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epstein conference cubsThe Chicago Cubs haven’t brought in many big-time, veteran free agents in the Theo Epstein/Jed Hoyer era. While we can debate the reasons for the approach, and a great deal of this was discussed a couple days ago when I wrote about the necessary flexibility of “The Plan,” I think most would agree that it boils down to a combination of rebuilding, financial restrictions, CBA changes, market shifts, and optimizing the timing of big spending.

Setting aside that debate for today, I’d like to focus on a very narrow piece of the spend-money-to-bring-in-talented-vets conversation: having veteran players on the team to assist with the transition and development of top prospects.

Framing that discussion, Epstein offered some thoughts in a recent article by Gordon Wittenmyer that touch squarely on that issues, and that are important to fold into our understanding of “The Plan.” I know not everyone is on board with Wittenmyer’s financial pieces right now, but this one is worth a read, if for no other reason than the bounty of quotes from Epstein.

In the piece, in addition to saying flatly that he would “never even think about leaving until we win the World Series” (school girl butterflies activate), Epstein addresses a roster concern that many of us have had: if there are financial constraints that limit the team’s ability to add quality veteran players right now, how do you protect against the crushing weight of expectation that the prospects are going to feel when they come up to a team with no other players on which to focus? Further, isn’t it a pipe dream to try and win at the big league level by relying solely on home-grown players?

Epstein dismissed the latter question with a variation of “duh,” confirming that you can’t reasonably expect to be competitive through in-house development, alone. I’ve never been concerned that Epstein actually felt that way, but I know there are some of you who believe otherwise. So, at least now you’ve got him on the record.

As for the importance of having quality veterans in place to help support the big league emergence/development of the top prospects, Epstein says it is definitely something the front office thinks about.

“We need to make sure that when the next wave of prospects comes up, they don’t take too much of a burden,” Epstein told Wittenmyer. “We hope to have strong players around them, hopefully an impact player or two around them on the club so that they can break in the right way. You don’t want your prospects breaking in carrying too much responsibility. You don’t want them hitting in the middle of the order. You don’t want them having to carry a club or playing an instrumental role on the club.”

Once again, I didn’t think otherwise, but it’s comforting to hear Epstein saying these things. He knows you can’t just expect to call up a bunch of prospects – even elite ones – and pin everything on them. Young players – even elite ones – struggle. And when they struggle on a team for which they’re supposed to be the be-all, end-all, it can harm development (and obviously can cost the team production and positive results in the W/L column). The Cubs need to remain patient with their youngsters, both for the purposes of affording them maximum development in the minors, but also so that the big league team can be in the best possible position to receive them. That said, this scenario may require adding an impact player or two in free agency (or trade) as soon as next offseason.

You’ll note an “out” that is built into Epstein’s response: the important thing is having strong, impact players around the prospects already on the team, regardless of where those players come from. In other words, if Anthony Rizzo, Welington Castillo, and Starlin Castro break out this year (and maybe if Jeff Samardzija sticks around and Travis Wood is still outperforming expectations), then maybe you’ve got the necessary support system right there. Spending big money in free agency isn’t necessarily a requirement here – and might not help at this point with respect to Javier Baez and Kris Bryant, anyway, if they are called up at some point this year.

But, let’s assume that the Cubs’ big league core does not explode into a sufficient number of superstars that there’s plenty of cover for the youngsters to trickle into the fold starting in 2015. And let’s assume that Baez and Bryant, whether they get a taste of the bigs this year or not, aren’t expect to be important starting pieces until 2015. Then we’ve got yet another reason for the Cubs to be a little more aggressive next offseason than they’ve been in the last few years (as understandable as that passivity may have been).

  • Kyle

    Talk is cheap. Actions are what plays.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Yes, but one can be held accountable to the talk.

      • Kyle

        can he? Abandoning parallel fronts doesn’t seem to be drawing a lot of heat.

        • DarthHater

          If you keep saying “abandoning parallel fronts” enough, it will, like, totally become a real thing.

          • Kyle

            He said it. He said it himself. He said it himself in an interview this week.

            • DarthHater

              Not true. He said that they have had to adjust the extent to which they would be able to compete at the big league level while simultaneously building for the future and have become become more focussed on building for the future than they were initially. “Abandoning parallel fronts” is your exaggerated spin on it. But, hey, if you keep saying “He said it. He said it himself. He said it himself…” enough, it will, like, totally become a real thing.

              • Kyle

                Abandoning parallel fronts isn’t exaggerated spin. It’s just honestly describing it.

                You can use a lot more words to describe the exact same thing in a more palatable way, if you wish.

                • DarthHater

                  “You can use more words to accurately paraphrase what he actually said, if you wish.”

                  FTFY

                  • Kyle

                    BTFM

                    • Patrick W.

                      I’m going to issue a ruling here:

                      It cannot be decided if “abandoning” means “completely changing” or “changing somewhat” because adjustments to a plan can be categorized as abandoning the original plan, or they can be categorized as “tweaking”. Intent is inadmissible.

                      Case dismissed without prejudice.

                  • DarthHater

                    So, what you’re saying, Patrick, is that when Dante had the sign at the Gates of Hell read “Abandon All Hope Ye Who Enter Here,” he might have just meant “Tweak Your Expectations Upon Entry.” :-P

                    • Patrick W.

                      1: There is no Hell.

                      2: The key word in that phrase is “ALL” which was not in the sentence in question.

                      3: You’re out of order, and in danger of being held in contempt of me.

                      4: My contempt might not actually mean anything.

                    • DarthHater

                      I’m starting a petition to impeach you on the ground that a judge ruling that there is no Hell is a violation of the Establishment Clause.

                    • Patrick W.

                      That wasn’t a ruling, but none of my rulings are based on criminal law, they are based on what’s in my head, or what I call “What SHOULD be Common Law, dammit”

                    • DarthHater

                      Another out-of-control, activist judge… :-D

                    • hansman

                      I thought the Kola Borehole proved there was a hell and it is just under our feet?

                    • TWC

                      Ha. Those that actually bought that Kola Borehole fraud should be thrown into the Kola Borehole.

                    • Patrick W.

                      “Another out-of-control, activist judge…”

                      Guilty.

              • Orval Overall

                Do you honestly think there’s more than just a semantic difference between what you just said and what Kyle said?

          • hansman

            They were doing it before they weren’t doing it.

            Damn adjusting of previously made plans.

            • Kyle

              Damn adjusting of previously made plans in ways that make the team awful, yes.

            • DarthHater

              The Cubs should put Juggernaut in charge of baseball operations. He never adjusts:
              [img]http://1-media-cdn.foolz.us/ffuuka/board/co/thumb/1344/95/1344950393323s.jpg[/img]

              • Chef Brian

                Or Maybe the Blob, since he is immovable from all fronts, parallel or otherwise…

          • MattM

            Again, If we are to hold someone accountable to what they say then this is the best case! He said it more than once in his first interview and followed it up the next year by saying they were still trying to be competitive.

            He obviously felt like he would have been held accountable to his talk because he himself explained why he “meant it at the time, but had to abandon it.”

            If you don’t think it’s a thing then you are insulting Theo Epstein because he himself thought it was a thing!

            • aaronb

              Luckily he’s invoking his mulligan for these 3 seasons. And he is vague about when exactly these players are eventually going to be added.

              So by this action of being held accountable…He has more or less removed himself from the burden of accountability.

              • dw8

                The only person he’s really accountable to is Ricketts, right? And if Ricketts thinks Theo is on the right track…

                • aaronb

                  Sure he does….We are the most profitable team in baseball according to Forbes.

                  That fits right into Ricketts “They sell every ticket to every game. Win or lose.” sales pitch to his father.

                  • Edwin

                    I belive Forbes was looking at revenue, not at how profitable a team might be. I might be mistaken about that, but there’s a difference.

                    • bbmoney

                      They looked at estimated revenues and EBITDA. Both are important data points for the valuations they do.

                    • aaronb
                    • Edwin

                      Ok. It think I remember it now. Operating income does not include tax or interest expense, which could make a difference.

                      Thanks.

                    • Edwin

                      Strange. On the info bubble on the Forbes list, they list operating income as income before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization. That could also make a bigger difference.

                    • http://deepcenterfield.mlblogs.com/ Jason Powers

                      The bigger concern – 58% Debt/Value ratio. Assuming the $1B value they put on the Cubs, that’s the $580 million debt load. Oct 2013, $180M was due according to an old Crane’s article that broke out the Debt. Even then, $400M in debt service for say 9 more years with interest is a substantial drain on finances. (And how it is structure – to Sam Zell’s benefit I presume – is what I would love to know. What premium kicker did he wiggle out of Ricketts???)

                    • bbmoney

                      Yes Jason. 100%.

                      Agreed, that’s the number that concerns me and stands out. To me it may also makes using EBITDA misleading considering it doesn’t include interest payments on that debt (or obviously repayments of that debt…and cash is king).

                  • dw8

                    So we have no idea if he’s being held accountable or not.

                  • http://deepcenterfield.mlblogs.com/ Jason Powers

                    Trying to investigate the Cubs financials is like being on top of Mt. Everest trying to get a good view of the Mariana Trench for scientific purposes.

                    Confusing and obfuscating with opaqueness that would really annoy Norman Bates in Psycho. Coming Mother!

  • Jon

    “You don’t want them hitting in the middle of the order. You don’t want them having to carry a club or playing an instrumental role on the club.”

    But that is exactly what they have done, up to this point.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      A very fair point, with respect to Rizzo and Castro.

    • hansman

      As in having Soriano and DeJesus around? Bringing in Edwin Jackson? Samardzija is no spring chicken. The bullpen has had its share of geriatrics.

      • MattM

        Jon you hit the nail on the head and that would have been what I would have posted had you not. Hansman to your point….Rizzo has been hitting in the middle of the lineup since day one! If we are to hold Epstein accountable to his talk then let’s hold him accountable to what he just said. I think that’s why Brett said it was a fair point….

      • Jon

        Were not Rizzo and Castro asked to be middle of the hitters last year and play a significant impact? They will be asked to do the same on opening day this year.

        And Soriano would have been gone in 2012, if they had their druthers(not saying I disagree with moving Soriano)

        • mjhurdle

          Wanting something and having something are two entirely different things.
          They may want to have more veterans to hit in the middle of the order, but if you don’t have them, then you have to go with young players.

          So the issue shouldn’t be about Theo saying that.
          Your issue is with them not signing other veteran players.
          That is a fair viewpoint, but it is hardly a certain one. Is it better to sign players you don’t think are good value/help the long term plan simply so that you can hit Rizzo 6th?
          Im not saying that those players weren’t out there, but obviously the Front Office didn’t think so. And if the Front Office did not see value in those players (which is debatable) does it make sense for them to sign them anyway, just because they don’t want Rizzo to hit 3rd?

          • MattM

            MJhurdle, I have a better question for you. If developing talent is so valuable to this organization would not keeping Soriano to take pressure off of Rizzo to help him develop have been more valuable than paying him to play for the Yankees? Was his support to Rizzo not more valuable than paying the Yankees and getting a bullpen arm?

            I guess the question is what’s valuable? If developing talent is so valuable then they should have kept Soriano…

          • hansman

            I’m not even sure why he said “You don’t want them hitting in the middle of the order.”

            If you have a guy who should be hitting in the middle of the order but is a rookie, are you going to want Renteria putting a less capable hitter in the middle of the order?

            I’m glad I’m not the GM of the Cubs and every syllable is dissected by dumbass fans (as in all fans, not just Jon).

            • MattM

              No you don’t want Renteria to do that…..There is already enough pressure heaped on someone coming up. To be the only power threat in the middle of the lineup as well is kind not smart…

          • aaronb

            If only there was a way for Theo and the Cubs to bring in guys from outside the organization?

            Does baseball have a system somewhere already in place to get players from team A to team B?

        • hansman

          Castro wasn’t.

          Rizzo was but he was surrounded by veteran talent.

          • MattM

            Wait, after the all-star break last year?

            That’s definatly not accurate.

            Unless of course you think that after being up for a year a player doesn’t need development….

          • Jon

            Once Rizzo came up in 2012 he joined a lineup of

            Geovany Soto
            Starlin Castro
            Luis Valbrano
            Alfonso Soriano
            David Jesus
            Tony Campana

            Call you what it want, but when Rizzo was called up in 2012 he was asked to be a middle of the order run producer in that lineup. That is where he batted. The only legit power around him was Soriano.

            • MattM

              I’m pretty sure that is the exact opposite of what Theo said should happen….

              • hansman

                No, the exact opposite would be if Epstein traded everyone away and had a team that only featured young prospects.

            • hansman

              So the Cubs should only call up players when there is enough legit power to surround them? What constitutes “enough”?

              I think you are dissecting this too much.

              • Jon

                No I’m not saying that. They should be called up when ready.

                I’m just saying what they said, and what they have done are not the same.

              • MattM

                If their primary goal is to effectively develop their talent then yes that’s what I’m saying.

                You know as well as I do that Rizzo is questioning things now. It’s not a good thing to have a player lose confidence. Both him and Starliin are in that situation….

                • hansman

                  No, Rizzo has some mechanical issues with his swing. Has had varying issues for his entire big league career.

                  Castro isn’t thinking about things because he has been abandoned on the team, but because they were trying to get him to think about more things at the plate and it made him suck.

            • CubsFaninMS

              Carlos Zombuena?

            • Chef Brian

              Because he is a middle of the order run producer. That’s what teams expect from their first basemen. Should they bat him eighth since we are dissecting every one of Theo’s statements to the comma. When Rizzo came up, he had Soriano to take pressure off of him.

          • Jason P

            Veteran mentors and veteran impact players are not the same thing. Dejesus might have been a great influence, but he wasn’t the type of bat that could take the focus off Rizzo.

            • hansman

              Unless you call a player up like Rizzo to a stacked team (even Puig had a lot of attention last year at his callup), there is always going to be a ton of focus on them.

              It’s what the writers do.

        • http://bleachernation.com woody

          Exactly and they are being asked to do the same again this year. I could see moving Soriano, but in my opinion DeJesus was the kind of guy you would want to keep around. He always had a smile on his face and played the game the right way. If Castro and Rizzo fail again there will always be doubt about how much it was related to lack of veteran leadership and the burden of expectation being placed on them at this point in their careers.

    • JeffR

      Perhaps he means on a team with playoff expectations. Hitting 4th on a team that will be among the worst in baseball isn’t the same type of pressure.

  • DarthHater

    News flash: Epstein Plans to Lead Cubs for the Next 105 Years.

    • ColoCubFan

      OUCH!!!

    • hansman

      HA! AS IF THE CUBS COULD WIN A WS IN 105 YEARS!!!!!

      The way Epstein has dismantled this franchise, this door will open first. http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=F1CddzgVW14

      (Someone has too much dang time on their hands (and for those of you who don’t want to click through, it’s a door in Minecraft that will open sometime around the death of the universe (1 googol years))

    • brainiac

      hah i doubt he plans to lead the cubs another 4 years. he is OUT of here. you can’t say we need veterans and then never make one attempt in 3 offseasons on a big market club to hire a veteran hitter. at this point theo just sounds silly, he spends so much time defending the chaos behind the scenes.

  • Spoda17

    The challenge with the Cubs on this front is that most of our elite prospects are going to come up close together… meaning we might not have may places to put that veteran in… not in 2014… but in 2015 and 16… the team will be kind of full…

    • bbmoney

      I mean hopefully the team will be full. That’d be a great ‘problem’. But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. Plenty of times for prospects to not make it, be hurt, or to be traded, etc.

      I’ve always believed FA was going to be in the mix. I’ve been on board with the lack of major FA signings (well I count EJax as relatively major) so far, but it always has needed to be supplemented once the minor league talent is close. If next offseason is inactive again, I’ll join the crowd of folks that’s pretty upset (admittedly I thought it would be this offseason originally…minor grumble). It almost assuredly needs to happen for this to work.

    • JeffR

      I certainly can’t see them signing a big money infield free agent. Perhaps they sign an outfielder to a 3-4 year contract this offseason.

      • DocPeterWimsey

        The OF class for next year is very weak and very old. Really, only Colby Rasmus looks that interesting.

        Thirdbase might be more interesting: for the first time in a while, there will be some potentially good 3Bmen on the market with Headley and Sandoval. However, Headley is 31 already and Sandoval is huge already. So, both will probably get more years from some AL team than any NL team will offer them.

        • J Bounds

          Pretty much this. Brett Gardner is also a guy who could be intriguing. Could be a nice bridge to Almora and he would provide the Cubs with a legit leadoff guy for the first time in….. basically forever. Outside of Rasmus and Gardner though I don’t really see any positional players to get excited about in the upcoming free agent class.

          However, there could be some really nice arms hitting the market. Really, REALLY hoping the Cubs sign themselves a front of the rotation starter and another veteran bullpen arm. It would also be nice if they used some of this talent in the minors to trade for a productive big leader.

          If they do that AND a few of these prospects continue to develop well and break into the team then 2015 could start to look up.

        • Jon

          Hasn’t Sandoval lost a ton of weight?

          • bbmoney

            Pretty much every year for the past 3 or so years. Problem is he gains it back.

            But currently he’s reportedly in the best shape of his life.

  • Patrick W.

    This is interesting, to me.

    Here are your 6 oldest current 40 man roster Cubs. Everyone else is under 30.

    Kyuji Fujikawa 33
    Jose Veras 33
    Justin Ruggiano 32
    Jason Hammel 31
    Donnie Murphy 31
    George Kottaras 31

    • http://deepcenterfield.mlblogs.com/ Jason Powers

      And none of those guys had any enormous under-30 success (stateside – IDK on Fujikawa).

      Another reason I wanted the FAs from yesterday: Kazmir, Murphy, Young…. all have playoff experience – and would have maybe cultivated the youngsters. Kazmir and Young were all-star players at one time…Bedard certainly is a vet…and knows the experience of being an all-star caliber player that had struggles/setbacks.

      While maybe not the impact players we’d like, they all certainly understand struggles, persevering (Kazmir, in particular) and so, it wasn’t “just” about getting wins. Sure, it is not statistically defensible – not even financially, if the all the problems are financial restrictions.

      But, when you have all these 21-24 year olds, and they start to struggle, do you think they don’t ever talk to the 33 year guy? Which ones? – the ones who never been anything but a journeyman, or the ones who were once considered elite, struggled, and can still play a bit. If you are 22-23 you might listen more to the once successful player…he’s knows what success is – and the path he took to it. (Even if it is soft psychology and mumbo jumbo…people do it. We all want to be someone’s inspiration or well-paid therapist, in this case.)

  • TommyK

    First, I’m done listening to talk of financial restrictions. I understand the Cubs can’t spend like the Yankees, but there is no reason they can’t spend like an average Major League team. Especially not if Wrigley Field is such a revenue goldmine that the very idea of them leaving it is laughable. (Seriously, Wrigley can’t be both a financial restriction AND an invaluable revenue generator at the same time).

    Second, this is yet another reason not to pay any attention whatsoever to the 2014 Cubs. You don’t want to call prospects up unless you have impact veterans to take the pressure off them. The Cubs don’t have any impact veterans (or players in general for that matter) on the big league roster. Therefore, we can assume no prospects will be called up this year. The thought of prospects being called up is the only thing remotely interesting about the 2014 Cubs. Since that’s not going to happen, someone wake me up when it’s over.

    If Theo really believes what he said here, the time to bring in veterans isn’t next off-season. It was this off-season. Prospects are going to be ready this year. Now everything gets pushed back a year.

    Seriously, is there any hope at all for a season ending player’s strike or something? Anything to avoid this nightmare of a season we are about to endure. And if 2015 isn’t any different, it might not be up to Theo whether he leaves before they win a world series. I’ll gladly buy his bus ticket.

    • APPNATION

      besides baez and maybe bryant (if he’s killing AA/AAA )no one else is in my opinion will be called up

      • MightyBear

        Alcantara maybe if he’s killing it. Pitchers because of injuries or ineffectiveness – Hendricks, Rusin, Vizcaino, more and assuming these guys don’t make the team out of ST. Maybe Szcur if he’s killing it.

      • TommyK

        If Theo means what he says here, he can’t call up Baez or Bryant this year.

        And, according to Baseball Prospectus, Alcantara and Villanueava will also be ready this season. But, again, can’t call them up. When you get to 2015, the top nine prospects are ready according to BP. That’s when Theo and Company are completely out of excuses. If the team is not at least respectable in 2015, the plan is a failure and we should all be demanding a complete change in approach.

        • APPNATION

          almora will be ready next year? i don’t think so

          • Chad

            Possibly by the end of the 2015 season. He could start at AA this year.

            • APPNATION

              he could but he won’t. Almora and Soler will both start at High A. i think they’ll both be brought up at the same time since they’re good friends.

              • Chad

                You have as much of a clue into this as I do. I said possibly and you have been definitive. You never know. It has been mentioned they could start at AA. Even if at A+ they could end up in AA and follow a similar path as Baez which could put them in Chicago at the end of 2015 after some time in Iowa. You never know.

                • hansman

                  A year ago folks were crazy to think Baez would be knocking on the ML door at this time.

                  • Kyle

                    They *were* crazy. Baez having the greatest Cubs prospect season of our lifetime doesn’t justify them, even though they turned out to be right.

                    • Fishin Phil

                      Even crazy people are right once in awhile.

    • roz

      “there is no reason they can’t spend like an average Major League team”

      Except for the apparent financial restrictions that you’re conveniently ignoring.

      • aaronb

        Does anyone have any actual evidence of these restrictions?

        Why would Zell or Ricketts sign something that says the Cubs have to spend 90 million or less on payroll per season? Especially when Sam Zell spent 40-55 million more than that annually. 40-55 million more without the benefit of the extra MLB TV money that the Ricketts have now.

        Restrictions are noting but spin.

        • Brocktoon

          There’s also that pesky issue of the ricketts owned cubs managing to carry a ~135m payroll after the se in spite of the supposed restrictive terms. I guess the contract said no payrolls above embarrassing levels starting with 2013?

      • TommyK

        What are these “apparent financial restrictions?” Again, if Wrigley Field is such a great source of revenue that they could never consider moving, why can’t they spend like a average MLB team? I’ll buy that they can’t spend like the Dodgers and Yankees until they get all the advertising they want and a full new TV deal, but someone is going to have to prove to me that they couldn’t afford to spend like an average team. Unless Wrigley and the restrictions that go along with it are actually a financial albatross, in which case they should be ready to move if those restrictions aren’t lifted. It can’t be “The restrictions that come with Wrigley are a financial albatross that keeps the Cubs from being competitive, but Wrigley is a financial goldmine that they can never consider leaving even if the restrictions remain.”

        • AP

          I would think that being a great source of revenue is only part of the reason moving away isn’t feasible. The bigger issue is that if the team moves, Wrigley becomes a financial blackhole that the Ricketts own but now doesn’t produce any revenue. And it’s not like they can raze it to the ground and build some other revenue generating option, it’s landmarked so it stays the way it is – only after a move it will be completely empty.

          • aaronb

            If they moved out of Wrigley….I’m certain there would be several other MLB teams that would jump at the chance to play there.

            Oakland
            Kansas City
            Tampa
            Cleveland

            and maybe even the White Sox would love to have the Cubs “Problems” with Wrigley Field.

            • JB88

              It doesn’t work like that. No new MLB team is moving into Wrigley if the Cubs leave there.

    • dw8

      Do you like baseball?

  • aaronb

    We plan on acquiring veteran help. So long as it’s free and doesn’t cost any prospects

    • papa dunks

      …and is less than 29 years old…sorry, couldn’t help myself.

  • Edwin

    Makes sense. It’d be nice to have a 1 or 2 veterans who can play at an above average level, if only to take some of the pressure off of Baez/Bryant. I don’t read much more into Theo’s comments than that.

  • http://deepcenterfield.mlblogs.com/ Jason Powers

    The most significant quote: “As the team plays better, and most significantly when the TV deal happens, we’re going to be in a position to hopefully overpower the other teams in our division financially.”

    1) TV deal
    2) Overpower division financially
    3) Moneyball never looked so good

    [img]http://www.brucesallan.com/images/stories/sallanimages/girl_money_pool.jpg[/img]

  • CubsFaninMS

    *chicka-waka chicka-waka chicka-waka chicka-waka*

    Ohhhhhhh yeah.

  • Darth Ivy

    cough cough…granderson…cough cough

    excuse me

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett
      • aaronb

        He’s a 14 WAR player over the last 4 years. He only needs to be slightly better than half as good over the next 4 years to justify that deal.

        • dw8

          He’s about to turn 33, can’t play CF anymore, Ks 28 percent of the time, can’t hit LHP. You want that guy taking a roster spot for the next four years, honestly?

          • aaronb

            Not for 4 yeas, no.

            When it was reported 3/45 I was hoping the Cubs would be involved though. I’d take Nelson Cruz for 2/20 today and be happy about it though.

            • JB88

              Given the dearth of OF talent available next year and the likelihood that Soler and Almora are at least a few years away, I’m pretty sure I’d do a 2/20 deal with Cruz. I could even get behind 3/30 or so and not be too upset.

              • JB88

                Plus there is something about Cruz that has always reminded me of ARam.

            • Edwin

              Seems like an overpay for Cruz. He’s a bat only player who gives most of his value back due to poor baserunning and poor fielding. He’s a .5 win upgrade, if that, over what they have in the OF right now.

              • Noah_I

                This. I’m not a Cruz fan at all. I’m not at all confident his power, which his only real potential positive, plays that well outside of Texas. Aside from last year, he showed major home/road splits over the past several seasons. I wouldn’t at all be surprised to see him be a .250/.300/.400 player wherever he goes, as long as that place isn’t Texas. Even if he wasn’t attached to draft compensation, the most I’d give him is 1/$10 million with a team or mutual option at $12 million. Attached to draft compensation? He’s a complete pass for me.

              • Jon

                Well of course it’s an overpay, but FA usually is. I would be intrigued by Cruz on a 2/20 as a LF option, with a Lake/Sweeney platoon in Center and the Ruggiano/Schierholtz platoon in right. You of course would slide Lake/Sweeney over to LF in late game situations to minimize the negative impact of his glove there.

                • dw8

                  I don’t think it can be overstated how not good at defense Nelson Cruz is.

                  • Jon

                    I actually think it can be overstated in this case,

                    according to UZR , Beltran and Choo have been worse, among others….

                    http://www.fangraphs.com/leaders.aspx?pos=of&stats=bat&lg=all&qual=y&type=8&season=2013&month=0&season1=2011&ind=0&team=0&rost=0&age=14,58&filter=&players=0&sort=20,a

                    Don’t get be wrong, he sucks at defense, but it’s not like he’s historically bad.

                    • Jon

                      Now that I think about it, I think Beltran is a good comp in this case. Similar offensive numbers, Cruz is younger, maybe not as good on offense. Both terrible on defense, with Cruz being less terrible.

                      I do think 2/20 would be reasonable deal.

                      I’ll disagree on everyone with the draft pick comps, 2nd rounders in baseball aren’t that big of deal to me. I’ll keep an eye on what Rob Zastryzny does this year and maybe I’ll change my mind :)

                    • aaronb

                      Cubs haven’t had a 2nd round pick post a 2.5 WAR Career since 1984.

                      So about once every 30 years we can bank on the 2nd round pick panning out into something useful.

                  • aaronb

                    He played in RF over guys like Murphy and Gentry. So the Rangers had to like his defense better than Murphy at least.

                    I know he won’t be a gold glove guy. But surely he could be passable in Wrigley’s Left Field?

                    We’ve seen Soriano, Henry Rodriguez and a 40 year old Moises Alou all patrolling out there over the last 15 years. He certainly can’t be worse with the glove than any of those guys.

                    • Noah_I

                      I’m not that concerned about the defense thing. If you think Cruz is going to hit something like he did in Texas, he’s worth 2 years/$20 million, independent of the defense. I just don’t think he’s going to, and my bet on his line for this season is going to be somewhere around .250/.300/.400, 15 HRs.

                    • Brocktoon

                      Your bet is that Cruz puts up his worst ops since 2007 and an ISO of 150??

                    • aaronb

                      His home/away splits were nearly identical last year. Even if he begins to be off peak next year. He’d have to fall REALLY far off a career .268/.327/.495 slash line to not be useful.

                      His career OPS is almost 100 points higher and anyone on this current Cubs roster.

                • bbmoney

                  Cruz is more name recognition than very good, but he’s not terrible, just not great.

                  I completely agree with this perspective if his price is down to 2/20. I wouldn’t be all that upset if they didn’t sign him for that either though…it’s right in the zone I could get behind it either way.

                • YourResidentJag

                  The Cubs would have been better signing Nate McLouth earlier in the season if they wanted an OF FA.

                  • http://deepcenterfield.mlblogs.com/ Jason Powers

                    I agree, and I don’t even have the numbers to support it.

                    We didn’t want too many legitimate options. But we will be able to bus quite a few back and forth from Iowa if need be, I suppose.

                    Maybe this is one derivation on the plan:
                    LF Bryant
                    CF Alcantara until Almora comes
                    RF Lake (if he sticks, until Soler comes)
                    3B Baez

            • Jon

              I would sign Nelson Cruz, but he would have to take a 1 year deal, and also promise to use steroids again.

              • Noah_I

                I honestly would not give up a second round pick for Cruz at any price. That’s how down I am on Cruz. And this isn’t saying I so highly value that second round pick I wouldn’t give it up for anyone. I’d be perfectly fine with the Cubs picking up Stephen Drew and playing him at 2B. In part, that’s because I’d be more than happy to have Drew in our middle infield if the prospects stall out at all, in part it’s because I think Drew could be easily flippable for much more value than a 2nd round pick. But I think Cruz is going to be terrible.

                • YourResidentJag

                  Drew? Why? They got enough to go with at 2b for 2014.

                  • Noah_I

                    Because Drew is a much better player than any of the other options at 2B, and is the only one of those guys who could put up .750 OPS this season. Drew should also be essentially as good as Barney defensively at 2B, maybe even better. I just don’t think Nelson Cruz is a significantly better player than the Cubs’ other options in the outfield. That’s how meh of a baseball player I think Cruz is moving forward.

                    • YourResidentJag

                      Except I don’t want Cruz on this team or Drew for that matter.

      • Darth Ivy

        I said excuse me.

      • Kyle

        I wish we were as good at avoiding the “worst teams” list as we are at avoiding the “worst transactions” list.

        • Darth Ivy

          there was a point last year when the Jackson signing put us on that list. I wouldn’t argue with you if you said that it still does, but I wouldn’t make that argument

          • Darth Ivy

            oops, I meant “them” not “us”

            Wow, I disappoint myself

  • aaronb

    I particularly like this part of the article:

    But Epstein has kept aside some payroll flexibility to roll into next winter, and he sounds more optimistic than bitter about the long-range vision.

    No matter how long that range might be forced to stretch.

  • APPNATION

    Its my last summer of baseball before i go to college so I’m not going to be doing any complaining this year. Im going to sit back and enjoy the fact i get to watch baseball everyday of the summer. Oh yeah Brett any idea when there will be a new podcast?

    • Fishin Phil

      Good for you! Enjoy the summer!

  • YourResidentJag

    The Game will have a new baseball show starting this weekend with Todd Hollandsworth.

    • http://deepcenterfield.mlblogs.com/ Jason Powers

      Another ex-Cub making good. Ex-Cubs do better after baseball than in baseball???

      • YourResidentJag

        Yeah, it’s like some sort of weird post-Cub fraternity, Jason. ;)

  • NorthSideIrish

    Patrick Mooney ‏@CSNMooney 3m
    Logan Watkins tells Javier Baez you could hear the windshield break after his batting-practice shot hit a car in the parking lot.

    Love.

  • IA_Colin

    I can’t wait to read the boards when actual games are going on. Personally I don’t think Chicago needed to do much in FA. They have guys that can produce for very cheap. Say they did sign Kazmir, Cruz and Omar Infante. Thats a projected 6-7 war? For I’m going to estimate a total of 30 million a season (Kaz-11, Infante 7.5, Cruz 11) do those moves make the Cubs a contender? Maybe. Is locking up 30 million that smart when you have 2 War upside players for near league minimum? Valbuena had 2 war last season, Mike Olt definitely has the potential to hit 2 war. Ruggiano is 2-3 war potential. Is Hammel any more of an injury risk as Kazmir? He’s put up 2.5 – 3.8 War seasons! So instead of the 30 million spent this is like maybe close to 10 million? For what’s honestly going to be pretty close production. Play GM all you want but the Cubs are going for value they are getting the same upside as the guys that are going for much higher price tags.

  • Blackhawks1963

    Big fan of Theo, but this wasn’t one of his finest moments. He dug himself a hole as a matter of fact.

    All I know is this…the 2014 Cubs are going to be horrendous and as sure as the sun sets in the West the pitchfork and torches are going to come out this summer. And God save the Queen if Castro and Rizzo don’t produce quality campaigns because we shall see a shit storm of unimagineable magnitude for some fans.

    Buckle up. Pass the popcorn because it’s going to get interesting.

    • http://bleachernation.com woody

      I’m strapped in baby! Let her rip! “A shit shit storm of unimginable magnitude”. The four horsemen of the apocalypse sitting in the bleachers. That’s some good stuff man!

  • TTH

    Before you know it the plan will be Baez, Bryant, etc being the vets in place when the Cubs bring up the next wave of prospects and are finally ready to compete.

  • brainiac

    note to THEO: you don’t sound wise anymore when none of your platitudes work, and you haven’t even tried to make them work. let’s say we wait until another offseason. we’re talking needing 2-3 serious hitters in addition. there aren’t that many even going to be on the market.

  • Cornish Heat

    Or perhaps the hopeful impact player(s) to which Epstein is referring are Rizzo and Castro, and he doesn’t actually add someone in free agency or trade

  • DarthHater

    “You don’t want your prospects breaking in carrying too much responsibility. You don’t want them hitting in the middle of the order. You don’t want them having to carry a club or playing an instrumental role on the club.”

    Isn’t the above exactly what this FO has done with Rizzo?

    • Chef Brian

      I think Jon and Anti-Theonistas got that one covered.

  • Diehardthefirst

    Memo to Theo: pick up Morel 3B DFA this pm STAT

    • gocatsgo2003

      A 26-year old with a career 63 OPS+ at the MLB level? WHOOO BOY THAT’S EXCITING!!!

      • Diehardthefirst

        Has power to protect Rizzo-,what’s your idea?

        • BT

          Maybe from muggers, but there is no way he protects him in a baseball sense.

          • DarthHater

            I stand corrected. Protection from muggers is not a bullshit idea.

            • http://www.michigangoat.blogspot.com MichiganGoat

              Yes everyone should have mugger protection.

        • DarthHater

          My idea: (1) pay no attention to the bullshit idea of “protecting” a hitter; (2) pay no attention to your memos to Theo

        • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

          Brent Morel Career Slugging-.333
          Brent Morel Career ISO-.104
          Donnie Murphy Career Slugging-.405
          Donnie Murphy Career ISO-.190

          How is Brent Morel an upgrade in the power department??

          • Diehardthefirst

            Has better chance of sticking at 3B and is insurance against nobody else good enuf to play 3B for 2 years

            • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

              Donnie Murphy, Mike Olt, Luis Valbuena, Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, and Christian Villanueva would all currently be better options at third base than Brent Morel

          • http://www.michigangoat.blogspot.com MichiganGoat

            It’s an upgrade in the die hard universe.

            • DarthHater

              [img]http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3697/12685553395_8a24899b35.jpg[/img]

              • http://www.michigangoat.blogspot.com MichiganGoat

                Perfect!

                • Diehardthefirst

                  I’m impressed! You’ve captured the Cubs luck since Ricketts and Zell became partners

  • nilodnayr

    There is no one hitting FA next offseason (well no one besides Brett Gardner and he doesn’t solve the middle of the order), so we’ll have to turn the the trade market. Andre Ethier is the guy to target. Once Kemp and Crawford prove they are healthy and Puig proves he wasn’t a fluke (none of these being sure things by any stretch), Ethier becomes the odd man out. Now certainly the Dodgers can afford financially to have a 15M bench player, but I’d have to think that at some point there’d be harm to the clubhouse with those egos and especially with Joc Pederson on the doorstep (and Dee Gordon), it becomes a forgone conclusion that one of the four needs to be dealt.

    Ethier is expensive, but with no FA OFers, scarcity drives his value up, and if you’re not afraid to platoon an expensive player, he could provide really significant value. A career 309/388/518 hitter vs righties, with average defense.

    For anyone who was remotely interested in going after Choo…
    http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/the-easily-attainable-shin-soo-choo-alternative/

    • C. Steadman

      Ethier would be a good veteran presence i’d want in 2015 (heck, a trade could happen during 2014)

  • Diehardthefirst

    Theo acted on my memo to pick up Emilio- if he makes final cut do I get a finders fee?

    • http://www.michigangoat.blogspot.com MichiganGoat

      No because the first 1000 memos were utterly ignored because they were a joke. And I don’t think we can count all the misses you’ve had to BABIP- most of them were just wrong.
      *Castro to CF
      *Marmol to start
      I’ll let others fill in the 998 others.

      • Diehardthefirst

        Luke agreed Castro may end up there and don’t give up on Marmol yet especially if one of starters has a hang nail

        • http://www.michigangoat.blogspot.com MichiganGoat

          Sure just keep believing this it might just happen if you believe.

          • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

            Actually, I do agree that there is a scenario in which Castro could wind up in center. It isn’t a terribly likely one (although it would be great for the Cubs), but it isn’t impossible.

            Not giving up on Marmol isn’t me, though. I wish him all the best, but preferably in someone else’s uniform.

            • Isaac

              With their relative body composition, I like the odds of Baez ending up a corner outfielder better than I like the odds of Castro in CF.

  • Diehardthefirst

    He’s only played one full season in 2011 and showed good power potential – wouldn’t it be great if he being a former White Sox made the Cubs and at same time made them look bad for dumping him? Maybe some Sox fans would migrate to Clark and Addison?

  • wgalan

    This is my first time posting on BN. I’ve been an avid reader of Bretts for sometime just never wanted to get into the posting wars. But I’ve been a huge fan of the cubs for sometime and the one thing I’ve been intrigued about is the thick skin it must take to make the bold and unpopular moves it takes to rebuild this organization into a winning team. I cant imagine going to work and having to make decisions that are going to be ridiculed by thousands on such a public level. My hats off to Theo for sticking to the plan and not sacrificing the future to ease the heat. The wagon has slowed so anyone wanting off here’s your chance for the rest of us its going to be one hell of a party. Go Cubbies!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Welcome, wg.

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