The Chicago Cubs have won five of their first six games after the deadline and have one more home series at home before hitting the road. They also have a narrow first-place lead and several roster needs (as today’s lineup more than reveals) as the trade deadline approaches.
Here to talk about all of that and more is Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein, who jumped on 670 The Score earlier this morning. What follows is a best-faith recap of everything Epstein said (the I’s and we’s are from him). The full audio is embedded at the bottom of this post. Enjoy.
- Epstein enjoys the Cubs winning ways right now, but notes that this is just the nature of baseball – especially this Cubs team, who has a history of limping into the break, before coming back out hot.
- We’ve been able to make [three catchers] work in the past, though this deal for Martin Maldonado was different – we decided to pull the trigger at the time because Willson Contreras got hurt and we knew he’d miss some time. On top of that, the deal was done because of the lack of August waivers. You have to anticipate needs more than ever, and this is an area of depth we wanted. We have to make sure Victor Caratini doesn’t get squeezed out though, because he’s been a huge part of this team.
- People read too much into the additional dialogue with the Royals comments [Brett: Who, me?]. We’re probably talking to 25 teams around this time of year – and they were close to moving Maldonado to another team, so we pounced.
- In Yu Darvish’s case, he’s come a long way. I’m so happy to see the narrative change. He’s put in a lot of work, and he’s finally gotten the physical, mental, and emotional aspect of the game under control all at once. It’s just about finding consistency now.
- I don’t really know how Robel Garcia changes our trade deadline approach – there’s a chance the roster looks a little different on August 1st … but there’s a chance it looks pretty similar. And in the meantime, these guys are all complementary: Garcia is a good fastball hitter, Addison Russell is the superior defender (he’s trying to pull the ball more and lift it more), Bote is growing his game as well, especially at third base, but he is an option at second base, too, Descalso gave a good at-bat off the bench the other day [Michael: LOL … oof that that’s the best thing he could say about Descalso right now]. There’s no opposition to any one of them taking second base and running with it, but in the meantime Joe Maddon will just have to mix and match based on the matchup.
- When Kyle Hendricks is pitching, you’re going to see a lot of left-handed hitters and a lot of ground balls, so that’s why you might see Addison Russell at second base, regardless of the offensive matchup. Similar stories go for other pitchers in the lineup. Lesson being: the lineup decisions are not all about offense.
- With someone like Jason Heyward, even when he’s struggling, he sees the ball extremely well. He sees the ball really well. So when he’s scuffling, it’s more about his mechanics/swing. That’s why he’s always been just a small adjustment away from being a productive hitter. So now that he has a better feel at the plate – particularly his swing path – you see more than gradual gains. He’s comfortable with his swing right now, he’s more in control of his at-bat. He’s a really reliable guy lately – especially lower in the order – and has been saving a lot of rallies.
- For what are the Cubs shopping: I’d rather not get into our shopping list. A lot of it depends on internal moves and health, as well as the landscape of available players. There’s sorta a dream list of players, but many of those guys either won’t be moved or the acquisition cost is just too high. Then there’s a more realistic tier of targets, which are more likely to happen. And then there’s the depth moves, that you’ll need to make no matter what, because of the unified trade deadline.
- We currently have only one left-handed reliever on the roster. If the right guy is there, that’s a really nice area to improve, because we’ve been hurt by lefties too much this season. We also could use a hitter, but that can be addressed internally or smaller improvements, but obviously we’ll always keep an open mind towards a bigger addition.
- Full audio: