President Epstein on the "State of the Cubs"

President Epstein on the "State of the Cubs"

The Cubs front office has been making the rounds over the last couple of days.

Jed Hoyer joined “Chicago Tribune Live” the other day and team President Theo Epstein jumped in on WSCR’s “Hit and Run” today with hosts Matt Spiegel and Barry Rozner.

One of the things that struck me is the front office duo’s directness and their ability to be candid in their own way. I have always listened very closely when front office people talk in the game. I’d like to even think I’ve developed an ear for hearing between the lines sometimes.

So for those who did or didn’t get a chance to hear the Cubs President speak, indulge me in letting you in on his assertion of the organization thus far. Epstein did more than answer questions, he gave a “State of the Organization” it seemed.

What mostly was music to my sensitive ears was that he considers Javier Baez, Jorge Soler, and Albert Almora “elite talent”, and sees them as a big part of “the core”. This is something we all thought and hoped for around here, but he gave us that personal confirmation today.

He says Stalin Castro has made big strides as a shortstop and doesn’t see a position change at all in his future. More telling was his openness when Baez and his future position came up. Epstein seemed to be much more flexible naming both third and second base among the possibilities.

It was also very candid for Epstein to admit what I wondered aloud last night. The Cubs did indeed strategically take advantage of Castro’s recent struggles at the plate to strike a club-friendly deal.

Epstein actually used the term “buying low” when it came to the timing on the Castro deal.

He also didn’t hide his disappointment they didn’t turn enough of their short-term assets into long term ones, especially those of the pitching variety.

He talked about reexamining the “process” they went through when it came to dealing, assumedly Matt Garza and Ryan Dempster. Was Epstein questioning their strategy? Do they now feel they held out too long and got burned, at least with Garza?

The Cubs Pres. was critical of a certain team that tried to expedite the rebuilding process and got burned. That screamed out Miami to me, and he is right. They usually do things the right way and this time they got too cute.

Don’t count on any short cuts anytime soon.

Epstein praised owner Tom Ricketts for not only his patience but said he is a full-fledged partner in this plan. That sort of confirmed to me a suspicion of mine that Ricketts always had a plan of doing it this way and maybe even always schemed for an Epstein or Andrew Friedman type running his club.

Finally, at the end of the interview came a very telling and personally pleasing revelation from Theo. He made it known how uncomfortable he is with the “comfortable culture” some of the players have become accustomed to around here being pampered by the city.

He mentioned wanting to “turn that (culture) on its head” and making winning the reason for players to want to be here.

That is change we all can believe in.

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    I heard it, too. You're right, it was remarkably candid for a guy who is so notoriously tight-lipped.

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    There is one other way to read the "buying low" comment though, and one less likely to leave Castro ready to ditch the deal and take his chances with FA. If they waited for another 3 years (or whatever it is) for Castro to reach free agency, then they would be paying through the nose for those years. By doing the deal now, they get him at a reasonable price.

  • I get the impression that Baez can play pretty much anywhere they need him to. Here's a recent article with Wilken about him. If we hit on all 3 of guys... We'll have a contender for years.

    http://espn.go.com/blog/chicago/cubs/post/_/id/12793/baez-quietly-emerging-as-top-cubs-prospect

    I love the quote: "pure, unadulterated, just violent bat-speed." lol

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    In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    If we hit on those 3 guys along w Rizzo. All I can say is WOW !!

    Barney is also a nice role/complimentary piece as well!

    Now if they start spending some money on pitching ASAP, we could have a potential 90's Braves/Yankees young solid core and dare we use the D word............dynasty !!

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    In reply to Jim Odirakallumkal:

    "If" is a small word with large meaning, but I can't help but be me optimistic than I was this time last season.

  • In reply to Jim Odirakallumkal:

    My guess is that this winter we'll see the cubs go after Phil hughes an jobs chamberlain...not too often u get chances to sign 26 year old pitchers who have potential

  • In reply to sdcoddi:

    Joba, not jobs...annoying word editor!

  • In reply to sdcoddi:

    Are you thinking they'll trade for Joba/Hughes or that the Yankees won't offer them arbitration? They aren't FAs until after next year, so I think there's 0 chance either is a Cub next year.

  • In reply to sdcoddi:

    Interesting. They did say they'd go after younger, less expensive FA. I like the idea if it's not too expensive.

  • In reply to sdcoddi:

    I've always had a thing for Hughes, I'm all for those moves.

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    In reply to sdcoddi:

    I would love for the cubs to go after Hughes.. Joba ehhhh not so much..

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    In reply to Jim Odirakallumkal:

    Honestly, by the time Baez, Almora, and Soler are ready, Barney stands an excellent chance of being displaced by Watkins (might happen as early as next year) or Torreyes.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Barney should be traded this winter--while his value is very high due to his defense.

    WADR ... Cubs needs better offensive production from 2B.

  • In reply to GoCubs:

    his defense doesn't make him a "very high value" it makes him a game changer... they're not going to trade a gold glove second basemen for anything but sure fire MLB ready guys

  • In reply to Cueil:

    Cueil...

    Game changer? Come on. Game changer would be strong offense (OBP) and strong defense.

    Very high Value = Gold Glover.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    If we are throwing in outfielders and infielders into that mix, I think we have to throw in villenueva, Saunders, vogelbach etc. I personally do not think Jackson or vitters are a part of the future. But, the key to me is taking advatige of the trade value of the system to fill needs in the next couple years.

  • The part about Baez playing 2nd was especially intriguing to me. The offense would be insane from that position. It would open the door for good bats like Vitters, Candelario, Villanueva, etc. at 3B.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    do you think Baez could make up the difference with his bat... Barney has already saved 29 runs according to some statistical sites

  • In reply to Cueil:

    Yes, I think he can more than make up for even that very optimistic estimate on runs saved with the amount of runs he'll create on offense. If he can play average defense there then he'd be a huge asset. Honestly, I think he ends up at 3B, but I am intrigued by the 2B idea.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Do you think it's fair to say that it will, to some extent, depend on the development of Villaneuva, Torreyes, Amaya, Candelaria, etc? The one who looks to be the best major leaguer (offensively/defensively) could move Baez to the open position.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    That's a tough question. Baez is your elite guy and ideally you don't want to move him but the Cubs will try to maximize the talent they have and if that means having to move him to another position, they may just do that.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Right! I still see him at 3b but wow, talk about Canoish production?

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I have always looked at Darwin as a "bird in the hand" type player. Until someone supplants him at the MLB level, it's his job to lose. Based on his history and work ethic, I see him improving offensively while still anchoring and being a veteran presence on that young defensive infield. Don't get me wrong, I'm as excited about these other kids as anyone. And it will be interesting to see how they balance the trade value for these kids vs. needs the next couple years. But I would not be disappointed or surprised if Darwin is still the anchor of that defense in 2014-15.

  • "I have always looked at Darwin as a "bird in the hand" type player. "
    I'm with you. Many other natural historians admired Darwin's "hands-on" approach with birds, tortoises, etc. ....

  • There was an interesting article on Darwin Barney in the NYtimes over the weekend:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/19/sports/baseball/cubs-darwin-barney-provides-historically-good-defense-at-second.html

    As much as we'd like to 'upgrade' over Barney, sometimes I wonder how much we underrate him.

  • In reply to DemonBerryhill:

    DB...Gotta wonder why someone in BIG APPLE would write a story about a defensive 2nd baseman from one of the worst teams in MLB?

    Cubs should be able to find good defensive 2nd baseman with very good On Base #s.

    Anyway, I expect the Cubs to trade him this winter.

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    In reply to DemonBerryhill:

    I love that article, but it's worth noting WAR is notoriously tricky to calculate. If you go over to FanGraphs, they have him in the 110s in terms of WAR just a tenth of a point behind -- Jose Altuve. As Torreyes is supposed to be better than Altuve, what does that suggest about his relative value compared to Barney?

  • In reply to DemonBerryhill:

    Great article, thanks for the link.

    I especially love the part - "It has been a challenging season for the Cubs, to say the least, but with Barney, 26; shortstop Starlin Castro, 22; and first baseman Anthony Rizzo, 23, the team has the makings of a legendary defensive infield."

  • I agree that Barney is underrated. Traditionally, if you have a Catcher or either middle infielder playing that caliber of defense, then anything offensively is a gift. Barney remains our starter as he's hitting .200 or better. Which he will easily do. Not to say we won't trade him for prospects. I guess that's the beauty of the depth the cubs have built with positional prospects.

  • Baez & Soler are both legit 30/30 prospects. No one talks about the speed with either of them, but that's legit too. Rizzo is a 30hr guy. Thats a wicked 3-4-5 punch in the line-up. Castro, Jackson, & Almora, all appear to be 20/20+ guys. Vitters is capable of 20+ HRs too.

    While the probability is low that all 5 of those prospects live up to their potential, i suppose it is possible. But that makes for a dream line-up. And it's that hope that has this Cubs fan weathering all the bat "growing pains" this year and next.

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    In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I don't think Soler will be a 30/30 guy. As he grows his speed will be reduced. I think he will have good speed at best.

    Also, that lineup is very fun to hope for but unfortunately that lineup cannot pitch. You can have the best offense in the world, but you need pitching to win Championships. The Cubs really don't have any of that.

  • In reply to Demarrer:

    I didn't mention the rotation or bullpen because there's not as much to get excited about there. I was speaking strictly to the excitement of our line-up "if" all those guys pan out.

    We'll have to agree to disagree on Solers 30/30 potential. He may never be given the chance to attempt 30 steals, but the raw tools are definitely there. Right now he is 9 for 9 in stolen bases in just 21 games. If you watch him, you'll see plus speed and an advanced baseball IQ, in that he got good reads/jumps on his steals.

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    In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    He is also very young and will obviously grow, in which case I think he will lose some of his speed. Obviously I want him to be a 30/30 guy but I am naturally a pessimist, you know being a Cubs fan and all.

  • In reply to Demarrer:

    True, he is only 20 so he should fill out some. But there's just as a good of a chance, that as he gets bigger & stronger - he also get's faster.... Even so, few ever sustain that level of power & SB's. My original point was/is; he is a legit 30/30 prospect.

  • Something I have never been very clear on is what differences exist in the roles that Epstein and Hoyer have. I know one is president, and one is general manager...but what does that mean for their responsibilities?

  • In reply to Go Bullz:

    Hoyer says they really are a two headed monster. Hoyer does the day to day GM stuff with Theo looking big picture stuff. However at the deadline they were both attacking the phones and he said that was pretty effective, I got a bit aroused when I heard that myself.

  • In reply to Tom Loxas:

    TMI

  • In reply to Go Bullz:

    Ha, hope you know I meant on a baseball level.

  • Yes, the Marlins killed themselves this season, and then panic with giving away Hanley Ramirez. But at least the Marlins still have Zambrano!

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    That was a fiasco for sure. The Marlins have always been a model franchise when it comes to rebuilding and again they have some great pieces, but FA is a bitch and hiring that ass clown didn't help either.

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    Ramirez isn't the player he used to be. He's gotten off to a good start in L.A., but whoever's paying the rest of his contract will regret it.

  • Tom: Great article, as usual. I was intrigued by your ending thought on Ricketts. I'm glad to see that he is fully on-board with this rebuild and a much more patient approach, but if he was locked in on that from Day 1 why did we have to suffer through the Hendry / Quade "lost years?" I had sort of optimistically thought that he'd get the broom out fairly quickly after finalizing the purchase, and was disappointed initially when he did not.....

  • In reply to Ryno2Grace:

    Right and that has been debated a lot. I think Ricketts like Theo and most smart biz people like to survey first before making any moves. I assume he liked Hendry and thought maybe he could go that route with him? Either way I think his heart was always set on replicating Boston and there is no better result for him now than to get that guy who did it.

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    In reply to Tom Loxas:

    Well maybe Championship 2 you can give Theo a lot of credit for, but championship 1 was almost a set roster w a few shrewd moves by him.

    Unfortunately what he's inherited here is nothing like the loaded roster he walked into in Boston.

  • In reply to Ryno2Grace:

    I'm not Tom, but I'd imagine that Ricketts didn't trust Hendry to do the rebuild and waited for the right candidate (Epstein or Friedman, etc.) to become available. Also, he probably took some time just to get a feel for how things were running. You can make educated guesses from the outside, but until you actually are in the day-to-day and get to know your personnel, you don't know what is really working and what needs to be replaced. He's patient and trying to do things the right way instead of rushing just to seem "active." (See: Miami Marlins)

  • In reply to Pura Vida:

    Summed up pretty well. At the end of the day it's all about the end result and for that Ricketts gets an A.

  • Insightful article, Tom. Thank you mucho.
    Is it just my tired eyes -- I did see Felzz's eerie resemblance to Dr. Johnny Fever, 'tis true -- but does Theo's likeness in that lead photo evoke the phiz of Frank Baumann? Baumann did pitch for the Red Sox, I recall....is there a putative Boston love-child connection there?

  • In reply to StillMissKennyHubbs:

    Thank you both Hubbs and Ryno, this one was easy to write. I loved that interview Theo was dying to give his assessment.

  • You know this long Cubs season is coming to end when we start hearing Len & Bob talk about the following items on TV......

    - Which MLB player died 25 years ago today....
    - Which MLB was born 25 years ago today.....
    - Bob talking about his playing days..
    - Len talking about a bar band he played with.. ....
    - the Cubs winter cruise...
    - Where Bob keeps his W.S. ring when not wearing it....
    - the Cubs convention....
    - Cubs spring training next season and the night clubs around town....
    - looking forward who will win the next sausage race in Milwaukee...
    - Bob's fishing adventures.....
    - what type of grass seed is put on the field....
    - Does Len use a pick when he plays guitar.....
    - who will be the third assistant to the Cubs scouting Director...
    - which Cubs players wear two batting gloves on one hand.......

    I loved the days when Harry would ask Arnie Harris to scan the crowd for good looking women when the Cubs were losing.

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    Don't they talk about this stuff all year?

  • In an unrelated topic possibly looking for 2 good fantasy football players to join long time league.

  • In reply to Tom Loxas:

    I'm too old to play any more but I could be an owner.

  • In reply to Tom Loxas:

    Hi Tom,

    I've been FF for about 15 years. I'd be interested in your league.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Ok Hoosier, I will get back to you with more info soon.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Tom Loxas:

    Tom, i'm not really good att he fantasy football..Thanks for asking though

  • In reply to Tom Loxas:

    Looks like I'm not welcome. Not a problem.

  • Oh really Tom....Oh Really......Hmmmmmm

  • In reply to felzz:

    Also, my Yahoo league, which John won last season, is drafting next Tuesday night at 6. If anyone is interested, please let me know.

  • Raymond, I'd be interested. I need some info though (scoring, rosters, teams, etc...) email me at jimhelms "at" gmail (dot) com

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    Can't see Baez at 2nd.. He's gonna be to big I think.. He's 6'1 205 now at 19.. He's gonna at least gain 10 to 15 more pounds to fill out.. I can't think of any big second baseman..

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    In reply to Colman Conneely:

    I saw Baez in person last week and I think 6'1" is awful generous. He looked even a little shorter than Villanueva who is listed at 5'11".

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    In reply to Matt McNear:

    If that's true, then he might not have that much trouble moving to 2nd !!!!!

    Worse case scenario if he shows he a tremendous glove and Castro doesn't shows the improvement mgmt expects, he could end up going to 2nd or 3rd base.

    Although, I really think Castro is going to keep improving and once his pitch selection gets better, watch out mvp voters!

    Bob and Len said something when Castro was up his first time; when hes's ahead in the count ( 3-2, 3-1, 2-0, 2-1, 1-0), he's hitting under well under .200. I found that shocking! He must be doing the majority of his damage on the 1st pitch?

  • Ryno is 6' 2"... Cano is 6' & 210lbs, Uttley is 6'1" & 200lbs, Uggla is 5'11" & 207LBS... While Baez may ultimately out grow all of them, he clearly has the speed & athleticism to play just about anywhere.

    I liked this quote from Wilken.

    "He was 20-for-23 in steals in a month and a half (in Peoria)," Wilken said. "If you prorate that for a whole season, he'd probably be fourth in all of minor league baseball in stolen bases and no one says anything about it. We're always talking about these prodigious blasts and no one talks about his base-running ability."

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