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theo epstein press conference featureApropos of today’s report that the Cubs have claimed Phillies lefty Cole Hamels off of revocable trade waivers (reminder, that means only that the Cubs have the opportunity to trade for Hamels, but completing a deal seems unlikely), here’s something from a recent Cubs.com piece I’d like to share and discuss.

In conjunction with his discussion of the Cubs’ robust group of positional prospects, and the turn that we’re seeing, Theo Epstein spoke about the Cubs’ need for pitching.

“We look at this offseason and next offseason as a window during which we have to add and will add impact pitching,” Epstein said, per Cubs.com. “We won’t look at it exclusively this offseason.”

Ostensibly, the comment is designed as a hedge against any fan or media expectations that the Cubs absolutely will get impact pitching this offseason. But it’s also a realistic take on the way you accumulate assets – in free agency or otherwise.

Consider that, even if the Cubs absolutely wanted to pick up an impact arm in free agency this offseason, their own evaluations of pitchers might leave them with just one or two such pitchers. Then, the Cubs don’t just get those pitchers. They have to compete for those pitchers with the many other teams that want them, too. And although time has shown us that, for the most part, free agents go to the team that backs up the largest truck of money, smart organizations do have to set limits on how they value a particular player.

In other words, even if the Cubs were planning to spend big this offseason (they might), and even if the Cubs had a lot of money available to spend (they do), there’s no sense in Epstein telling the world that, “Yeah, we’re going to sign some impact starters this offseason. For sure. Totes.” Because, despite their best laid plans and best efforts, that might not happen. And, when the rubber meets the road, it may not be prudent to overpay a guy just so that they can get him this year.

The other consideration here? The potential 2015 crop of free agent pitchers is loaded. No, they won’t all make it to market, but as we’ve seen even as recently as this year, more might make it than the extension bonanza of 2012-13 otherwise led us to believe. Here are some of the potential free agents after 2015:

  • David Price
  • Jordan Zimmermann
  • Jeff Samardzija
  • Johnny Cueto
  • Doug Fister
  • Rick Porcello
  • Mat Latos
  • Ian Kennedy
  • Yovani Gallardo
  • Hisashi Iwakuma

And I could go on. The point here is less to get into debates about individual players, but instead to point out the possibility that the Cubs could have a number of preferred targets after 2015.

Of course, that doesn’t much help them compete in 2015, but there are only so many dollars and rotation spots. Ultimately, I gather that is Epstein’s point. He knows it’s time to target impact pitching, but you can’t assume you’ll get everything you want in a single offseason.

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