Chicago Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein met with the media yesterday, and you can read about his comments at Cubs.com, ESPN, ESPN, CBS, CBS, Carrie Muskat’s Blog, Carrie Muskat’s Blog, Jesse Rogers’ Twitter Feed, the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Tribune, and CSN, among other places. Click away, read up, and get your fill.
Among my takeaways from his comments:
- The Cubs are being aggressive in free agency, but there’s gotta be a line, as well as a balance between the desire for a particular player and the realization that having a singular mentality about that particular player is an easy way to get burned. As always, the Cubs want to improve in the near-term without torching the long-term health of the organization, especially considering the upward trajectory we’re seeing.
- That said, Epstein did indicate – without specifics – that when you land an impact player that can shape your short-term approach, because you will want to shape the roster more around that player. I’m not going to put any words in Epstein’s mouth here, but I’ll just add my own thinking: if the Cubs spend huge money on a guy like Jon Lester, knowing full well that his best years are likely to be the next two or three, then there’s going to be a little added urgency to supplement the roster sooner rather than later. If, however, the Cubs don’t get an impact player very soon this offseason, the Cubs may be a little more patient, knowing what else is out there in the coming 15 months (especially at the Trade Deadline and next offseason on the pitching front). I don’t take it from Epstein’s comments that the Cubs are going to shut down their offseason approach if they don’t get an impact piece like Lester soon. Instead, I took it the other way – the Cubs have a plan to add some useful pieces this offseason because they can see the team competing in the NL Central in 2015, but if they land a pricey impact piece, they may need to be a little more aggressive in adding in the nearer-term. (Why not do that anyway, you ask? Well, it’s a debatable point, but the idea is that if you don’t get the impact guy(s) near term, you don’t want to commit quite as much on second tier guys (either in money or in trading away young assets to get them), because that puts you in a worse position to get an impact guy (or multiple impact guys) next year.)
- … all that said, and, again, this is just me speaking: if the Cubs don’t get Lester, I still think you see some very interesting back-up plans explored, which will, one way or another, put the Cubs in a good position to be competitive in 2015 (even if that is not, as the front office has said repeatedly, is not the absolute peak of where the Cubs can be, in terms of the strength of their roster). It’s not a “Get Lester, otherwise just go back to accumulating long-term assets” situation.
- Speaking of which, Epstein said the Cubs have been asked about the availability of Luis Valbuena – presumably because other teams see what’s coming in Kris Bryant. But Epstein indicated that the Cubs won’t be trading Valbuena for a stop-gap-type price tag. Dude has real value, and it would cost something significant to get him. Here’s where I bro-fist-bump Epstein and remind you of my thoughts on Valbuena’s value.
- Although the Joe Maddon tampering investigation by MLB is proceeding, Epstein did not express any concern. Semi-relatedly, Epstein said some nice things about Dave Martinez, who was brought in to resume his role as Maddon’s bench coach, and about how Doug Dascenzo handled his change from first base coach to a coordinator role.
- Epstein told Jesse Rogers that everyone is comfortable going forward with Welington Castillo as the team’s starting catcher, though it’s a position where the Cubs could add an not block an impact prospect in the near-term. Castillo came in for praise on his defensive ability (blocking, throwing, fielding his position), but Epstein noted that his receiving and framing skills were an area where he could improve. No surprise there. As Rogers mentions, the Cubs could stand to add someone like Miguel Montero – a lefty bat with excellent receiving skills – to platoon with Castillo. Done properly, it’s conceivable that could wind up a better, and much more cost-effective setup than just signing Russell Martin. I’ve previously discussed Montero here and here.
- In any case, it does seem like the Cubs are going to have to add a solid back-up catcher, at least, because right now they’ve got only Castillo and Rafael Lopez.