As is par for the course – and I don’t even mean that as an insult, because I really do understand! – whenever Theo Epstein speaks at length, he’s going to say something about transactions, and folks will use that as the basis to discuss whatever it is that they actually want to discuss.
I get it. We’ve all got topics we want to get into, and when the man in charge provides an angle, you go. But I think we do have to be pretty darn cautious when doing so with the times that Epstein basically says, “Yeah, I mean, of course we have to consider any and all possibilities for transactions.”
More or less, that’s what Theo Epstein said in his end-of-season presser on the subject of trading away, or extending, current players on the roster.
I’ve seen some write-ups on Kris Bryant and Javy Baez, specifically, because Epstein discussed their future with the team yesterday. But let’s make really plain what Epstein said and didn’t say: he said everything is on the table. He did *NOT* say the Cubs were definitely going to shop these guys if there isn’t an extension in place.
The Cubs don’t have untouchables, and they will consider shopping core players. Yes, it’s a little more “real” than in years past, but I just want to help keep folks grounded if they think something is absolutely certain, particularly with guys like Bryant and Baez.
Among Epstein’s relevant comments about Bryant and Baez, each of whom are under team control for two more years via arbitration …
“They’re fantastic players. I think they’re both hugely important, and it’d be hard to see them out of a Cubs uniform. But we’re at a transition point, and we have to do whatever is best for the Cubs. I hope it includes both of those guys …. They’re both guys we’ve had some level of discussion with in the past about trying to find the range where we can keep them Cubs longer. We’ll probably get around to doing that again this winter at some point.”
But obviously Epstein conceded that there are a variety of possibilities: “Trying to keep them for the long term? Or do you just keep them for two years? Or do you contemplate listening to trades for them? … There’s more than one way to take advantage of a player’s value. I’m just going to balance those concerns going forward.”
And that means, yes, trades will be considered for these guys, like everyone else on the roster if the situation presents itself.
“Next year is a priority, [but we] have to balance it with the future. And probably that’s more important now than it was even a year ago, because we’re now just two years away from a lot of our best players reaching the end of their period of control with the Cubs …. We’re open to change. We’re open-minded about this roster. I expect to have a lot of trade discussions this winter.
“I think a lot of players on this year’s team are going to be part of the next Cubs championship, so we want to be mindful of that. But it’s also really hard to accomplish improvement and change in certain areas unless you’re extremely open-minded.”
As much as fans love and have become attached to certain players (the same happens for the front office), we can’t have it both ways. We can’t have a significant adjustment to this roster – and a smooth transition from competitive window to competitive window – without being willing to see the Cubs part with guys we like. If there is better value to the Cubs to be captured by trading someone, then it must be considered.
And if there’s a good, fair, smart extension to be had? Well, hey, that is going to be considered, too.
As Sahadev Sharma puts it, change is coming, and things are a little different this offseason than years past:
Usually Theo Epstein saying there are no untouchables is just a way of him letting people know that he'll never close any avenues to improve his team. This time it means more. Change is coming to Wrigleyville, and Joe Maddon's departure is just the start. https://t.co/q7TrNcKZpc pic.twitter.com/txMwxQkSZp
— Sahadev Sharma (@sahadevsharma) October 1, 2019
Ultimately, the important thing here is that this front office does not have “untouchables.” It never has. While there are some guys who would be harder to trade from a value perspective, the Cubs are going to leave themselves open to all possibilities, and I tend to think they are going to be even more open this offseason than they have in the past.