The Cubs are the best team in the National League and have sole possession of first place in the NL Central with the trade deadline behind us, but they’re also below .500 in the second half, and are playing without their third base stud, Kris Bryant, their closer, Brandon Morrow, and potentially their best starter, Yu Darvish.
They’ve also just debuted a new starter, Cole Hamels, and a new reliever, Brandon Kintzler, as three of their young bats – Kyle Schwarber, Albert Almora, and Addison Russell – struggle immensely. So, yeah, there’s a lot going on.
Here to make sense of it all is Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein, who today joined Mully and Haugh on 670 The Score to discuss just what’s going on – good and bad – with his cub.
You can check out the full interview below (embedded at the bottom of this post), or just hang on for the ride as we dig into some of his comments with thoughts of our own …
- Epstein was supportive of Joe Maddon’s “proactive” move to pull Mike Montgomery from the game yesterday. Aside from the fact that Montgomery’s on pace to throw a whole lot of innings this year (which was a but not necessarily the factor), there were some righties coming up for their third time through the order, so Jesse Chavez made more sense. It didn’t work this time, but that was the right move. Totally agree. But, if anything, as we’ve said a dozen times in the past twelve hours, Montgomery should’ve been pulled sooner, as a hitter the half-inning before.
- As for the offensive side of the ball, Epstein called last night’s effort one of the worst ten of the season – the sort of game you try your best to completely forget about. Agreed. “It happens. The great thing about baseball is you’re back out there the next day.”
- On Randy Rosario’s disappointment in his demotion, Epstein totally understands the passion and thinks it’s natural. He also explains how it won’t be an extended absence and the decision to send him down was, in part, related to their desire to get Brian Duensing “right.”
- And *literally* as I typed that bullet, the Cubs announced Rosario’s return to the big leagues and Brian Duensing’s DL stint. So I guess Epstein was correct in saying it wouldn’t be an extended absence, eh?
- Around the 21-mark in the interview, Epstein monologues about how every season can play out a thousand different ways along the bell curve. While there may be one version of reality, as Epstein puts it, where Yu Darvish throws 200 dominant innings , Tyler Chatwood throws strikes, and Bryzzo are their usual, healthy, and impressive selves, there’s another where even more people are hurt and the Cubs are selling at the deadline. According to Epstein, the Cubs wound up somewhere in the middle, and because you have to live in reality, not on paper, they needed to make some moves at the deadline they might not have otherwise expected necessary at the outset of the year.
- Epstein explained that the goal of their deadline decisions were not to raise the ceiling of the staff exactly, but instead raise the floor. “If we didn’t do anything, it had the possibility to really become a real problem spot, where we could’ve been in a really weak position going forward.” Epstein was also proud that he was able to do that without touching any Major League pieces *or* any of their most promising prospects. “I thought we got good value on all three of those deals.”
- On Kris Bryant and Brandon Morrow’s ongoing absence, Theo Epstein preached patience and calm. “There’s not an elevated level of concern behind the scenes, because there’s progress, there’s stability, and there is behind the scenes time tables, but it requires patience.”
- Epstein also explained that yesterday was a good day for everyone, particularly Morrow, who threw and “felt great.” Epstein explained that it’ll still be a process, but it made it sound almost like they were slowing him down, to be safe, not the other way around.
- And on Kris Bryant, whom we heard had some discomfort, Epstein added some important context: “I know Joe said he feels it in a certain position and that got everyone alarmed, but it’s really sort of the extreme end of his range of motion where he feels it. The rest of it feels good. He’s making good progress.”
- As for Yu Darvish, Epstein said he’s had his best week in a long time and “has a whole different look about him.” The simulated game is coming up next and Darvish is reportedly really excited about it. Epstein did concede that he went into trade season under the assumption that Darvish would not throw again this season, but these last two weeks have completely flipped that for him. Epstein now fully expects to see Darvish before the end of the year. Good stuff.
- And finally, on the whole A-Rod/Yu Darvish kerfuffle (read about it here if you missed the story), Epstein says he texted with Rodriguez to tell him how he felt about his comments and A-Rod tried to explain himself, but it “didn’t really resonate” with Epstein. “He thinks he’s right. We think he’s wrong. It’s not the first time that’s happened.” Funny enough, Epstein believes it’s actually going to end up being a good thing, because “the guys didn’t appreciate it,” and they’re now really rallying around Darvish as he went out and had a little extra determination.
Here’s the full interview if you’d like to give it a listen: