The Chicago Cubs’ President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein offered some thoughts on the season ahead, and also was profiled in a hell of a great piece in ESPN The Magazine …
- Theo Epstein let the media know that he wouldn’t be discussing the Jeff Samardzija situation – extension or trade – during the season (Tribune). I think that’s perfectly fair to say after an offseason of questions, and you want to protect your player so that he can perform distraction free. On the other hand, I think it’s perfectly fair for the media to start asking again in a couple months. It’s a legit story, and likely to be among the most important ones in the Cubs’ world at that time. (A prior version of the Tribune piece made it sound like Epstein was saying the Cubs and Samardzija wouldn’t talk about an extension during the season, but that has since been corrected. Big potential difference there.)
- On this season, Epstein says he hopes the Cubs surprise (ESPNChicago, Cubs.com), which is something they could actual do with relative ease, given the extremely low expectations for the team this year. (Each article has a little more from Epstein on the season ahead and fan support despite the struggles of late, and the Cubs.com piece also has some thoughts from Starlin Castro on the team’s confidence.)
- And it sounds like Epstein has a similar thought on how the Cubs could surprise as I offered on Sunday when I evaluated the roster, and said the two things it has going for it are youth/potential upside, and versatility/flexibility. Here’s Epstein’s take, per ESPNChicago: “There are plenty of players with upside on this roster. We have some increased flexibility.” It’s true. The odds of a surprise remain low, but this is the kind of roster that can surprise, if a surprise is going to happen.
- ESPN The Magazine had a fantastic profile on Epstein (and Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod) and the Cubs, and they were good enough to share it online for everyone to read. Which you should. Among the interesting parts: a look at scouting and analysis under the previous regime (to say that the organization was woefully behind the times is an understatement in the extreme), which used to feature scouting reports like this: “Plus-plus makeup — I love this kid.” Full stop. Yikes.
- For those who haven’t been paying attention over the last year and a half, Epstein sums up the state of things in that ESPN piece: “There is going to be a time when we are a financial superpower again. We’ll have the entire landscape available to us. In this interim, we have to be focused on scouting and development.” The money will come – a little at first, and a boatload later – but, during these first few years, the focus has always been tearing down and building up (even if there was some hedging to try and compete in the early months of 2013 and 2014, if at all possible). Try to cleanse that off-the-cuff parallel fronts comment from your mind, because it’s quite clear that one front has always been the primary (and rightfully most important) front – and even moreso after certain financial and CBA realities became clear. Fortunately, on that (building up from the ground) front, Epstein remains perfectly pleased, and I suspect we’ll start to really see the fruit this year in the minors, with a hopeful eye toward the near-term future.