Wanted: Young Free Agents Who Check All the Boxes and Other Bullets

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Wanted: Young Free Agents Who Check All the Boxes and Other Bullets

Chicago Cubs

edwin jackson cubs press conferenceIf you missed the latest episode of the BN Podcast yesterday, grab it while it’s fresh (and you can subscribe so that you won’t miss any future episodes). I don’t make any money off the podcast, by the way, so that’s not why I pimp it so hard. I just think it’s a pretty good Cubs podcast, and worth your attention.

So much to discuss today before I head out for the Cubs Convention tomorrow morning. Plan on a packed day of content … until then, Bullets …

  • Theo Epstein was hit up by the media on a variety of subjects (some of which will be discussed later today) yesterday as he did the Cubs Caravan thing, and among the topics he was asked about was the long-term deal for a free agent pitcher. Why did the Cubs pull the trigger now on Edwin Jackson? “There’s a bit of an imbalance in the organization between position players and pitchers,” Epstein said, per Paul Sullivan. “We feel really good about a lot of our position-player depth and a lot of our potential impact players in the minor leagues. But frankly we can’t say the same thing about our pitching in the prospect ranks. That’s something we’re going to try to address every year through the draft and trades, but unless you want to point to a year six or seven years from now when you want to compete, then you have to look at the major league avenue as well about ways to address that imbalance. You can’t sit and wait until there’s a perfect opportunity to acquire a pitcher or wait until right when you’re ready to win a World Series and go and add 40 to 60 percent of your rotation. You have to seriously consider adding pitchers when they’re there if they check a lot of the boxes of what you’re looking for …. We weren’t eager to make a significant investment in a player you’d have to sign for a good portion of their mid-30s, or who’s had a significant injury history or hasn’t been reliable in the past. When a 29-year-old with a very consistent track record and a solid, effective, 200-inning-a-year, mid-rotation starter emerged and was available at what, relatively speaking, was a reasonable cost and a reasonable length of contract, we felt like it made a lot of sense.”
  • Vine Line published on its blog an additional chunk of its questions with Epstein recently, talking about how a team improves in a hurry (adding impact talent, and having a wave of players all hitting their prime at the same time), about the leaders on the team (Soriano, DeJesus, and Rizzo were mentioned), about the lack of pitching talent in the system, and about the need for improvement in the bullpen.
  • One of the topics we discussed extensively on the podcast this week was the Cubs’ exclusion of Sammy Sosa from things like the Cubs Convention and other organizational activities. Paul Sullivan wrote at length about that exclusion (and got confirmation that Sosa was not invited to the Convention). No one seems to know if and when he’ll be welcomed back.
  • Anthony Rizzo is pretty excited about playing for Team Italy in the upcoming World Baseball Classic – his great grandfather comes from Sicily. “Obviously, I’d love to play for [the U.S. team], that was my first choice, but they have all the ‘mon-stars’ on there,” Rizzo said during a Cubs Caravan stop, per Cubs.com. “Italy is a great opportunity. I come from a strong Italian background. It’s a pretty cool experience.” Interestingly, he added that Tony Campana was going to play for Italy as well, but he was unable to produce a birth certificate from his grandparents, which would have allowed him to play.
  • Rizzo’s manager Dale Sveum says he’s not too worried about position players who head out for the WBC, given that the play from their perspective is pretty close to what they’d be doing in Spring Training anyway. Where Sveum would be concerned is with pitchers. “You worry more about pitchers you might have to send over there. The competitiveness comes out too much in a Classic like that and they might be cranking out sliders that they wouldn’t be doing [at that point] in Spring Training.” Indeed. Sveum added that he didn’t yet know if any other Cubs would be playing in the WBC – the only other player that’s a legitimate possibility is Starlin Castro, who would be playing for the Dominican Republic. The rosters are to be announced later today.
  • Theo Epstein’s reaction to Rizzo playing for Italy came with a touch of the company line, and a bit of a wink: “We’re supportive of it. It’s something [Rizzo] has taken pride in, and we support the [WBC] as a whole. If he pulls a miracle and is gone all month, we’ll see. I have a lot of faith in him but they play a tough group.” In other words, Epstein doesn’t expect Rizzo to be gone more than a few days.
  • The magnificent deconstruction of baseball art.
  • So, that Manti Te’o thing, eh? There’s not much more to add until more facts come out, but it’s easily one of the craziest, high profile sports stories I’ve ever heard. All I know is if your sports organization (or a player) had some embarrassing or unsavory news to release, yesterday was the day to do it.

Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.