Chicago Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein was on the radio yesterday with Bruce Levine and Wayne Randazzo (who is off to join the Mets in a great new gig – congrats to Wayne) over at The Score. It was a good listen, and although it doesn’t look like there’s a replay up, you can see some of Epstein’s comments in this Bruce Levine piece, and you can see a transcript here at the CCO.
Among Epstein’s comments, together with my own thoughts …
- Welington Castillo was a significant subject of conversation, for obvious reasons. Epstein eschewed the idea that the Cubs would try to send Castillo to the minors at some point, which would have been nearly impossible anyway, given that Castillo is out of options, and, even if he cleared waivers (which he wouldn’t), he has the right to refuse an outright assignment and elect free agency.
- Instead, Epstein said that Castillo would be on the Cubs’ big league team, or traded to another team. Obviously we’re expecting the latter, but Epstein explicitly said the Cubs are comfortable carrying three catchers (Castillo, David Ross, and Miguel Montero), if it comes to that. Although it’s tough to carry three catchers in the NL, it certainly would provide some interesting options to Joe Maddon late in games. Still, a trade seems most likely, and Epstein said that if the right opportunity presents itself to put Castillo in a good position and it makes sense for the Cubs, that’s what they’ll do. Presumably, the Cubs are going to take a little time and see how Spring Training shakes out for other teams, and for Ross/Montero. The last thing they’d want is to dump Castillo now for virtually nothing, only to have one of their other catchers come up lame in a week.
- (Also: if the worst case is that the Cubs have to go with three catchers for a few weeks in the season and cross their fingers that the situation resolves itself internally or externally, that’s probably not all that bad when you consider Kris Bryant is probably coming up around then. Which means whatever player Castillo’s continued presence bounced from the roster probably would have been bounced by Bryant anyway. This is all very academic right now, because so much can happen in the next month and a half. But you get my point. Once the Cubs added Dexter Fowler, opening up a pure utility role for Arismendy Alcantara, the possibility of carrying three catchers in the short-term became much more plausible. So I’m rolling with it, for now.)
- Epstein confirmed that the Cubs could add another starting pitcher in-season or after the season, depending on how the rest of the rotation shakes out. Indeed, it sounded like – whether midseason or next offseason – the expectation right now is that the club will add another significant arm at some point. Epstein emphasized that the team will probably look very different by the Trade Deadline, and again at this time next year. I’d point out that “different” means in ways both good and bad, of course, because you can’t predict who will break out, who will get hurt, who will bust, etc. It’s all about constantly adjusting to the market and your team’s own needs. It’s exciting to hear some reinforcement of the idea that the Cubs have the flexibility to adjust as necessary.
- A new line from Epstein in discussing young players: he said that, of the 60 to 70 players from top 100 prospect lists who saw time in the big leagues last year, only three had significant success. And those three were Jose Abreu (not really a prospect), George Springer (25 years old), and Mookie Betts (drafted by Boston when Epstein was in charge). The implication is that it’s particular tough for young players right now, which is actually something we explored recently.