The Chicago Cubs are holding their end-of-the-year press conference today, and you can catch the live stream here at CSN.
I’ll be updating below in a live-blogging format, in case anything particularly juicy comes up. These are comments from Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein, paraphrased where not quoted:
- All coaches will return except assistant hitting coach Mike Brumley, who will be “considering nice options” elsewhere. It was unclear if that was a team-driven decision, or a Brumley-driven one. (Epstein later confirmed it was an organizational decision, and it sounded like he might be reassigned within the organization.)
- Theo Epstein offers high praise for the coaching staff as a whole.
- Is it realistic to win the NL Central next year? “We’re going to be competing while we develop young talent. And that’s exciting.” Epstein said that winning the Central is the goal. He wasn’t going to take the bait.
- Manny Ramirez has not yet decided to retire from playing. We’ll stay in touch. Epstein wouldn’t comment on whether the Cubs would have interest in Ramirez as, for example, an assistant hitting coach.
- Epstein says that this offseason, and/or over the next 15 months, the Cubs will be adding talent from outside of the organization. Hopefully it will be impact talent. “We’re certainly going to be involved …. [B]ut you can’t sell out for 2015 …. [I]t’s starting to be the right time to add impact talent.” You look at these things in stages and longer term periods, rather than a single offseason so that you don’t get backed into a corner.
- There’s a day coming when it will all come together – young, impact talent and elite payroll – but that day is probably not 2015. Do we have a chance to take a significant step forward? Do we have a chance to compete in the NL Central if things go our way? Yes.
- “In the ideal world, we’d like to add to the outfield.” Epstein complimented Chris Coghlan, who will “have an opportunity to have a meaningful role.” Epstein said Jorge Soler will probably play a significant role next year, and Arismendy Alcantara has a chance to contribute. But the outfield is an area where the Cubs can add. Just because the Cubs have three guys that could fill the outfield right now doesn’t mean you stand pat.
- “Our expectation is that Javy Baez will be on the team as the second baseman” next year. He’ll have to work on some things in the offseason, obviously. But the raw tools remain incredible.
- We have made a tremendous amount of progress, and the 2015 Cubs are in a better position to compete and win than the 2012 Cubs. We acknowledge that it’s a process. The baseball, business, and facilities plan will come together around the same time. I don’t think 2015 is going to be our best year, where all of the young players are here and fully-matured, and all of our free agent acquisitions are here, and our facilities are all updated, and our payroll vaults to a whole new level. But we have lots going for us.
- Brett: it’s a tough balance Epstein is trying to strike. He’s saying EVERYTHING won’t come together next year in terms of what the Cubs can get to their absolute apex, but the Cubs can still be competitive next year – and should be better than years past. I get what he’s saying, and I agree – there are years down the road that project to be even better. I doubt everyone will swallow it quite so well.
- The talent we brought up this year and that stepped forward this year turned some heads. I know it by talking to other front offices, players, etc. People know the Cubs are going to be interesting very soon and for a very long time. We haven’t accomplished anything yet, but I’m not concerned about how attractive this place is for players.
- You could always do things better, but overall, with the growth of the farm system and acquisition/development of talent, I feel like we’ve done five years of work in two or three years. That, in and of itself, doesn’t mean anything, but we can acknowledge it.
- We can be selective in adding bullpen talent at this point, which is a luxury. But it’s volatile and you can’t rest on laurels. Adding the right type of arm that complements what we already have is important.
- Right now, the plan is to keep guys like Neil Ramirez and Justin Grimm in the bullpen.
- There’s a kind of veteran experience you can only get from guys who’ve been around a long time, maybe even with postseason experience. Might come in the form of a bench piece.
- We are motivated by how patient our fans have been over the past three years. Most fans have bought it, and it’s exciting to be at a point where we start to turn that page and reward them with winning baseball.
- Anything is possible over a long career, but we’re planning for 2015 with Starlin Castro as our shortstop. Addison Russell will get exposure to second and third base in Spring Training, but he’s a shortstop. Increased versatility is something we’re going to stress for all of our young players. You’ll see guys moving around in Spring Training, but don’t necessarily read too much into it.
- Epstein doesn’t believe in “untouchables” philosophically. But there are certain players it would be difficult to move and stay true to the vision we’re trying to accomplish.
- Rick Renteria was consistent. He did a nice job of fulfilling the most important criteria we set out. He was positive, set a good tone, established an environment where young players could develop and feel supported. Any first year manager will grow into certain things. In-game decisions, Renteria started to feel more comfortable as the year went on. But with the roster he had, and certain restrictions on players the front office imposed, he couldn’t quite go full force. But he’ll grow like the players.
- I’m still very optimistic, long-term, for what the Cubs can do with their TV deal, and when it’s done, it’ll change the picture financially for the Cubs. (But the question was more about trying to realize some of that revenue before 2019; didn’t really get an answer on that.)
- Epstein glowingly talks about Hector Rondon, and how happy is for Rondon’s success.
- Like most teams, we’ll miss out on more free agents that we pursue than we sign. That’s the way this works. You go in knowing that you might look silly by failing to get a guy. Or that you might look silly because you signed him to a bad deal. The key is to acknowledge the risks and to stay true to a sense of value. And then build up your org in other areas so you can afford those free agents and can afford to miss.
- Press conference over. The stuff about 2015 and the TV deal were the most interesting bits. Epstein clearly does not want to set external expectations for 2015 as being a huge year, even as everyone reasonably does expect another step forward. On the TV side, he seemed eager to avoid any discussion of the revenue impact of the WGN portion of the TV deal from 2015 to 2019, and whether the Cubs could realize some increased revenue from the post-2019 deal (full slate) before 2019, in terms of added payroll space. Definitely don’t be looking for a $150 million+ payroll in the next few years. (But, as we’ve discussed, the Cubs have plenty of payroll space in the coming years to add a great deal of talent externally without reaching that kind of payroll level.)