Theo Epstein Speaks: Lineup Changes, Preference to Avoid Rentals, Schwarber, Russell, More

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Theo Epstein Speaks: Lineup Changes, Preference to Avoid Rentals, Schwarber, Russell, More

Chicago Cubs

Late yesterday – before the Miguel Montero stuff, mind you – Theo Epstein joined Bernstein and Goff on 670 The Score to discuss a myriad of topics as they relate to the Cubs.

You can listen to the full interview here, but we’ll go over some of the highlights below (alongside some thoughts of my own). Enjoy.

  • On the recent and ever-changing lineup, Theo Epstein says he isn’t losing sleep over where and when certain players hit. The Cubs have prioritized depth over the last few years and while injuries are unfortunate, they have some really nice options behind their currently shelved starters (we updated the various injuries yesterday, by the way). Epstein added that Monday’s win was a great one for that particular lineup, and noted that the Cubs still have to win games, even though their starters aren’t all, you know, starting.
  • Epstein loves watching Javy Baez play the game and is impressed by the way he can affect the score outside of the batters box. Monday, that included defensive gems, stolen bases, hits, and everything in between.
  • When asked if the Cubs are still looking for “value” acquisitions (specifically, guys like Eddie Butler and Mike Montgomery who might be better than their stat line suggests), he responded with “always.” While the team will also multi-task/stay in on the bigger fish, you always have to be looking for places you can add value. I don’t think anyone can argue that point, given the success of guys like Jake Arrieta or Mike Montgomery. If you target guys who are already at their peak, then you’re more like to acquire their decline, as well. To be sure, Epstein was quite clear that there is a time and place to target the “big fish,” (like they did with Aroldis Chapman last offseason) but that goes on alongside unearthing hidden value.
  • And to that end, Epstein gets into the juiciest bit: if they’re going to make a move for a significant, established player this deadline, it’s going to be for someone with multiple years of control. More specifically, Epstein said he wouldn’t be willing to contribute those type of resources (top end prospects implied) towards a rental. Given that there are several theoretically available starting pitchers with multiple years of control that’s a good thing, but there are some other good starters out there that are just rentals. I wonder if that’s a definite rule or more of a guideline. We’ll see.
  • Continuing on with the trade deadline, Epstein suggested that last year’s team “earned” their mid-season upgrades more so than this year’s team. In other words, he saw a team destined for a deep postseason run and tried to shore up any obstacles ahead of time. The difference this year is that there are many more “obstacles” to address. It really sounded like he wanted to say, “where do I start?” The one way I sort of disagree with Epstein here, however, is that a significant addition this deadline might be the difference between making the postseason or not. Last year, they were all but guaranteed to make it by this time. Given how much of a crapshoot the playoffs are, you could argue that ensuring their ticket to the tournament is more important than shoring up obstacles once you’re already there. [Brett: I’d add that the one caveat to that, as we discussed last year long before the Cubs added Chapman, is a shut-down reliever, whose value in the postseason goes way up.]
  • To be fair, Epstein followed that up by suggesting that if you have a legitimate shot at winning the division you can definitely be more aggressive (as opposed to the wild card). Considering that the NL Central is still the Cubs division to lose, I think we can expect the Cubs to stay aggressive on the trade market.
  • On Kyle Schwarber working on everything at Triple-A, Epstein reminds us not to be result oriented (like, at all) and to give him plenty of time. He wants to make sure the process is undertaken the right way, whether it takes 10 days, multiple weeks, or even months. The Cubs do have a plan, but according to Epstein there is absolutely no timeline in mind. Given that Schwarber isn’t working on one specific thing, but is just generally resetting, that seems like the right plan.
  • Epstein went on a lengthy discussion about making adjustments at the Major League level and how every single player is constantly battling against droughts. For Schwarber, this particular drought just lasted a bit too long. Triple-A is just an opportunity to step back.
  • Although Epstein is obviously well aware of the home run spike since August 2015, he hasn’t quite let that affect his scouting and decision making yet. With that said, the sudden lack of balls in play (more homers, walks, and strikeouts together) has changed things with the respect towards 1. pitching and defense and 2. hitting and base running.
  • And finally, on Addison Russell, Epstein said that there is no update from MLB regarding their investigation into the domestic violence allegations. He was very short and quick about that, so I’m guessing that it’s not something we’re going to hear much about until MLB comes out with their decision.

Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami