It might not bear repeating, because by now, you know the drill. But in case you are unaware, when a member of the front office speaks, it’s important to listen. When that member is the President of Baseball Operations, that goes double. On Saturday, Theo Epstein joined Bruce Levine and Jordan Bernfield on Inside the Clubhouse on The Score to discuss a variety of Cubs topics. You can listen to the full interview at that link.
Below, you’ll find some of Epstein’s comments from that interview, along with thoughts of my own.
- Off the bat, Epstein admits that, while it has been an active and highly praised offseason, it’s best to ignore the attention. “Typically, teams that get the praise in December have time on their hands come October.” If you remember, the Chicago White Sox and San Diego Padres were widely praised last offseason, for their aggressive moves, and both wound up with disappointing, underwhelming seasons.
- At the same time, Epstein continued that it was the right time to be aggressive – which, clearly they were – given the composition of the roster, next year’s weak free agent class and the long term outlook of the team.
- On whether there are more moves to come for the Cubs this offseason, Epstein reiterates that they are most likely done, barring smaller moves here or there. He leaves the door open to a bigger move, though, claiming that they are still considering a couple of those types that would push them in one direction or another, but admits that they aren’t too appealing right now. Given how pricey young, cost-controlled starting pitchers have been, it’s not difficult to connect the dots. It doesn’t sound like a big trade for additional pitching is considered probable right now.
- As of now, Epstein is happy to start the season with the roster as constructed. He did mention some interesting bits on seeing how players react to new positions (possibly Jason Heyward, or even Javier Baez in center field) and how players improve their defense (possibly Jorge Soler in right field) before any more decision are made. Given Soler’s immense offensive upside, I’m sure most of us would be glad to see him get another full shot at an entire season right field if the defense was looking tolerable.
- Given that the Cubs haven’t really dipped into their prospect assets yet in trade, Epstein sees the Cubs positioned well to make some “midseason adjustments” if needed.
- While he understands the challenge in valuing a player like Jorge Soler, due to his limited duty over the past few years because of injuries (and the time missed during his defection from Cuba), Epstein’s adoration hasn’t been shaken. “It wasn’t too hard to scout the postseason, last year,” referring to Soler’s fantastic performance in the nine or ten games he played. “He was probably our best hitter during that stretch. I don’t think it was a coincidence, I love this guy’s future.”
- Epstein went on to acknowledge that they’ve challenged him to improve his defense and possibly “get leaner and more athletic” over the offseason to help in that effort. He’s seen video on Soler recently, and the young right fielder has already improved on his reads and jumps in right field while getting his weight down to 225. “We’re putting our stock in this guy’s future, barring something completely unforeseen.”
- Epstein would not like to find another center fielder (allowing Heyward to play right field), if it meant costing at bats for Soler or Kyle Schwarber. In a perfect world, Epstein would just be adding to the Cubs’ bench. Soler’s right-handed bat goes a long way to assist the Cubs’ potential vulnerability against left-handed pitchers. Epstein is fairly resolved in his commitment to Soler throughout the discussion. Upon hearing all of this, I’ve come to the point where I’d be fairly shocked to see Soler moved, before the season. [Brett: It’s just about what you’d expect an executive to say about a young player who has popped up in trade rumors, but I do think it’s legitimate that the Cubs don’t necessarily want to trade Soler, and that comes out in Epstein’s comments. It’s just a matter of whether something too good to pass up comes along.]
- There’s always attrition in the bullpen and Epstein doesn’t see Maddon’s bullpen usage as a reason or cause of that attrition. Instead, Epstein indicated that Maddon’s bullpen strategy has altered the type of relievers they target, specifically in reference to guys that could go multiple innings (super utility pitchers). [Brett: Squeeee!]
- Continuing on with the idea of super utility pitchers, Epstein indicates that they don’t want (and obviously don’t only have) just one long reliever who goes out exclusively for mop up duty. Instead he wants several guys that can help out effectively over multiple innings. With Trevor Cahill, Clayton Richard, Travis Wood and Adam Warren, the Cubs have that in spades.
- We’ve talked about this idea a lot lately, and it’s interesting to note that it might have spawned by way of Joe Maddon, as opposed to a concerted effort by the front office. As we start to see more pitchers relieving starters for multiple innings in the minor leagues – Carl Edwards, Jr., Corey Black, Armando Rivero, etc… – we may be witnessing the beginning of an organizational (or possibly league-wide) change in methodology.