicated Soriano’s production after he was traded. Maybe they win 70-71 games if they keep those players.

        • Jason P

          That’s true. If Rizzo, Castro and Samardzija are as bad this year as they were in the second half of last year, this season will be miserable.

          That said, I’d be a whole lot more optimistic about this year if we had Garza instead of Hammel, Feldman instead of Arrieta, Soriano instead of Lake, and one or 2 other decent mid-level free agents on the roster.

      • Brocktoon

        A 500 team on paper right now with the “waves and waves” ready to come on board over the next 12 months would be very encouraging. Instead we have that payroll flexibility to spend on starting pitching that doesn’t exist

    • aaronb

      I never understood how the changing of the CBA can be used an a viable excuse?

      Did I miss the prospects that don’t go into the draft because of overslotting? Am I missing the poor latin kids that choose to sell chicklets on the streets because of an IFA cap?

      The same kids are in the same drafts every single year…The owners just have cost controls in place now.

      It’s a red herring to use it as an excuse.

      • bbmoney

        Sure, the same kids are in the drafts every year, but fewer of the 1st round talents fall to later rounds and are signed. And if you’re going to sign any of those guys there is an incentive to have a worse record which wasn’t there before.

        Sure the same kids are available for IFA signings that would have been anyway, but now there are spending restrictions in place that give you an incentive to finish with a less good record in order to acquire the most talent. Sure you can blow by those restrictions (as the Cubs did) but it impacts the talent they can acquire the next year.

        I also don’t like the word excuse. It shouldn’t be used as an excuse, but to ignore the reality of the difference it makes is also pointless. No, it hasn’t made it harder to sign FA’s and make the team respectable, but it absolutely has given teams even more of an incentive than already existed to have a worse MLB records in order to improve your chance at acquiring the most amateur talent.

        That said if someones using it as the only factor in all this, that just doesn’t make sense either.

        • Kyle

          “Sure, the same kids are in the drafts every year, but fewer of the 1st round talents fall to later rounds and are signed. ”

          That rarely happened under the old CBA, either.

          I mean, the hype train would have you believe it, but if you added up all the players described by their teams’ fans as “first-round talents” in a draft, the first round would have to be 90 players deep.

          • aaronb

            This is what I was alluding to.

            We spent 1st round money on guys like Chris Huseby in the past. It didn’t mean he was EVER a 1st round talent.

            The same guys are getting drafted every year. All that the new CBA did was cause them to sign for less money.

          • bbmoney

            If you want to say it’s overstated that’s fine. It probably is by a lot of folks.

            But to say the new CBA isn’t a factor at all and is a red herring is equally overstating it on the other side of the discussion.

            It’s a factor. How large of a factor is entirely up for debate.

            • aaronb

              How exactly IS it a factor then?

              List for me please, what is fundamentally different in the way that teams bring in players now. As opposed to before this CBA?

              The same players are available on the very same markets.

              • terencemann

                I’m guessing Mark Appel and Byron Buxton would be in different systems under the old CBA. The only team in front of the Cubs I think would have spent big on Appel in 2012 is the Royals but, with them starting to spend more money on the MLB team, I don’t know if we would have seen them be as aggressive on the draft as they were prior to ’12. If there were more slot money available behind the Astros and not the extreme penalties, somebody would have paid Appel what he wanted under the old system. Buxton probably could have gotten more money than what the Twins paid him as well but I’m not as convinced about him as I am about Appel.

                There are probably a lot more players who would be drafted in different slots under the old CBA. The Cubs would also have had the chance for more draft picks because they could have signed or acquired relief pitchers who were headed for Type B status.

                The major league team probably wouldn’t have changed significantly but the level of talent approaching the majors for the Cubs could be even better right now.

                The major league moves that I think hurt the Cubs were the gamble on Ian Stewart and failing to land Delgado for Ryan Dempster but the Dempster trade is not their fault.

                • aaronb

                  Appel and Buxton went 1st and 2nd overall. How many times did the 1st and 2nd overall picks not sign in the history of the draft?

                  • nick5253

                    I would say look at the 2011 evidence of the reverse. I would guess Shawon Dunston, Dillon Maples, Trevor Gretzky, etc would not be in the Cubs system if the new CBA were in place.

                    • Jon

                      Those three players could vanish today, and I don’t think anyone would give a shit to be honest.

                    • nick5253

                      Ha – I don’t disagree, but the point remains – you simply can’t get 1st/2nd/3rd round talent (at the time of the draft) in the much later rounds anymore.

                    • aaronb

                      So what would those players be doing instead? Would they give up baseball?

                    • aaronb

                      We saw something similar in the capping of NFL and NBA rookie contracts.

                      Have those drafts started to become devoid of talent?

                      The same players are going to be in the same drafts. The only thing the CBA did was save the owners from paying out extra bonus monies.

                    • nick5253

                      No, they would go to college and get selected when the risk is lowered for the teams selecting them. It was known they wouldn’t have signed for the bonus assigned to their respective picks. So the Cubs could have selected them in the 1st/2nd/3rd rounds to enable them to give the appropriate bonus, or the players would go to school and (theoritically) increase their value to the point where they were selected in the right bonus range without the risk of the player returning to school (or lesser risk). You are correct when you say the players are the same, it’s just they are now getting more appropriately spread across teams later in the cycle. Which is a detriment to the Cubs who exploited the old system, albiet only once in 2011.

                    • aaronb

                      How did any player make it to college under the old CBA? How did colleges fill out rosters? How did college players get drafted every year?

                      It is and always has been a red herring to use the CBA as an excuse. The best players go at the top under any system.

                    • bbmoney

                      “How did any player make it to college under the old CBA? How did colleges fill out rosters? How did college players get drafted every year?”

                      I don’t understand this. They made it to college because no one offered them enough money to convince them not to. But teams had the flexibility to offer anyone whatever they wanted to try to convince them not to go to college if they wanted to. Now teams can’t don’t have that ability.

                      That’s the difference.

                      It’s certainly debatable how big a change lack of flexibility is. For a lot of teams it’s probably almost no different, but for a team looking to acquire a lot of high (very high) risk / high reward wildcards, it probably makes more of a difference.

                      If you don’t think that has any impact it’s fine, but pretty much everyone in baseball disagrees with you. You are more than welcome to keep stating the extremely obvious point that the pool of players doesn’t change and completely ignore the only slightly less obvious point that while the CBA doesn’t change the pool of players it can in fact impact how that talent is divided up between the teams.

      • Sandberg

        There were many other issues other than overslotting (which is a legitimate effect, no matter how you want to spin it). One of the major ones being the changes to draft pick compensation for free agents. Before, you could sign a free agent to a contract and get an extra draft pick (or two?) out of the deal if you kept them around. It certainly would have allowed the Cubs to sign more free agents and continue to build the system at the same time.

        • Jon

          ON the flip side, the Cubs have been afforded an advantage from this new CBA in the sense they can sign QO’s and only have to give up a 2nd not a first, yet they haven’t leverage that…so alot of this is tired excuses.

          • When The Musics Over

            Easy, it’s not a good idea to get people fired up about excuses again. It started a shit storm last time. I was called petulant and was told I spew bile.

          • mjhurdle

            to leverage that, there would have to be someone to leverage it with, would there not?

        • aaronb

          There was even more widespread draft compensation BEFORE this new CBA. The Cubs wanting to keep their 2nd round pick isn’t a legitimate reason why we stayed out of free agency.

          We lost out 2nd,3rd and 4th round picks back in 2005 over the same thing. It’s not a new wrinkle in this CBA.

        • Brocktoon

          But instead of compensatory draft picks the cubs are flipping their free agents at the deadline. They’re still adding to their minors through free agency, just in a different way

      • nick5253

        Yes you did miss those prospects. A high schooler or non-senior college player that has first round ability now can only be selected in the first round or they will go (back) to college instead of signing. Previously, you could draft them in the 12th round and pay them 1st round money to skip college. So, you could previously have a great year at the MLB level and still get premium first round talent regardless of where your draft pick was, now that is not the case. You really do need to have a top 10 pick to get top 10 talent. That really did change the Plan in my opinion.

        • aaronb

          Do we have any stats to back this claim?

          I’ve heard no reports of rampant 1st round prospects going back to school. And even if it WERE the case. Those SAME players would end up right back in the draft eventually.

          Guys are choosing to work at Applebees because they can only get a 500K bonus instead of a 1 million dollar bonus.

          • nick5253

            Hey don’t down play the discounts on boneless wings….

            Yes, they end up back in the draft where the Cubs don’t get them is the whole point. The loop hole in the former deal was teams could pay lots of money and get an unequitable amount of talent if they wanted to.

            Here is an oversimplified, exaggerated example to make my point:
            Assume Mike Cabrera is touted as 1-3 round talent out of high school with a commitment to Vanderbilt (rumored to be solid commitment).

            2 scenarios:
            OLD CBA: 2012 draft, he’s taken in 12 round as a flyer to try and throw money at him to get him to sign and he does. 2013 draft, free to take another 1-3 round player.

            NEW CBA: 2012 draft, scared off by his commitment to Vandy, he’s not taken and you take random 12th round guy. 2013 draft you select Mike Cabrera in rounds 1-3.

            YOU GET 2 round 1-3 players under ther old CBA. Of course Mike Cabrera is still in MLB with some team, maybe your team, but you can’t exploit the system with only money to get more talent.

            • aaronb

              I get the theory of that Nick, It just never really happened in real life.

              I can’t name ANY player off the top of my head that was taken in round 12 and given 1st round money. Who has amounted to anything.

              And that is most likely a big reason why the CBA was changed accordingly. To save owners money on a draft pool that is going to be the same pool regardless.

              Just as the NFL did with its draft….Just as the NBA did with its draft. Instituting cost controls for unproven prospects.

            • Brocktoon

              I know you said rounds 1-3, but it was incredibly rare that a first round talent slipped and signed

      • hansman

        The biggest issue with the change in CBA is not, necessarily, where the talent falls and overslot spending but that it suddenly becomes more expensive to trade for talent mid-season and being unable to gain extra picks in the first round.

        The new CBA has pushed talent up the draft while reducing the number of picks a team can acquire near the top.

      • YourResidentJag

        The bottom line, too, is that the Cubs certainly will make up wins with top prospects but it’s going to more than that. So, using just the CBA as a excuse not to get out of ahead of the FA market is silly.

    • BT

      While I agree the Cubs probably knew the changes in the CBA were coming, I think you are nuts if you think those changes haven’t had a profound effect on how the front office was going to operate via the draft. The Cubs spent a ton the year before then changes went into effect. The only way it wouldn’t have been a big deal is if every other team started following their lead, which is possible.

    • JacqueJones

      I think people underestimate how much Jackson doing nothing changed this team’s outlook. The top 100 guys before 2012 were baez, jackson and Rizzo (with Jackson often listed in front of Rizzo). If Jackson turned into a 3 WAR player like we all hoped he could be, we’d be looking at a very different team now. Of course we also got a good break with Welington Castillo emerging, then another couple of bad breaks with Castro not progressing in 2012, then sucking it up in 2013.

      • Jon

        ” If Jackson turned into a 3 WAR player like we all hoped he could be, we’d be looking at a very different team now”

        A 70 win team on paper?

        • Voice of Reason

          And if the queen had balls she would be king

  • Jon

    Are we assuming then if the new CBA was like the old CBA, we would have NOT been “tanking seasons”? Because the by-products of over slotting in the 2012 and 2013 drafts would still only be in high A at best at this point.

  • jschwei17

    There have been several factors that have worked against this FO. IMO, the biggest of which is the Chicago politics involved in updating Wrigley! Once that $ starts coming in, the TV deals, free agents, and winning will follow.

  • OlderStyle

    It seems that more things have gone wrong then right in the Epstein era. Most of these issues being outside of his control. I’m still able to hope for positive regression in the next two years. I don’t think this club will make .500 but this should be a pivotal year for the entire organization. If they aren’t successful (I don’t mean in wins/losses) in the overall development of the org. on the MLB level it will start to cast a shadow over the Theo’s legacy in Chicago. Even if some additional revenue streams begin next year, the FA market next year won’t be ample enough to get things righted. And then we’re into year 4 of losing baseball. Good luck Jason, Jed and Theo. Maybe you can get a fourth muskateer to make a difference in the near future.

  • Justin

    I do wonder if Castro would have progressed into a full fledged superstar if they would be more willing to go for it and spend? I hate to put the majority of blame on one player. But I really think Castro shitting the bed, really has had a bigger impact than has been stated.. He was the Cubs only “sure thing”. Now, really no one knows what the hell is…

    • DocPeterWimsey

      Again, most of Castro’s woes last year were from an experiment to see if a player can actually develop pitch recognition. Castro as the big red zone hacker is a plus hitting SS: but a Castro limiting his swings to the best part of his red zone (and taking a lot more walks as a side effect) is an extremely potent top-of-the-order batter from any position.

      Pitch recognition is the one core tool for which nobody has any idea about how to work on it. A batter sees real pitching only during a game, after all: videos help batters much, much less than heat zones help pitchers (video never provides the same angle, and there is no impetus to make the viewer identify the pitch 10′ from the pitcher’s hand). If standing up there and staring at pitches helps, then it takes longer than 3 months. And it probably also requires that the pitchers don’t pick up that a batter is doing this: opening the box killed the cat here.

      • brickhouse

        Castro had a poor 2nd half in 2012 – You can’t blame everything on too much coaching or trying to change his game in 2013 since the league adjusted to him in 2012.

        • hansman

          Castro had a bad half to the season in 2012, but it wasn’t the 2nd half. His last 35 games featured an OPS over .800.

          It was the middle half-ish where he was sub-.700. This half also featured a terrible rate on singles (EEEE GAD, BABIP WOES!!!!).

  • Cornish Heat

    I never thought realistically that the major league Cubs would be competitive in 2014. Moreover, I was somewhat hoping they wouldn’t be. Seriously, how could the Cubs be a legitimate playoff contender in 2014? By signing Jacoby Ellsbury, Robinson Cano, Prince Fielder, Zack Greinke, and trading for David Price? Isn’t that exactly the type of major league building they promised and we were hoping to move away from?

    The best way to add impact, young, cost controlled players is through the amateur draft or international amateur markets. To have the best percentage chance of drafting an impact player, you need a top 5-10 pick. Those top 5-10 picks decrease the time you need to acquire impact young talent, as they’re more likely to succeed than those drafted 11-30. To acquire those picks, you need to suck at the big league level the year prior. This process of young talent acquisition does not take two meager seasons, but rather 3-4 at the least and if you’re lucky. Look at Washington recently. Look at Tampa before. Look at Houston now.

    Once you accumulate enough young assets through the draft, international market, and via trade, then you can start adding an overpriced player here and there. Then you can start making big-time trades when you have the talent surplus to survive it.

    I’ve been in favor of this rebuild since day 1 knowing full-well the big league product would be terrible for 3-4 seasons, at least, and I still am in favor of it.

    As Brett has reminded us, pitchers like Max Scherzer, Justin Masterson, and Jon Lester may make it to free agency next off-season (as well as possibly, though unlikely, Homer Bailey). Mat Latos, David Price, and Johnny Cueto are possible free agents the year after that. And position players like Jason Heyward and Colby Rasmus will be free agents in the next couple years, as well. And this brief list doesn’t even include potential trade targets.

    There are overpriced free agents to be purchased and other players to be acquired via trade in the next couple of off-seasons. Let’s not lose our cool after ONLY two years, but instead continue to ride this out and watch the young, cost controlled, potential impact assets grow into the major league club.

    • JacqueJones

      ” By signing Jacoby Ellsbury, Robinson Cano, Prince Fielder, Zack Greinke, and trading for David Price?”

      No, there were plenty of guys that would have made the team a lot better if the cubs won the bids for them. Think Darvish, Cespedes, Puig, Anibal Sanchez, among many others. Ya they pursued all those guys and “came in 2nd” for them, but that doesn’t mean anything for the team going forward. If the Cubs just took a bigger risk and threw more money at any of those guys, theyd be in a much better position. And yes 28 other teams miss out on each free agent, but our FO has to be better than all the other teams to make significant strides.

      • Voice of Reason

        Jacque Jones,

        Sure, it’s easy to sit here now and say they should have signed this guy or that guy. Why don’t you make a list of free agents that were busts? That list will be much longer than the success stories.

        The Cubs are building a minor league system. It will be full of players that they will control at team friendly contracts for a decent period of time.

        All the people you’re rattling off cost too much to add all at once. That’s why the Cubs are doing what they are doing. It will be sustained success.

      • Blackhawks1963

        Bullcrap. The minute the Cubs go against their own objective analysis and severely overbid for a player is the day this rebuild get derailed. Who is anybody to say the Cubs “failed” on Tanaka, Cespedes, etc.? Cubs were interested in Tanaka, but obviously in their assessment it didn’t make objective sense to outbid the world to get the guy, even if the small chance existed that he would consider the Cubs in the first place. Darvish? Hindsight is a double edged sword. The Cubs seriously pursued Darvish by all indications, but they didn’t “fail” in their failure not to get him. Rather they made objective assessment of Darvish, attached a price on what they were willing to spend on him as a result, and ended up not getting him. Sanchez? Clearly that was a case of the player using the Cubs as leverage to get a better deal out of Detroit where he wanted to stay all other things being equal.

        • terencemann

          There wasn’t another team in baseball willing to take the risk on Puig that the Dodgers took and it wasn’t even close. We still don’t know how good Puig is, either. Yoenis Cespedes had a great first season and then put up a .294 OBP last year. A .737 OPS is not what you’re aiming for in left field on a championship team but the A’s have enough talent around him to compensate for it.

    • Brocktoon

      I’m confused. You’re saying having ellsbury, cano, greinke, and price on this team would be a bad thing?

      You could’ve made a similar list of potential free agents 2 years ago and maybe 3 of them would have ever made it to free agency. Waiting for that perfect time to add actual talent to the big leagues banks on you lucking out that the holes you need to fill have competent players available at that time.

  • JulioZuleta

    I don’t think they’re a playoff contender, but they have the potential to be a pleasant surprise. I know it is unlikely that ALL of these guys will improve, but individually, each of Samardzija, E Jackson, Rizzo, and Castro should improve. The Bullpen should be quite a bit better. Third base has the potential to get better, if Olt’s issues are cleared up (probably the least likely of these), and second base cannot get any worse. You could expect a little development from Wellington Castillo as well. Couple all that with some potential mid season callus, and there’s some reason for cautious optimism.

    I’ll ignore the fact that Travis Wood is likely to regress, and Junior Lake probably won’t be any good.

    • JulioZuleta

      I’ll also ignore that we won’t have half seasons of Garza, Feldman, Soriano or Dejesus, and that Schierholz probably regresses.

  • itzscott

    Once again, I agree with The Plan, however, depending solely on scouting/drafting/development is putting all their eggs in one basket and is the ultimate risk.

    What happens if these prospects being relied upon fail to develop as envisioned?

    Then this becomes the Chicago Cubs circa 1945-1969 and 1973-1984 all over again.

    • terencemann

      The Cubs will have enough money to spend on free agents and will have a strong enough farm system to acquire major league talent if their current crop of prospects aren’t as good as imagined.

      Imagine if the Royals or Indians could push their payroll to 120MM+ and that’s the kind of team I expect the Cubs to be in a few years. Both teams are built heavily around internally developed players but those players haven’t really reached their ceilings and yet those were both winning teams last season with payrolls around $80MM.

      • SenorGato

        120+ for Chicago in an era when fuckin’ Philly can push 190…Dream big dreams!

        • aaronb

          No kidding…Especially when WE had a 145 million dollar payroll 5 years ago.

          • SenorGato

            Ugh, you mean the most unsustainable payroll EVER!?!

            The myths that have popped up during this rebuild are either as easy to hate, if not easier, than the losing itself.

            • SenorGato

              *no need for either there

  • kj1

    February – A great month for all Cubs fans, lots of optimism before Spring Training Games and a month where they are not mathematically eliminated.

  • Funn Dave

    *dual fronts

    -BN Grammar Pujole

  • Blackhawks1963

    I’m strongly supportive of the Theo “plan.” It’s the right path. Painful…long…but the right path.

    The 2014 Cubs are going to be infamously bad. There’s simply no way to sugarcoat our projected outfield mix, 3rd base, 2nd base and starting rotation situation to start the season. The current roster is painfully devoid of enough talent. My head says 65-97 is on the money.

    • V23

      B1963, I don’t disagree with the “Theo” portion of the plan. The Ricketts portion is the one I disagree with.

      Sucking and getting high draft picks is not original. That’s not how the Red Sox were built. It’s not how the Cardinals were built. Look at the Cardinals mid-late round picks. Look at their payroll. Look at their stadium. So either Ricketts is cheap or bad at owning a team so far.

      Cubs didn’t even spend for “flippable” players this offseason. I’ve said this before, it’s embarrassing that the payroll isn’t highest in the division year in and year out.

      • terencemann

        The Cardinals were built around internally developed talent. The Red Sox were largely built around internally developed talent. That’s the exact same thing the Cubs are trying to do.

        John Mozeliak didn’t take over a 90 loss/140 MM dollar payroll team when he took over in St. Louis and neither did Epstein and Hoyer when they were in Boston. That’s the big difference here.

        • terencemann

          Also Jason Hammel is Feldman of this season.

        • Cornish Heat

          To terencemann’s point, what the Cardinals and Red Sox currently do is absolutely what the Cubs want to do.

          The difference is that both of those former teams have had great players on the MLB roster for well over a decade. When you have great players on a roster and you’re consistently winning at the major league level, you can afford to have lower 1st round draft picks, because you don’t need each of your first round draft picks to stick – you need one here, one there. In other words, when you’re a great major league team, you can afford a first round miss.

          The Cubs cannot currently afford a first round miss, because they have no talent on the MLB club and no sensible means of acquiring sensible talent, either.

          This is the best route for the Cubs right now. If, for example, several years from now they’re a playoff contender and miss on the 2018 #25 overall draft pick, but then hit on the 2019 #27 overall draft pick, then I think that’s when we can say they’re now like the Cardinals and Red Sox. And that’s great.

          But the Cubs aren’t there yet. They can’t afford to miss on draft picks, and statistically, top 5-10 draft picks offer the best chance to succeed in the majors.

      • Cornish Heat

        V23 – how is it possibly embarrassing that the Cubs payroll isn’t the highest in the NLC? Maybe in 6 years from now, I’ll agree to that; a time when the success of the Baez/Bryant/Almora/Soler/Edwards/Olt/etc. group need extensions, and when it’s time to buy free agents.

        But now? To be the highest payroll in the NLC, we would need to have bought guys like Ellsbury, Cano, Pujols, Fielder, and/or Greinke. We would need to have topped $155m for Tanaka. Is that really what you want??

        The reason the Cubs SHOULD not take that approach is because unlike the Yankees, the Cubs have a budgetary ceiling like all 28 other teams in baseball. And you know what, if there’s no TV deal, lowly attendance, and lowly in-stadium marketing, then that budgetary ceiling is going to be lower than you want.

        • Brocktoon

          That budgetary ceiling based on revenue should pretty easily be higher than every other NLC team and more than most other ML teams for that matter

          • Cornish Heat

            Player salary often comes from ticket sales, marketing, and TV deals. Anything I’m forgetting?

            How well are the Cubs currently doing in all three of those situations?

            • aaronb

              According to forbes they have the 4th highest revenue in baseball. So I’d say they are doing pretty well in those areas.

              • ari gold

                Your 1st mistake is relying on Forbes when this is a privately held company.

                • Brocktoon

                  Is Crane Kenney a reliable enough source? He said the cubs had the 5th highest revenues in baseball at the cubs convention.

                  • CubFan Paul

                    BOOM! Facts (without being a douche).

            • Brocktoon

              Far better than their NLC brethren

  • http://bleachernation.com woody

    If failing attendance is one of the prime reasons for this approach then it is only going to get worse. Let’s say if by mid-July the team is out of it and Ricketts doesn’t have an agreement with the rooftops or has entered litigation. Does anybody really believe they will get a major TV done without resolving the renovation issue? And the scenario I put forth is not that far from being reality. They may have to bring a few of the prospects up just to try and sell tickets. How long is it going to be until Theo has to publicly admit that the business plan is a cluster f%%k and that he can’t do anything more than lose to obtain draft picks. Last year they hyped Castro and Rizzo as the core and the new faces of the franchise and it blew up in their faces. I can’t imagine this is what Theo envisioned.

    • aaronb

      Agreed Woody,

      I’ve long held the belief that Theo didn’t fully know what he was getting. However I’ve also been of the belief that he was very much on the Hot Seat in Boston.

      He very likely would have been fired in Boston over the 2012 season they had. And Chicago was an easy jump to make. Especially when you consider the Job title upgrade and the ability to surround himself with his buddies in the front office.

  • haveuseenmybaseball

    Agree,Rickets should be able to spend another 30 million for a couple bats in free agency,they were out there,Choo,McCain,Cruz.”The Plan”is wishful thinking until you see it translated into wins on the field.not one hitter on the team is a sure .275 20hr bat,I’d guess maybe 2 starters this year could,and that’s a maybe.no excuse to not sign a solid free agent hitter this offseason.Its shameful to tank to win,just as much as the Yankees buying championships.,But on Positive note! I live minute 5s from Tennessee Smokey’s ballpark and are team is getting better and the attendance is up.

  • ari gold

    I remember when the Packers blew up the team in 2005 when Ted Thompson became the GM. Everyone bitched including myself. We sucked in 2005 and 2006 but continued to add core talent through the draft. I was just like Jon and some of the others on here. Constantly whining. Then we went to the playoffs 5 straight years, won a Super Bowl in 2010, and consistently kick the Bears ass EVERY YEAR. I wish I had the patience back then with the rebuild, because looking back it was easy to tell that we were building a winner.

    Obviously Football and baseball are different, but the parrallels are the same. Heck you can even say it takes longer to build a core, because draft picks don’t start in the majors.

    • Brocktoon

      NFL and MLB are nothing alike

      • ari gold

        You’re right. It’s even harder to build a core in baseball! Which is why people should be more patient.

        • Jon

          As already mentioned, that “salary cap” thing, kinda of a big deal.

          • ari gold

            Point is that just like in Football, you have to build a core of young players. Contrary to your belief, there isn’t an infinite amount of $ to spend on a baseball team.

        • Brocktoon

          Well, no. You shouldn’t give up seasons in baseball because it’s not easy to have a turnaround like it is in the NFL. Immediate draft impact and salary caps make the comparison fall apart. You wouldn’t apply the packers retooling to that of a regular business. Just because they’re professional sports leagues doesn’t make the situations comparable

          • ari gold

            Wow, that point went 10k feet over your head, while also making my point for me. Immediate draft impact makes it even easier to rebuild in football, and it still takes teams a while to rebuild. It takes even longer in baseball you don’t see any impact for years after a draft. So unless you want to build exclusively in free agency like we did in 2007 and 2008 and then have a bunch of losing seasons with aging overpaid players, it’s going to take a while.

            • Brocktoon

              Glad were on the same page seeing as my point went 10k over yours. EVERY TEAM EVERYWHERE is relying on their term system to supplement their major league team. What the cubs have done is purposely make their major league team bad so that they have to rely solely on the minor leaguers to do everything. Tell me, how many players from this brilliant packers rebuild were acquired in ways other than the draft?

              • ari gold

                Well last year 50 out of 53 players on the team have only played for the Packers organization. In 2010 when we won the Super Bowl it was around 40. 40/53 is somewhere around 75%, so yeah kind of a lot.

    • V23

      Don’t bring packer stench to this board. They drafted Aaron Rodgers because he fell in their laps. There is no comparison between the sports, the “cap” or non-cap system or anything else for that matter.
      So keep your annoying Packer talk to yourself or a board in Wisco, if they have internet UP DER.

      • ari gold

        Someone’s a bit touchy. Not sure about Wisco, but we have internet here in Denver.

  • Jrock1

    2020 will be our next winning season. Baez and Bryant should contribute to the major league team but everyone else in our farm system is a coin toss. The Cubs have to replace everyone on the MLB roster. That is going to take forever. Spending money on FA could speed things up but until the renovations are complete, I don’t see them going after anyone of quality.

    • ari gold

      Ok Jon

      • Jrock1

        Who’s Jon? Don Jon?

  • Bill

    “Initially there were some hopes, I talked about duel fronts and parallel fronts and really trying to compete at the big league level while we built up for the future. We’ve had to adjust. Some things have not gone our way in different areas that have made our path more clear. So we have probably been more single-minded about building for the future even than we intended to be initially.”

    In other words, this FO office wasn’t up to the task. It was a difficult assignment to do duel fronts and this FO just wasn’t good enough to pull this off. Instead, they elected to go down the easy path, focusing solely on the farm system.

  • Cubsin

    In addition to the 2011 draftees who were paid over slot value, the Cubs certainly have two players who would never have become Cubs under the current CBA – Jeff Samardjiza and Matt Szczur. They both would have gone to the NFL rather than to MLB.

  • Cubsin

    Also, under the old CBA, the Cubs might have been able to draft Jacob Hannemann in the fifth, tenth or twentieth round and sign him for $1 million, and effectively gain another third round draft pick. I suspect they drafted him in the third round because they needed the extra slot money to sign him and still avoid the new CBA’s penalties.

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