By most accounts, the Chicago Cubs had a pretty successful trade deadline this week, but their struggles on the road continue, as they now sit on the doorstep of third place with the Brewers coming to town.
Around to talk about those issues (and more) is Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein, who joined Mike Mulligan and David Haugh on 670 The Score today. Here’s the gist of what he said, alongside some thoughts of my own. The full audio is also embedded at the end of this post.
Enjoy … at your own risk.
- Epstein said that the Cubs were really happy with what transpired at the trade deadline, and how the moves can transform the roster personnel and usage. Specifically, he mentioned that the moves were designed to add elements that were needed, to limit at-bats for less productive players, and to give Joe Maddon more options in the bullpen.
- And, in general, I do think Epstein is correct in all of that. The Cubs added contact (Tony Kemp) and production v. LHP (Nick Castellanos), they limited at-bats for less productive players with Castellanos taking an everyday role and Kemp squeezing out someone on the bench (Daniel Descalso?), while the bullpen got a LOOGY (Derek Holland) and another righty (David Phelps) for Maddon to continue
- Epstein thinks there were probably as many deals executed in that last half hour as there were at any trade deadline, because of the new rules (no August waiver deals). He also implied that the Cubs (or any team, really) often have something like 20 potentially doable deals this time of year, and you’re lucky if just one actually gets done.
- Epstein said that the trade season was tough, because a lot of teams that were expected to fall out of the race didn’t, and several others who were publicly identified as obvious sellers felt like they could win as soon as next season (and, thus, weren’t as interested in selling right now).
- On the Castellanos trade: “We had a lot of deals we were working on … [but] there was a chance that we weren’t going to be able to add that bat up until the last couple minutes. We ended up agreeing on players maybe with 10 or so minutes to go, and then the financial component of the deal was still an issue. Tom Ricketts really stepped up, incredibly supportive, allowed us in those last couple minutes to get a deal done.” Epstein added that, including the medicals, the deal ultimately got done with about 30 seconds to go, which … mercy. Literal last minute stuff.
- Meanwhile, Epstein says that, while all that was going on, the Cubs were working on the Carl Edwards Jr. deal, which left people running around in-between rooms on cell phones in what sounds like a frantic scene. More importantly, he called that deal a “three-team trade,” implying that the International Bonus money the Cubs got from Colorado was, in fact, the exact money (not more or less) they sent to the Padres in the Edwards deal. We figured that IFA money was likely a connector between the two days, but it wasn’t confirmed until now.
- On if he knows what the road woes are all about, Epstein said: “Not really, honestly. We’re obviously trying to figure it out, but if we knew what it was, we would’ve fixed it.” He also said it’s not really a hallmark of this team, so it’s especially perplexing. “Honestly, we’re embarrassed …. We’ve lost every single road series against division opponents.” Epstein believes the Cubs are the most talented team in the division, but adds that if you can’t win on the road, it doesn’t matter.
- On Kris Bryant’s struggles, Epstein says they believe he’s totally healthy and he doesn’t think the knee is an issue. He also says Kris Bryant, who carried the team with his elite performance for months this season, is entitled to a slump.
- The Cubs are expecting Ben Zobrist to take “most of, if not all of August,” before returning to the big leagues, though Epstein does point out that he’s been working out and performing “baseball activities on his own.” He’s going to have to see a lot of live pitching, and the plan, for now, is three games in South Bend before taking a breather and reassessing (don’t want to do too much too soon, apparently). Epstein also said that after South Bend, Zobrist will eventually have to hit Triple-A to really tune up before coming back to Chicago.
- Near the end of this interview, Epstein gave a ton of love to the starting rotation, and based on that strength, he said this: “I think we are,” going to win this division. Epstein also said he thinks Rowan Wick is here to stay, which is funny because … he’s in charge of that decision. So, yeah, keep him.
- Full interview: