Theo Epstein recently spoke on the state of the Cubs organization, and you can read his full comments at the Chicago Tribune (Mark Gonzales), ESPN (Jesse Rogers), CSN Chicago (Patrick Mooney) and MLB.com (Carrie Muskat).
We’ll tackle the highlights below, with some of my own thoughts tossed in.
Sorry for the brevity in this introduction, but I’m guessing you want to hear what Epstein has to say as soon as possible. We’d all like some answers.
- But, naturally, Epstein is preaching patience – not for the team as a whole, but for the young hitters, in particular. Not only does he still have faith in the talent of his youthful roster, but he also believes that there’s actual value to be had in the struggles. Although this is something I’ve discussed before and agree with in general, it’s a bit tougher to digest when the team is below .500 and more than one young hitter is struggling. Fortunately, Epstein understands that there’s a difference between trusting the process and being stubborn. At some point, he believes, “if it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen,” and changes will need to be made.
- Of course, those changes are likely to be in-house changes, because, according to Epstein, a trade for a hitter at the deadline is “very unlikely.” Which is something with which I agree wholeheartedly. If you can divorce yourself from the present for a moment, does this team really need to be spending resources on a position player right now? On a nightly basis, two of Albert Almora, Javy Baez, Ben Zobrist, and Ian Happ are riding the bench, while Tommy La Stella and Jon Jay (two great bench bats in their own right) are even further away from the lineup (La Stella doesn’t even have a spot on the roster right now!). There are heaps of struggles, but on the offensive front, that’ll have to be fixed by playing better.
- As for sending players from the Major League roster down to the minors, Epstein says, “Not right now.” While he’ll keep an open mind for everything (if you don’t believe him when he says that by now, you’re not paying attention), the talent is there. And, Epstein would rather be in a position where the talent is on the active roster, but not producing, than having no talent at all. It’s on them to figure it out, and he believes they will.
- Michael note: I know those sorts of quotes from Epstein are difficult to accept sometimes, but that doesn’t make them any less true. The Cubs are inarguably one of the most talented on-paper teams in the entire league. You can’t do much more than assemble a great team and wait for them to produce.
- On a more specific level, Epstein has realized that the team is too easy to pitch to right now. “We’re getting beat up by the elevated fastball …”, and that’s easy for anyone to see. But Epstein simply refuses to believe that the extremely unlikely event of this many players underperforming their projections throughout the entire season is going to happen. “You would really have to roll snake eyes” to see it happen (as he put it).
- Epstein later hit us with the “development isn’t always linear,” line … but I won’t beat that horse again. You know that’s true – and it is – but sometimes that doesn’t cut it (and that’s ok!).
- On the pitching front, Epstein suggests that they’re always looking to add depth to the equation and I can all but guarantee those plans are already in the making. The problem is it’s still quite early. We won’t typically see any movement until after the draft (in less than two weeks) and even then, teams usually wait until July to make moves. Of course, Epstein is notoriously creative and objective – if it makes sense to do something sooner rather than later, he may do it. Jumping the market, so to speak, is well within his M.O.
- And the final thing to remember is that the Cubs are still just 1.5 games out of first place. We’re going to discuss the rest of the NL Central later today, but the obvious reality is that the Cubs are still in the race. No, the team isn’t performing as expected, but they’ve been just fortunate enough in their own division.