Cubs News and Notes: Theo Speaks on the Rebuild and Renteria Addresses Castro

Theo Epstein sat down for a 10 minute conversation with ESPN’s Jesse Rogers.  The entire conversation is worth a listen.  However, to break it into bullet points, he says:

  • He isn’t counting on any individual prospect to succeed but hopes that some of them will be joining the major league team, soon.  However, he can’t stop building the minors and they have to keep adding impact talent.
  • He addresses the “parallel fronts” statement and admits that he’s had to be a little more single minded about building for the future than he originally would have liked.
  • He still seems hopeful that the Cubs can surprise this season and contend although, in the same sentence, he admits that if he gets an offer that is beneficial for the future he has to consider it.
  • He doesn’t have a lot to say on Samardzija, though he gives the impression that the sides are not making much progress on an extension.
  • He speaks about Kris Bryant and says that Bryant has a lot to learn in the minors.  He mentions Evan Longoria, who spent a year in AA before making the major leagues.

Similar to what we’ve been saying here all along.  However, this is the first time I’ve heard him publicly acknowledge that the “parallel fronts” idea had to abandoned.

In other news at camp:

  • UPDATE 2:30 PM: Tom Ricketts spoke with Jesse Rogers on the rooftop situation: “If we cant grind it out these last few steps I don’t know whats going to happen.”  This strikes me as significant.  To this point, all the talk of moving out of Wrigley has been speculation and leaks.  That Tom Ricketts is now directly addressing the situation and not explicitly ruling out a move strikes me as a major milestone in these talks.  Is it likely just a negotiating tactic?  Yes.  But still a significant change in tone.
  • This will make everyone happy.  SS Starlin Castro has reported to camp in excellent shape, having spent the last few weeks working out at IMG Academy in Florida.  He also told Javier Baez, “You’ll be in the big leagues soon.”
  • In other Starlin Castro news, new manager Rick Renteria is saying all the right things to this point.  Castro claims he was told, “be me and don’t try to do something I can’t do. He said to be myself and play hard every day.”  Speaking of the infamous play last year where a runner tagged up from third after Castro caught a pop up, Renteria himself added, “It happens to the best of them. We just don’t want it to happen as often. (But) unfortunately for this young man, everybody decided that he was the one to pick on.”


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  • Lets hope new habits are formed and old ones gotten rid of.
    I hope Olt wins the job. Which non-roster players will win jobs?

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    In reply to emartinezjr:

    Bonifacio should make the 25 man roster for the start of the season.As to the "kids," the usual look see on the Sept. call ups. I can almost hear the voice of Pat Pieper saying" get your pencils and scorecards ready." For the young ones here Wikipedia has this on their site.; a look back in time.

  • I'm thinking that Roberts or more likely Bonifacio manages to bump Murphy,.... and still really want to see what Kalish can do if he's healthy enough to make a run at an OF spot.

    But if Olt is healthy and manages to make the case that he needs to come North in April,.... that makes a lot of moves and shifts possible.

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    Kalish is a bit of a wild card. He has some upside and is only 25... but unless they're going to platoon Jr Lake (and they said they wouldn't), I don't think he makes the squad as we have Nate and Sweeney LH OF'rs. Long term, he may fill a 4th/5th OF'r role from the LH side for us. AAA is already loaded with 4th/5th OF prospects though...

    I agree, unless Murphy proves last fall wasn't an aberration (up until now it is) he loses a spot to Bonafacio &/or Roberts. I think they want Bonafacio to make the opening day roster. Plus it'd be cool reading Felzzy's recaps with Ryan the "Tat Man" Roberts....

    "If" Olt needs more time at AAA, that's not the end of the world so long as he figures it by the trade deadline....

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Did the FO say they wouldn't platoon with Lake?

  • In reply to Nate Dawg:

    “Junior Lake’s going to get a ton of playing time,” Hoyer said. “We have opportunity (and) a player like that needs to be out there getting at-bats and developing. So I don’t really see (the Ruggiano trade) effecting Junior. I just think we didn’t have that kind of veteran right-handed bat that can platoon and hit lefties.

    “The only way Junior’s going to get better is by playing. We’re excited about the winter that Junior’s had. It seems like he’s really built on a strong season.”

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Sorry, accidentally hit enter...

    “Junior’s going to get playing time,” Hoyer said. “We’re in the phase of our development where having at-bats for a guy to develop is really important. I don’t think you’ll ever see us bring up a guy that we consider a future regular player – an everyday player – and just not hand him at-bats. Because otherwise we’d much rather have that player at (Triple-A) Iowa.”

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Interesting that they consider him a future regular. Although it does make complete sense for Hoyer to say that given our dearth of legit outfield talent at the MLB level.

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    In reply to drkazmd65:

    I think Valbuena has a better chance of getting bumped than Murphy strictly because Murphy provides more pop and has shown not to shy away from big moments

  • In reply to Jorge Soler:

    Posibly Jorge,.... but Valbuena is also a guy the management likes in that he can cover multiple positions defensively, and has better pitch selectivity and a BB-rate than Murphy. It could go either way.

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    Murph was among the MLB leaders in HR frequency last year. Small sample but I'm just sayin'...
    If he repeats that he ain't gonna get beat out of a roster spot by anyone.

  • In reply to hoffpauir6:

    That is certainly true. If he hits as well this spring as he did last summer, he will stay with the team.

    But if he doesn't hit during SP, he is likely the first to go.

  • In reply to hoffpauir6:

    Fearless prediction, he will not be among the league leaders in HR frequency this year

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    Donnie Murphy isnt going anywhere with $875K major league deal

  • In reply to ChiTownD:

    I disagree, if one of a handful of players beat him out of a job in ST, they will cut ties with him. The fact that we re-signed him to a $875K MLB deal is a huge vote of confidence from this FO, but they'll be quick to part ways if he's not producing...

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    In reply to drkazmd65:

    Yes there are a lot of different scenarios before the 25 man roster is settled for the 2014 season.Yes I almost forgot about Kalish.I still give Bonifacio the edge given his ability to also play on the infield. Gold glove caliber,uh, no,but more useful in all phases of the game.

  • Bonifacio.

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    According to The Heckler, Castro told Baez, "I'm going to tank so bad they'll have trade me. So pretty soon, you'll have my job."

  • Id say Roberts and Bonifacio, since they are versatile and there respective skill sets might play the best.

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    Don't think both are necessary. Those two are fighting for one spot.

  • I also thought it was interesting what Theo said about prospect development, that there is no timetable, but a list of things each prospect has to accomplish physically, mentally, and fundamentally, and that this list is provided in writing in the offseason.

  • like Renteria already.. he has his players back

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    In reply to CubfanInUT:

    I do, too. But I will put in the minor caveat that it's easier to have a player's back at this point in the spring. The real test will come in June. Having said that, from everything I've heard about the man, I think he'll pass it with flying colors.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Yes, definitely my favorite part of this article. Renteria having his guy's back, let's have more of that! Not saying always be positive with your guys, but circle those wagons when people shoot arrows at one of our boys. (Tom Tom's sounding off in the distance...;-)

  • Renteria seems like the kind of manager that puts a lot of stock in morale and personal relationships, which I love about him. I think the difference in the team morale will be huge this year, and it might just lead to better play and more comfortable players.

  • There haven't been any games played under him yet, but I really like Renteria. I'm sure some people won't like his style, but he seems like the perfect guy to make the prospects feel comfortable in their transition to the bigs.

  • Valbueno and Murphy are close to locks due to past production. Murphy is a big hit guy and Valbuena a solid defender who sees lots of pitches. There is usually a surprise or two, but look for two or three of Roberts, Malian, and Bonifacio not to head north.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Roberts, Kalish, Bonifacio

  • It would be interesting to hear what he would have done differently to develop the ML product. I believe it was a HUGE mistake ,from a financial perspective, to neglect this area. All they needed was to put something out there that was interesting to watch and they would still be packing 'em in. I am convinced that Cub fans would be supportive of the effort and the wait. Watching poor fundamentals and lack of effort from waiver wire wonders and medical reconstructs just doesn't do it.

  • In reply to xhooper:

    They do have some work ahead of them to recapture some of the viewership that has packed it in,.... but I think what we are about to see as this year develops will get started back down the right path.

    And some of those wavier-wire wonders actually have done decent work - especially in 2013,..... Gregg, Valbuena, Murphy, Sweeney, Bogusevic - each made valuable contributions along the way.

    Yes,... Ransom, Lillibridge, Neal (injury in his case), and that rotation putrid horde of #4/#5 starting pitchers in 2012 were more than just forgetable,.... but some have been quite decent (above list).

    And in the process they have constructed what appears to be a fundamentally sound defensive team, with a solid bullpen, and a crop of prospects that should be making themselves known beginning sometime this season.

    Win consistently,.... and the fans will start to return.

  • "He still seems hopeful that the Cubs can surprise this season and contend..."

    When your team is coming off a season where they scored just 602 runs, and you made no significant changes to the offensive side of the roster configuration, it is with a huge grain a salt that one must swallow to believe that the 2014 Cubs can surprise.

  • In reply to JK1969:

    Whether, or not, the offense can improve will make all the difference this season JK.

    I think that will remain the biggest weakness in 2014,.... but I hope to be proven wrong as the season goes on.

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    In reply to JK1969:

    It would be impossible no matter what, not to score more runs in 2014. Rizzo and Castro alone will raise that 602 total quite a bit.With more help from a surprise or two along the way.Increase the runs scored by say 45-50 runs for the season and that alone would put us in the middle of all MLB teams in runs scored and increase the win total by another 4-5 wins, and a most improved BP could add more victories. Last season Cubs blew 26 saves and the league average was 19.Just being average would add from 5-7 more victories.No reason we can't get to a respectable level,maybe the .500 level and a good base for the 2015 season.

  • In reply to TheRiot2:

    I agree that it would not be all that difficult to envision the current team as a .500 club. The bull pen is going from one of the worst in baseball to one that is respectable at the very least. As said above, this alone is probably worth half a dozen wins. Have we forgotten all the blown saves in the first part of last season.

    It will require a couple of lucky breaks, such as Olt being healthy and becoming the player he was expected to be two years ago, along with Castro and Rizzo with greater offensive production. And although none of that is certain, or even likely, it is certainly not impossible.

  • In reply to DaveP:

    "I agree that it would not be all that difficult to envision the current team as a .500 club"

    You might need a tab of acid, but it could be done.

  • I remain true to my vow to withhold final grades for this regime until 9/1/14. By then there HAS to be light in the tunnel. There must be signs that the wunderkids will be impact major leaguers. I said that in 2012 and the final exam time draws near.

  • The one thing that was apparent in the Theo interview is Jesse Rogers is still awful...Awkwardness personified - I give Theo credit for suffering through that. But I digress...

    Theo's answers about prospect development were refreshing in light of past players (Felix Pie, Corey Patterson, Kevin Orie, Gary Scott, Bobby Brownlie, Ryan Harvey, Brian Dopirak, Julio Zuleta, Dave Kelton, Grant Johnson, Mark Pawelek, Lance Dickson, Brooks Kieschnick, etc, etc, etc). Yes please develop raw talent into skills to be successful at the major league level day one. I can wait. I am good.

  • Is there any report out of ST that bothers anyone else than "player X has reported in great shape". Doesn't mean anything and you would hope that players are reporting in shape.

    I just hope that Renteria doesn't go too far the other way and simply makes excuses for players poor play. there has to be a medium there with having their back but also letting them know with some force that they are not cutting it.

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    In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    Agreed. Though not too many people can deny that Castro was being singled out specifically by fans and media. Theo and Jed have acknowledged this at one point, writers like Mooney and Wittmeyer(not that it means much coming from him)have as well. Now were hearing the same sentiment from someone who had nothing to do with the Cubs. There has to be something to it.

  • Let's reserve judgment on the new manager until we see his actual in-game managing skills. I'm all for the upbeat attitude, but I would rather see smart, well-played, aggressive baseball in the field and on the mound.

    Plus, let's see how he works with and develops his coaches. Gary Jones is a baseball lifer, but he only has one year of MLB coaching experience, Eric Hinske has no coaching experience, Brandon Hyde had a season and a half with the Marlins and Bill Mueller was only an interim hitting coach with the Dodgers. If the Cubs are ever going to compete with the Cardinals they really need to develop coaches like Dave Duncan and Dave McKay as well as players like Yadier and Albert.

  • Any chance Bonifacio beats out Barney at 2B or do most people view Bonifacio as a utility man ?

  • In reply to SouthsideB:

    Depends on how well each of them plays IMO SouthsideB.

    If Barney is stinking up the place offensively, and Bonifacio is on fire and fielding a decent 2B,.... Barney could lose out.

    I'm actually kind of curious to see what Watkins is capable of as well.

  • Mike- this may be your type of question: With all the metrics and various types of risk assessment that modern scouting provides, isn't there a demonstrable probability of success for prospects? For example, what is the probability that Baez achieves +5 WAR in the next 4 of 5 seasons. If you wanted to take it further, what is the probability that we see 'success' (what ever metric you choose) in more then one of the top prospects? While I like seeing Low, Medium and High risk I think it does a disservice to fans when we think back to the terrible history of the Cubs prospects.

  • Baseball America just released their top-100 prospects. The Cubs have seven players on the list:

    (5) Javier Baez
    (8) Kris Bryant
    (28) C.J. Edwards
    (36) Albert Almora
    (41) Jorge Soler
    (87) Pierce Johnson
    (100) Arismendy Alcantara

  • In reply to Average Samaritan:

    C.J. 28th! Nice.

  • In reply to Average Samaritan:

    Five in the top 41 is very impressive.

  • In reply to John57:

    They have Tanaka at 4 and Abreu at 29. Those guys are not prospects and shouldn't be on the list. They have played on professional teams for more than 5 years. So the Cubs have 5 prospects in the top 39 not 41.

  • I'd really start laughing at all of the haters if the Cubs do surprise. I'm not saying they'll win their division by any stretch of the imagination. A whole lot of IF'S have to be answered in the next 2 months. I know that Theo & Jed won't be happy with another 96+ loss season. Just don't make a bone-headed trade that involves the Kids.Get Kris Bryant & Albert Almora up here soon so we an get Scott Boras off our backs.

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    In reply to LRCCubsFan:

    why do you think they won't be happy with another 96 loss season? They've been pretty sanguine about the last 2 tanked seasons, why should one more be any different? Plus they've built their careers on evaluating talent - they know exactly what sort of product they've put on the field, and they're not going to be shocked by 96 losses.
    That being said, I'm on the record predicting 75 wins.

  • In reply to SKMD:

    I think they need to start winning especially when the prospects come up. They certainly don't need added pressure on them trying to do too much. If they can start out hot and have some breaks go their way early the whole teams attitude and energy could change.

  • In reply to CubsBuck22:

    When Theo first came in and said it would take 4 to 5 years to become a consistent play off team, he also said the first two years would be bad. And guess what, we were bad. Everyone knows that. Then he said we would improve though the improvement would not be linear. So I am guessing we will improve this year, maybe around 10 more wins than last year. That would put us at 76 wins for 2014. I know this is linear but I am guessing 86 wins in 2015 and 96 wins in 2016. 96 wins will get us in the play offs.

  • In reply to SKMD:

    Another 96 loss season could be good for this at least...

    A high pick this year and next could give us pitchers or position players that could be flipped for pitchers that could solve the issue of lack of TOR prospects

    The talent wave would be more balanced... it's currently at bit heavy on position players and light on pitchers.

  • Progress is rarely linear, especially when trying to predict a teams performance from one year to the next.

    Just look at all the prognostications over the past 40 years (like I have) and you begin to realize the futility of predicting performance one year to the next.

    The Cubs are moving in the right direction, but I would hazard a guess, cause that's all it really is, that their progress will vary sharply from most peoples (ie the majority) expectations.

    By that, I mean that they could possilbly exceed expectations one year by overachieving only to disappoint by underachieving in another.

    This game is still so hard to understand and project from one year to the next, that I have little faith in anyone's ability, including my own, to know what the baseball gods have in store as we move forward.

  • a few slots higher in the draft are no longer worth the added losses to the organization at this point
    96 losses this year would be a failure.
    They need to see progress from the key pieces and to begin a culture of winning.

  • In reply to Cuyler:

    Due to the organization of baseball's draft and time extensive development necessary for prospects to reach the majors, draft position has never been of the up most importance. That being said, I would still rather be in the second or third position this year to give me an option of picking one of the top arms. It does sound like Epshoyer may still go position player this year at the top.

  • we dont need to start winning.. our future is in the minors.. when they come up, than the expectations for the team will go up. until that happens, **shrugs**. i wont be upset with another 96 loss season.. will it suck to watch and go through? yes. but the plan has been laid out, and the fruits of Theo's labor is about to pan out. I couldnt care less if its one or 2 more years than expected. I have waited for a world series for the Cubs my whole life. I can wait a few more years to try and make sure it gets done - "the right way"

  • In reply to CubfanInUT:

    Doing it the right way shouldn't require 5 years or 7 years of over 90 losses. I've been onboard with the program but this year is the year to start seeing some results from the organization. Identifying talent is one thing but developing it is another. I want to see our players in the minors and in the big league play better than they did last year.

    It's a different sport but the Bulls got Noah with the 9th pick and he was one of the worst players in the NBA his first year- now he's legitimately in the top 25 NBA players. The Bulls organization develops talent very well, i.e. Gibson-Butler, lower draft picks that are now solid NBA players. This is what I want to see from the Cubs

  • In reply to Cuyler:

    ill agree with the development part.

    them playing better wont necassarily result in wins, and financially unless you are a 90 win playoff contending team. winning 55-80 wins doesnt change much financially/attendance wise.. so a higher pick is more crucial than being an "average team" instead of a bad one.

  • I would prefer that Castro stays as out SS of the future, but I had a thought come to me in the airport this morning and wanted to throw it out to the panel...

    The Yankees are going to have a HUGE need for a franchise player at SS following this season. They could try to fill with an older FA, but there isn't a lot there to pick from. Acquiring one through trade may be the better option for NYY, but they really don't have the farm system to acquire a ML-ready prospect like Digi or Owens from AZ or an All Star-caliber young player like Castro from the Cubs.

    So, my question is: if the Yankees go crazy in the IFA market this year, as has been reported, could those prospect be flipped for Castro. I am not really wondering about actual packages, but more about 'could' they do it. I know that a first year player drafted can not be traded within a year of the draft, but does the same hold true for IFA signees?

    It would be interesting to see the Yankees sign the top 3 or 4 prospects in IFA, then flip them to the Cubs along with Sanchez for Castro.

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    OT, but Fangraphs has an excellent piece on 1B prospect Ronald Guzman. It's relevant for us, because you can pretty much substitute "Dan Vogelbach" everywhere in this article, and same principle applies:

    This is why Vogelbach is a 2nd-tier prospect, and not someone we should get too excited about yet. He could produce at a high level and claim one of the few slots available, or he could get stuck at AAA like alot of pretty good 1B-only hitters (Brad Nelson, LaHair, Mike Carp, Hoffpauir, just to name a few)

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