Theo Epstein Speaks: Luxury Tax Limits, Internal Improvements, Fan Hopes for Big Moves, Much More

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Theo Epstein Speaks: Luxury Tax Limits, Internal Improvements, Fan Hopes for Big Moves, Much More

Chicago Cubs

Chicago Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein just hopped on The Score with Bruce Levine and Matt Spiegel, getting into a host of the most important topics in the Cubs’ orbit right now, so I want to pop put for you some bullet-point, paraphrased Epstein comments. The full interview will presumably be available later today (UPDATE: It’s now embedded at the bottom of this post), and I’ll add it as soon as it comes out. In the interest of timeliness, though, here are the notes I took as I listened …

  • The organization is not super proud of the totality of the work the last two years; this is a special opportunity right now, and the theme talking to everyone in the org is that we’re all hungry, not wanting to leave any stone unturned, leaving nothing undone to help the Cubs try to win in 2019
  • You can’t count on young player development; you try to have more structure and more instruction, more routine, and we’ve made subtle adjustments behind the scenes on that front. You need self-awareness about where the weaknesses are and where the league has adjusted; careers aren’t guaranteed, nor are winning seasons. You have to have a lot of depth, because some guys will step forward, and others will not.
  • The luxury tax is not dictating our actions or inactions at all this offseason. We’re not governed by it. Sometimes you strategically want to be under it, but this isn’t one of those offseasons where it makes sense for us to do that. We just try to put the best team on the field with what we have available.
  • Like any business there are budgets, and you can’t spend what you don’t have. There will be offseasons where you don’t want to go over the luxury tax, but this is not one of those offseasons. (Note: As we’ve discussed before, it was going to be virtually impossible for the Cubs to be under the luxury tax this coming season no matter what, so it was never really a question about whether the Cubs had to try to get under the level or whether they could go over it. Instead, it’s been a question about how MUCH over the first tier of the luxury tax the Cubs could go, and that’s been an open question since October. It remains an open question even now.)
  • You’d conceivably like to improve offense in the outfield, and you have to be honest where you are at a point in time. (Note, this was in specific response to a question about production in the outfield). And maybe you’d talk about moving salaries, moving young players … but when you have critical players coming off of down years, it’s not a flexible time. There are offseasons where you’re set up to be really active, and there are others where you have to work really hard to make even the smallest pieces fit.
  • I’m just being honest, I think the majority of the improvements are going to come from working inside and guys playing to their level.
  • In response to a question about whether fans should just stop hoping for a certain unnamed big ticket acquisition: I won’t tell fans how to consume their offseason, I’m very respectful of the way fans choose to root for the team, just like during the season. However they want to relate to the team, if they want to focus on the offseason, that’s their right. It can be fun following the moves and being critical. Once you start playing, there’s a natural exhale and a return to focusing on the game. Which is probably a more healthy state. But for the winter, I’m not going to tell them what to expect. Some things are extraordinarily unlikely, other things are more plausible. Sometimes a big offseason leads to a winning season, and sometimes quiet offseasons lead to great seasons.
  • Not as much planning ahead about economics of TV deal as you might think. First few years are likely to be similar to what we’ve had in the past, but with continued growth and success, you could see potential for greater growth. Business side is working hard at it, we’re excited about the consistency of other dollars coming in.
  • Traditionally you see bigger guys sign first in the offseason, then there can be value late. Some teams can be in on everybody, and other teams can be more patient and try to find value late. This is just kind of a change in the industry.
  • New bench coach Mark Loretta is not just being added as a way to see the front office vision on the field; he interviewed with Joe Maddon, and they already knew each other. He’s just a great mind and great communicator to bring in.
  • Yu Darvish is ahead of Brandon Morrow right now in terms of health, as Darvish is on a traditional build up/throwing program. He’s excited to be full go in Spring Training. Morrow isn’t far behind, but Opening Day is probably unrealistic by a few weeks. We’ll have a better gauge in Spring Training.
  • Baseball is the balance between hitting for power to the pull side and also trying to take what they give you and use the whole field. We want guys to have a two-strike approach, but also try to drive your pitch before you get there.
  • Really excited to get back to the crack of the bat. These guys are motivated. I wouldn’t bet against them.

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.