There's some buzz going around because some of the things Cubs PBO Theo Epstein said yesterday. Let's start with this:
“I don’t think we’re going to get to where we need to be through free agency for the short term, honestly. Given the needs that we have and where we are and the likely price tags on the market, I don’t think we’ll have the ability to add multiple impact pieces in free agency.”
Some translated that as the Cubs won't be spending but the first thing I thought when I saw that is that Theo says this every year. He says it not necessarily because of a money shortage but because he is philosophically against building a team that way. It is nothing new and I'm sure if you were to archive old articles here, you will find that he has said something similar every year.
We have also seen that even though he prefers not to build through free agency, it doesn't mean he won't sign any free agents. His preference is to pay for projected performance, not past performance. Sign Albert Pujols or Michael Bourn? No. Sign in prime players like Anibal Sanchez, Yu Darvish or Edwin Jackson? Yes. Or at least try.
This year the player that best fits that description is NPB star pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, who is 24. I don't expect the Cubs philosophy to change on free agents, so expect him to get a long, long look and a very competitive bid.
“I don’t think we’re going to have the ability to add like multiple impact pieces in free agency.”
These words seem carefully chosen. They don't have the ability to add multiple impact pieces in free agency?
He's leaving the door open for at least one signing here and he's also leaving the door open to trades. As I've said, I like Tanaka as their main target but a player like Shin-Soo Choo (or Granderson or any FA who fits their need for LH bat and OBP) would seem to make a secondary target -- if the price and the years are right. Remember, he doesn't think he has the ability, but he doesn't know. And he won't know until he sees how the market plays out. He will not shut the door if the player and the cost match up well with the team's long term plans. What if the market for Choo plays out like it did for Kyle Lohse? Will the Cubs pass that up?
On Dale Sveum
Theo was especially cryptic here, saying that they are in the evaluation process right now and that "there are no red flags". He also said the evaluation process is a matter of course and one they engage in every season. Much was focused on what he didn't say, which was that he didn't give Sveum a public vote of confidence. But honestly, should we have expected that if they are still in their evaluation process? Have you ever known this front office to make rash decisions before completing their process... on anything?
I think he really didn't say much here other than a formal decision has not been made and won't be made until they thoroughly evaluate. My guess is that he does stay on for next season.
Theo says the Cubs won't be able to tap into any revenues from the Wrigley Field renovation this offseason.
He didn't last year either,nor the year before because they weren't there. Yet he added Edwin Jackson, Nate Schierholtz, Paul Maholm, Scott Feldman, Scott Baker, Carlos Villanueva, Scott Hairston, Kyuki Fujikawa...and went hard after Anibal Sanchez and Hyun-Jin Ryu.
This year -- like every other year -- they won't have those revenues. But they do have a smaller payroll. Again -- that doesn't mean he'll spend it on free agency (other than maybe Tanaka and/or Choo or bargain FAs) because he doesn't believe in that from a philosophical standpoint. He'll only spend if it's in the best long term interests of the team.
The problem with adding payroll through free agency is that you are often getting post-prime players who inevitably get overpaid because of the realities of an open market.
But what about trading? We mentioned Carlos Gonzalez. How is that different since he is owed some $60M over the next 4 years? It's different because the price is more than reasonable for an in-prime player, that's why. It's much better than a player of his caliber and age would get on the open market. It's good value.
I expect the Cubs to explore trade options and CarGo fits the profile of the kind of player they may seek out. They'll inquire on Giancarlo Stanton (who wouldn't?) but they'll also look for other players who fit their sort and long term interests.
Javier Baez and a note on top prospects
Epstein reiterated that Baez will stay at SS until he's knocking on the door and when he's ready, it will be him and not Starlin Castro who will have to move.
(Baez has) all the ability that he needs to play Major League shortstop, not that he’s not still developing,” Epstein said. “We have a shortstop now [in Starlin Castro]. If we’re fortunate to get to that point in time where Baez is pounding on that door and Castro is healthy, then we will look to move Baez around so he can perform at other positions. I think he has a lot going for him, that he can do that. For a young kid, he has tremendous baseball instincts.”
And speaking of Baez, I am working on my top prospects list. Not sure the number yet...25...30...40....50?? It's a work in progress and the system is a whole lot deeper than it used to be, so haven't decided if I'll stick to my old 25 or expand the list.
Filed under: Uncategorized