Theo Epstein Speaks: The Talent, The Payroll, The TV Deal, The Pitching, and The Future

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Theo Epstein Speaks: The Talent, The Payroll, The TV Deal, The Pitching, and The Future

Chicago Cubs

theo epstein press conference featureOver the past few days, Chicago Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein spoke with a variety of outlets on a variety of subjects. You can and should check out those thoughts here in an ESPN article, here in an ESPN radio interview, here in a Score interview, and here in a Boston Globe article.

The biggest piece you take away from all of the interviews is a two-fold emphasis: (1) the Cubs will have plenty of money to spend this offseason, but (2) they aren’t going to spend it all in one offseason just because there are needs and dollars.

In both the ESPN and Score radio interviews, Epstein emphasized that the Cubs’ emerging young core will allow them tremendous financial flexibility in the coming years, even if payroll stays in the range it’s been the last few years (something we’ve discussed here before). He implied that payroll will increase from there, commensurate with the revenue additions the Cubs see from better attendance, the Wrigley renovation, and, eventually the big one, the post-2019 TV deal.

In other words, while the Cubs’ payroll may not top $100 million next year (just as an example), there could still be significant new financial commitments, given that the present core might not cost more than $50 million in 2015.

To that end, Epstein was quick to echo a talking point that he and GM Jed Hoyer have laid out over the past few months: yes, we need impact starting pitching, but, no, it doesn’t all have to come this offseason. Even if the Cubs did want to add two impact starting pitchers this offseason, it isn’t realistic or reasonable to expect to be able to do so. The Cubs have been connected heavily to Jon Lester, marginally to James Shields and Max Scherzer, and claimed Cole Hamels on waivers, so there are certainly some options this offseason.

But, as Epstein noted to ESPN, next year’s free agent pitching crop is even more impressive than this offseason’s solid set. Among the names projected for free agency after 2015: David Price, Jordan Zimmermann, Jeff Samardzija, Johnny Cueto, Doug Fister, Rick Porcello, and Mat Latos.

So, again: don’t expect the Cubs to add multiple – or even one – impact starting pitcher(s) this offseason. They’ll try, but they’re not going to force it. If the right move isn’t there this offseason, maybe they try at the deadline in 2015. Or after 2015. And so on and so forth. It makes for a good headline when a front office says, “We Absolutely Will Do Thing X This Offseason,” but it doesn’t make for a good long-term process.

Some other paraphrased bits from Epstein’s interviews (which, again, you should really check out yourself for full context):

  • Epstein said that he was more optimistic about the impact of the coming TV deal than he was three years ago, because he now sees how strongly the fans have reacted to quality young talent. Epstein said – quite correctly – that the Cubs will be must-see TV. It’s easy to forget while in the midst of a rebuild, but a good, consistently-competitive Chicago Cubs team is one of the top stories in sports, let alone just in baseball. There’s an enormous bandwagon to climb aboard, and there’s also tremendous national interest in the Cubs, in particular, because of their unique history.
  • The Cubs understand that, although they always want prime-age and pre-prime age talent, the market doesn’t always provide your perfect player. Sometimes you have to make exceptions in whom you pursue, and Epstein says the Cubs will do just that. “Swallow hard, look away, and just do it” is how Epstein put it.
  • Epstein wouldn’t trade the Cubs’ long-term future for any other organization in baseball, when you consider everything. I’m as biased as they come, but I couldn’t possibly agree more. I’d say the Red Sox, interestingly enough, would probably be the closest competitor.
  • Epstein believes Jake Arrieta is a top-of-the-rotation starter, and mentioned – without specific prompting – that Kyle Hendricks is a guy who could be an important part of a winning rotation. While he doesn’t have classic top-of-the-rotation stuff, but Epstein said he would take Hendricks as part of a winning rotation “any day of the week.” Wow. I guess he’s pretty high on Hendricks.
  • I already wrote about Epstein’s comments on Kyle Schwarber’s future as a catcher, but don’t miss out on it. Really important stuff.

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.