Yesterday, we followed Chicago Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein’s end-of-season press conference in a live, react-on-the-fly way. That’s all well and good for live, react-on-the-fly purposes, but there was so much substance in his remarks that I want to make sure to emphasize the high points.
- I was surprised that just about everyone’s take on Epstein’s 2015 comments were that a corner is being turned, and the Cubs should compete in the NL Central next year. I thought Epstein’s comments were a bit softer than that, though, concededly, he did explicitly say, “Do we have a chance to take a significant step forward and do we have the talent to compete and compete for an NL Central title? If things go our way and we continue to work hard, absolutely. It’s going to be different next year than the three years that preceded it.” Epstein repeatedly noted, however, that 2015 is not going to be the apex of what the Cubs are building, and that will be true even if the team happens to win some games next year. I love that.
- Overall, though, I think this was the main takeaway on what 2015 can and will be: “We are competing to win and we are also developing young players so we are not going to sellout to win in 2015 …. That’s very much I think the story of the 2015 Cubs is that we are being open about the fact that we are going to compete and our goal is to win a title but at the same time we are not going to bail on our young players. We are not going to abandon our vision. We just have to make the tough decision to strike that balance the right way.” In other words, 2015 is just the next step in the process. Good things can happen, but it is still a considered process involving the internal development of key players.
- Mike Brumley is out as the assistant hitting coach, and he is considering a reassignment in the organization (scouting) or outside offers.
- Manny Ramirez hasn’t yet decided to retire, and Epstein offered that as the primary reason that he would not yet comment on whether the Cubs would want Ramirez to be the new assistant hitting coach. Whether or intended or not, the vibe was certainly that, if Ramirez was interested in the job, the Cubs would consider it. (Given the fit, and how successful Ramirez was in working with the Cubs’ young offensive players at AAA this year, I’d put the odds that Ramirez does wind up the Cubs’ assistant hitting coach in 2015 at better than 50/50.)
- Neil Ramirez and Justin Grimm are not being considered for a conversion back to the rotation next year. When asked about it, Epstein flatly said that, “Right now, our plan is to keep those guys in the pen.” Given their success and the risk associated with trying to stretch them back out, I can’t say I hate it (even if I recognize that, if one of them hit in the rotation, it would mark a huge increase in value to the team). If the Cubs add two rotation members this offseason, there may not have been a spot anyway.
- The Cubs are not currently planning on Javier Baez starting 2015 back at AAA Iowa. He is “expected” to be the Cubs’ starting second baseman out of the gate next year.
- You will see Cubs players and prospects playing “new” positions in Spring Training, but Epstein cautioned not to read more into it beyond the Cubs liking versatility.
- The Cubs would like to add to the outfield. Just because there are three guys already present who could start out there (Coghlan-Alcantara-Soler) doesn’t mean you rest on that and don’t seek to upgrade.
- Yet unnamed players might be playing Winter Ball (we know Junior Lake is one), and yet unnamed players may have minor surgical procedures done to get ready for next season.
- The Cubs will be “very” involved in free agency this offseason, and hope to add impact talent. HOWEVA, (1) they won’t add guys who don’t make sense in terms of fit and value, and (2) the addition process isn’t a one-time-one-offseason kind of thing (Epstein again mentioned the 15 month window in which to add impact talent externally, which includes this offseason, the next Trade Deadline, and next offseason).