Last night, Theo Epstein joined Danny Parkins on 670 The Score to discuss the overall state of the Cubs, their hot start in the second half, the less-hot recent skid, and what may come the rest of the season.
Below are a collection of the highlights, alongside some thoughts of my own, but you can listen to the full interview right here (bottom of the page).
- On Willson Contreras, Epstein says there’s still no news to report until the MRI results come back today, but he’s definitely expecting a DL stint of some kind (which seems fairly obvious at this point, but I suppose there could’ve been some outside hope remaining among the optimisits). When pressed if the injury could be season ending, given where we are in the year, Epstein didn’t want to comment before the results of the MRI, naturally, but seemed to think he’d make it back.
- Beyond the injury, Epstein has obviously been impressed by what Contreras has done this season, but he’s not necessarily surprised. After seeing what he did in Double and Triple-A a couple years ago, and, more specifically, the way he did what he did (a lot of contact, a good approach at the plate, still learning to elevate the ball, etc.), Epstein suggests that he’s be on this sort of trajectory for a while now.
- And finally, on leaving Contreras unprotected in the 2014 Rule 5 Draft, Epstein laughingly suggests that they just didn’t know what he was about to become (and that he just wasn’t ready to stick in the big leagues). Clearly, if anyone had a crystal ball back then, he’d have been gobbled up immediately. That was one lucky break.
- On where the Cubs are right now (hovering below 10 games above .500 all season long), Epstein suggests that this is on the lower end of their internal expected outcomes for the season (which, yeah). And then went on to say all of this:
— 670 The Score (@670TheScore) August 10, 2017
- Essentially, Epstein is saying yes, the Cubs have dug themselves a hole, are in the middle of a four-team divisional race, just lost one of their best players, and arguably have the most to lose, given the expectations for this season, but the players will write the end to this story and decide whether the 2017 club is remembered as an underachieving team or one that stepped up in the face of adversity.
- And hey, instead of calling this a disappointing late season race, let’s call the rest of the year a 50-game season wherein the Cubs get a 1.0 game head start on everyone else. The team doesn’t have to find some magical answer to increase production and overcome multiple teams just to sneak into the backdoor of the postseason, they just need to play like themselves and they’ll get their October baseball. And, of course, once you’re there, anything can happen.
- On how important the addition of Alex Avila looks now, Epstein is unsurprisingly relieved they made that move. Perhaps somewhat expectedly, the front office went around the diamond in July to seriously consider what they’d do in the event of a major injury at any given position. Given the roster flexibility elsewhere, there’s obviously not too many positions that would be hurt as much as catcher (especially give the loss of Miguel Montero). So, the Cubs braced for the worst and their preparations may have paid off.
- On the prospect if making any additions in August (remember, you can do that!) Epstein says he “doesn’t think so,” but leaves the door just barely ajar, “If the right opportunity presents itself and it’s just the right fit … then will consider it.” Epstein later said that by “right fit,” he meant that it didn’t prevent the Cubs/Joe Maddon from giving playing time to the other, right players they’d like to see succeed and improve.
- And finally, Epstein says that although the narratives around baseball and Chicago seem to believe the playoffs are a foregone conclusion, that’s not how the team or front office feels whatsoever. “We haven’t played well enough to deserve that treatment … I think if we’ve proven anything it’s that just showing up isn’t good enough.”