1/4 Epstein on Z, Marshall, first base & more
During a question and answer session with Theo Epstein on WGN Radio on Wednesday, the Cubs president of baseball operations touched on a variety of topics:
* On Carlos Zambrano and changing the culture:
Epstein said changing the culture involves players being accountable to the Cubs, their fans and each other. How does Zambrano fit in?
“The Carlos Zambrano of 2011 and years previous can’t fit into the culture that we have here,” Epstein said. “Change needs to happen and change will happen. Either he’ll change and buy in and fit into this culture — and I understand there are a lot of skeptics around about that, and I understand that, and frankly, I’m skeptical as well. He needs to prove to us that he can change and be part of this culture or we’ll change the personnel and move forward with people who are proud to be Cubs and treat their teammates with respect, treat the fans with respect and can be part of a winning culture in the Cubs’ clubhouse.”
* On the Sean Marshall deal:
Epstein said Marshall is the type of pitcher an organization wants but that the Cubs needed to look at the bigger picture. Marshall had one year left of club control. He would become a free agent after the 2012 season and, under the new basic agreement, could leave with the Cubs not receiving any compensation.
“With what we’re trying to accomplish, which is not just win the World Series in 2012 but build something bigger and more sustainable for the long-term, what’s more valuable to us?” Epstein said. “One season worth of Sean Marshall or five seasons worth of a 25-year-old left-handed starting pitcher who can go into our starting rotation … and two prospects we like a lot.”
He noted the other players acquired from the Reds will be under club control for a longer period of time.
* On dealing with players and large contracts:
Epstein didn’t name Alfonso Soriano’s deal or any others specifically, but did say a team has three options on how to handle players with large contracts that appear to be more of a burden than a benefit. One, a team can be creative and make a deal and eat part of the salary. Two, the best move may be to walk away from a player. Or, the third option is to get to know a player better, understand what makes him tick, and provide an infrastructure in which he can improve.
“There’s no one way to handle these things,” Epstein said. “I think you need to approach it with an open mind, with hard work and creativity and understand it’s a game played by human beings and the ability to bounce back is very real.”
* On re-signing Kerry Wood:
Epstein said Wood is “exactly the type of guy we want to build a winning culture here in Chicago.” The Cubs are negotiating with Wood’s agent about a new contract.
“You have a team that really respects a player, wants him back desperately, and you have a player who loves the city, is a huge part of the community here with his family and his foundation and wants to be back,” Epstein said. “If we can’t work this out, we’re doing something wrong.”
* On first base:
Epstein said the Cubs’ first baseman heading into 2012 is Bryan LaHair.
“I think hitters hit no matter where they are and this kid has hit,” Epstein said of LaHair. “He’s hit everywhere he’s ever been. You can’t dominate the Triple-A level more than he did this year.”
Some players are labeled “4A” hitters in that they’re not able to succeed in the Majors, but Epstein doesn’t buy into that.
“It’s the right time for an organization like us to give him the opportunity,” Epstein said.
* On new Cubs manager Dale Sveum:
Epstein said Sveum is “authentic and genuine.”
“He is who he is,” Epstein said. “He knows himself, he never tries to be something that he’s not. He’s perfectly genuine, never tries to put on facades or airs and show players he’s something he’s not.”
Epstein said that’s important because managers can’t “fake it” with players. He said managers are sometimes categorized as either a players’ manager or a disciplinarian. Sveum is both.
“What I like about Dale is he’s firmly in both camps,” Epstein said. “He holds the players to really high standards. This team will have a lot of discipline on the field, off the field. Players will be accountable to Dale, they’ll be accountable to each other. There will be no loafing, no excuse for lack of preparation, lack of aggressiveness, lack of hard work.
“But he’s also going to be extremely well liked because he’s a down to earth guy who doesn’t try to be something that he’s not,” Epstein said.
* On compensation with the Red Sox:
Epstein said it has yet to be resolved.
“It’s still on the table,” Epstein said. “We’ll get it resolved. I think both clubs are approaching it in good faith. We need to find a resolution that both parties are happy with.”
He is still good friends with the Red Sox staff, and admitted to using an office at Fenway Park for a conference call to announce the Marshall trade with the Reds.
– Carrie Muskat