I was at lunch with a good friend today and while we listened to the Theo Epstein speak on the Cubs, I really didn't think about writing notes. I was tempted to scribble on napkins, but the act of listening and the ensuing conversation got the better of me. Luckily for me and other Cubs fans, Brett from Bleacher Nation was furiously scribbling them down for all of us to peruse and dissect for those who want details. So here are my impressions from listening to Theo...
- Carlos Zambrano is on a short leash. It will no longer be good enough for him to say the right things. He'll have to live up to those words on and off the field. It looks like he'll get his shot to stick, but he's going to have to perform. I also found it curious that Epstein made no attempt to say he's changed and we're counting on him...blah, blah, blah. He didn't try to artificially raise his value. It was a straightforward answer, “I know there are skeptics, and I’m skeptical, too”. It makes me think he'll start the season with the Cubs, but I'll be surprised if he ends it in Chicago.
- Epstein said that eating sunk costs can be the sign of a healthy organization. This statement doesn't bode well for Carlos Zambrano or Alfonso Soriano. He did say there isn't one way to handle the situation and that sometimes you can set a better environment for players to succeed -- but sometimes you just have to walk away. With a full roster, a glut of outfielders, and moves left to be made, I couldn't help but wonder if this could be the end of the line for Soriano. I don't see how you can help Soriano be a better ballplayer other than sending him to the AL where he can DH.
- The Cubs seem committed to Carlos Marmol as their closer. For me this means there wasn't a lot of value for him on the open market. If a team would have offered a prospect or two that could have made the Cubs better int he long run, I don't think Theo would have hesitated to trade him. That could change depending on Marmol's performance and whether a team develops a need mid-season
- Bryan LaHair is the first baseman for now. And while the Cubs wouldn't turn down an upgrade, I don't think they'll break the bank or reach deep into an already thin prospect pool to do that. Would the Cubs like Anthony Rizzo? Sure, but whether they have the parts to get him without giving up a Brett Jackson is another story altogether. They both project to be above average offensive players, but given the choice between the two players, you take the guy who gives you better defensive value at a premium position. As for LaHair, Bill James projects him at a respectable .273/.335/.474 line with an ISO% of .201. That ISO would rank just below the outputs that the Cubs top power hitters, Alfonso Soriano and Aramis Ramirez, provided last season. In a full season, that probably means about 22-25 HRs. At minimum salary, that would provide pretty decent value and I don't see the Cubs upgrading unless that upgrade is significant.
Not a whole lot that we didn't already know, but I think there were some hints about the direction the Cubs would take with some of their players, particularly the ones stated above.
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