Results tagged ‘ Theo Epstein ’
Theo Epstein had to face some tough questions at the Cubs Convention. He knows fans are impatient, and losing 197 games over the last two seasons hasn’t helped the mood.
“I think most [fans] are [on board] and some aren’t, and the ones who aren’t, I don’t hold it against them,” Epstein said Monday. “Baseball is best enjoyed that day and watching the team in front of you play, and we haven’t been good enough, judging by that standard.
“The only standard that matters is wins and losses and we just haen’t been good enough,” he said. “I’m right there with them. I understand it. It’s my job to take a little broader view and make sure we grow this into a very healthy organization that can go out and have success year in and year out.”
Which is why the Cubs have worked so hard to develop the Minor League system.
“I think our fans as a whole have been incredibly supportive,” Epstein said. “I really look forward to doing some things this season to make them proud and hopefully we can go out and surprise some people. In the long haul we want to award them with October baseball.”
– Carrie Muskat
Dale Sveum had a tough time finding the visitor’s clubhouse at Cubs Park. After all, he expected to be using the home dugout this year. Sveum, who was dismissed last October after two seasons as Cubs manager, returned on Sunday in his new role as the Royals third base coach. Kansas City manager Ned Yost offered the job as Sveum was walking back to his apartment the day he got the news from Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein.
Sveum said it wasn’t strange to be at Cubs Park. He’d offered advice on the new facility but spent more time on the plans for the nearby training complex. Still, he had expected to be part of the Cubs’ rebuilding process and see some of the young talent.
“That’s what your vision was to see those guys develop and be here through all that,” Sveum said. “We’re five months removed from everything now. We’ve got a nice ballclub [with the Royals] and a chance to win, and a lot of young kids who have gotten to the point where it’s time to win. It’s far removed from what happened five months ago.”
He’d like to manage again, and has no regrets about his two years with the Cubs.
“I walked away with my head up and understood what I wanted to do, and did it — we got guys to play hard, we got guys to prepare every day,” he said. “People have asked me, ‘Would you do things differently?’ No. I don’t have that big of an ego. There’s nothing I’d do differently. The communication was what it was. People knew what their jobs were and their roles were. I demanded you to play hard and prepare and they did that.”
Sveum did expect to have dinner sometime this spring with Epstein. They’ve exchanged text messages and talked on the phone a few times in the offseason. Was managing the Cubs different than anywhere else?
“It’s going to be different than managing in Milwaukee or Kansas City,” Sveum said. “You obviously have way more media and press and obviously the fan base of a [televisoin] channel going throughout the whole country. I guess it’s how you look at it, too, and what kind of personality you have. It’s part of the job. It never bothered me.”
– Carrie Muskat
* Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer took part in organizational meetings on Tuesday with the coaching staffs of both the Major League and Minor League teams plus all of the Cubs’ scouts.
* Among the players working out Tuesday were Darwin Barney, Donnie Murphy, Jeff Samardzija, Edwin Jackson, and Travis Wood. Pitchers and catchers report Thursday; position players don’t have to report until Feb. 18. The first full squad workout will be Feb. 19 under new manager Rick Renteria.
* Cubs have yet to announce signing of free agent Jason Hammel. The pitcher needed to undergo a physical before a contract could be finalized.
* There will be a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Wednesday at Cubs Park.
Just in time for the Cubs Convention is an article in the Chicago Sun-Times critical of the Cubs ownership, the Ricketts family, and how they have not done enough. Theo Epstein defended the owners on Saturday.
“Here, in my opinion, is the best thing about the Ricketts and their committment to the Cubs,” Epstein said. “They know they’re going to own this club for generations and generations. They’re willing to take the hit now and take some of the heat now … with criticism because they know they’re doing the right thing to lay the foundation to get this right and turn this into a franchise that they can be proud of for generations and generations.
“I am more proud of them for their willingness to take that heat and stick to their plan than I would be if they panicked the first time their name was dragged through the mud publicly and said, ‘We can’t do this, put lipstick on this, and we need to find quick fixes to keep the fans and the media at bay.’ They are in this for the long haul. They’re giving us the ability to lay the foundation.”
– Carrie Muskat
The 2013 season was another step in the Cubs’ rebuilding process. For the second straight year, the Cubs dealt 40 percent of their starting rotation. They seemed to set a record for most deals in July as Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Marmol and Scott Hairston also were traded. In August, David DeJesus was sent to the Nationals.
In return, the Cubs felt they strengthened the organization with players such as third baseman Mike Olt and pitchers Pedro Strop, Justin Grimm, Jake Arrieta, Ivan Pineyro, C.J. Edwards and Corey Black. It’s all part of Theo Epstein’s plan since taking over as Cubs president of baseball operations.
All the transactions didn’t solve the 2013 team’s problems, and the Cubs finished last in the tough National League Central at 66-96, the fourth straight year they’ve posted a sub .500 season.
As 2013 comes to a close, here are five storylines from the Cubs’ season:
5. Hot prospects
Every time Javier Baez hit a home run, or first-round Draft pick Kris Bryant won another award, there were questions about where the Cubs top prospects would fit in the big league lineup. Baez, the No. 1 pick in 2011, and Bryant, who was the second overall selection in June, stole some of the headlines from the big league team. The Cubs front office’s mantra is that the kids need time to develop but fans are eager for someone to cheer for. Baez, who belted 37 homers and drove in 111 runs combined at Class A Daytona and Double-A Tennessee, and Bryant, the college player of the year who was named the Arizona Fall League MVP, aren’t the only super kids. The list of potential impact players in the Cubs system also includes Albert Almora, C.J. Edwards, and Jorge Soler. Now, the question is when.
4. Marmol, Fujikawa and Gregg
Carlos Marmol lost the closer’s job one week into the regular season, and Kyuji Fujikawa took over but he was limited because of elbow problems. The Japanese pitcher eventually needed Tommy John surgery, and the Cubs had to scramble. They signed Kevin Gregg, who was released by the Dodgers April 3, and he proceeded to reclaim the job, finishing with 33 saves. Marmol was eventually traded to the Dodgers for Matt Guerrier, and didn’t get another save opportunity the rest of the season. The Cubs bullpen was a problem most of the season, ranking on the bottom of the National League in ERA, walks, and home runs allowed.
3. Alfonso Soriano is traded to Yankees
For the second straight year, the Cubs were busy at the Trade Deadline, but none of the moves affected the players the way the departure of Alfonso Soriano did. The veteran outfielder was dealt to the Yankees, where he began his U.S. pro career in 1999. He has one year remaining on the eight-year, $136 million contract he signed with the Cubs in November 2006. While fans were critical of Soriano’s defensive ability, he was revered in the Cubs clubhouse. Soriano topped the Cubs in home runs and RBIs at the All-Star break, and they struggled to fill his spot in the lineup after he left. The Cubs may have been the only team to use a backup catcher, Dioner Navarro, in the No. 4 spot.
2. Manager Dale Sveum is dismissed
Sveum was a no nonsense kind of guy. He held players accountable. He believed in face to face communication. In Spring Training, he organized a bunting tournament, and included himself in the bracket. When Sveum was hired in November 2011, Epstein trusted the manager and his coaching staff to compile “The Cubs Way” handbook, to be used throughout the organization.
The Cubs lost 197 games in two seasons under Sveum, but Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer said the record wasn’t the reason the manager was dismissed. There were issues regarding the development of some of the Cubs, and Sveum got his signals crossed with a few players and the front office.
“There has to be a clear, unified message, and [players] can’t be getting different signals from different directions and collectively — myself included — we failed to provide that,” Epstein said.
Sveum wasn’t out of work for long. Royals manager Ned Yost waited one hour after Sveum was dismissed before calling to offer him a job on Kansas City’s coaching staff.
1. Starlin Castro takes a step backward
Castro was disappointed when he didn’t bat .300 for a third straight season in 2012, finishing at .283. But no one expected the shortstop to struggle as much as he did in 2013, batting .245 — including a .167 June. What happened? The shortstop lost his aggressive approach, struck out a career-high 129 times, and often looked lost at the plate. He was dropped to eighth in the order in August.
“This year, it’s too many things to think about [and] I’m not supposed to think [up there],” Castro said. “Sometimes you have a tough season, and you want to please everybody. But it’s not right. You have to listen to the things that can help you — not everything. When you come to home plate, you don’t have any idea, because you listen to too many things.”
Toward the end of the season, Castro announced he was just going to “be me.” The shortstop may be the Cubs’ new leadoff man in 2014 — he batted .263 there this past season — and the team can only hope he regains his approach, especially since this is Year 2 of his seven-year, $60 million contract.
– Carrie Muskat
If Cubs fans are upset at how long it’s taking the team to complete its rebuilding process, they have a friend in agent Scott Boras.
“The idea is it’s going to take some time for them to reach the resolve to say that they’re going to compete on all fronts to win a division or build a franchise,” Boras told reporters at the baseball Winter Meetings on Wednesday when asked about the Cubs.
“Obviously, it’s internal and I know the fans and baseball [operations] people have a plan afoot,” Boras said. “It’s just that normally with major market teams, you see a little bit different approach than you see here [with the Cubs]. This is more of a small-market approach if you will.”
The Cubs’ plan since Theo Epstein took over as president of baseball operations prior to the 2012 season is to develop their own players in an effort to build a solid foundation of homegrown talent. That includes two of Boras’ clients, Albert Almora and Kris Bryant.
“I think everybody knows that we have great respect for their baseball people there,” Boras said of the Cubs’ front office. “They’ve done a great job in the Draft. They know what they’re doing. The real thing has nothing to do the baseball people or how the organization is run. It’s just the fact that you have a major market team that has dramatically more revenues than most clubs that do take this type of approach.
“The Cubs have the capacity to sign any player they want in baseball,” Boras said. “The question is whether they think it fits their plan.”
Epstein said he had a great relationship with Boras and seemed more amused by the comments.
“It’s not the first time an agent has used the media to try to compel a team into spending huge amounts of money without knowledge of that club’s financial situation,” Epstein said. “It’s not a surprise and we’re not going to get into a war of words with Scott other than to say the folks who work at the Cubs probably have a better understanding of our situation than he does. We look forward to working with him and to continue to sign his players.”
– Carrie Muskat
Theo Epstein met Wednesday with Jeff Samardzija’s agent at the Winter Meetings, and said as of now, the pitcher is the team’s Opening Day starter. Samardzija also doesn’t appear to be any closer to agreeing to a long-term contract. Samardzija will be a free agent after the 2015 season. His name has been mentioned in trade rumors but interested teams have not been able to meet the Cubs’ demands. Samardzija is coming off his first 200-inning, 200-strikeout season.
“Every time we meet with [agent Mark Rodgers], I feel great about the relationship and the relationship with Jeff, too,” Epstein said. “Talks are amicable, open. We’re transparent about the situation and our interests, and he’s transparent about Jeff’s desires and interests.
“We continue to try to move the ball forward as much as we can on one of two or three possible outcomes,” Epstein said. “There hasn’t been any fundamental change in the situation. Communication is good and we continue to view Jeff as a really big part of what we’re doing even as we admit there are several possible outcomes.”
And that’s that as far as Epstein is concerned. He won’t be giving daily briefings on Samardzija’s status.
“At some point, I don’t think Jeff deserves to read about this every day,” Epstein said. “It’s a tough thing to read about someone speculating on where you’re going to work. We’ll put it to bed. The sitaution now is Jeff’s our Opening Day starter and that’s how we’re moving forward.”
Epstein said he and GM Jed Hoyer will stop answering questions about Samardzija’s status.
“I don’t want Jeff to have to read the paper every day that there’s speculation that he might be traded or not,” Epstein said. “We’re asked about all of our good players all the time and it’s no surprise we’re asked about Jeff Samardzija. There’s no trade imminent, and we’ll see what happens. We hope he’s here for a long time.”
– Carrie Muskat
Javier Baez, the Cubs’ first-round pick in the June 2011 First-Year Player Draft, is creating a lot of buzz as he gets closer to the big leagues. However, he’s a shortstop, and the Cubs already have a talented shortstop in Starlin Castro. Do the Cubs move Baez? Not now, Theo Epstein said.
“At some point, creating options and creating versatility is a good thing,” Epstein said Thursday. “In Javy’s case, he’s got a tremendous combination of instincts and athleticism which makes us think he’ll be a natural at playing other positions.”
Epstein said amateur scouting reports say Baez could play every position, including catcher.
“I think it’ll be an easy transition for him if and when that time comes,” Epstein said. “He hasn’t even reached Triple-A yet. There’s plenty of time to do it. You don’t want to take shortstop away from a kid. Once you move off shortstop, it’s really hard to move back.
“There may be a time in the future when he moves on a permanent basis, and there may be time when we move just to give him versatility,” he said. “In Spring Training, he’ll play plenty of shortstop and that might be a time to move him around as well.”
Baez, 21, was named the Cubs’ Minor League player of the year after batting .282 with 37 home runs and 111 RBIs at Class A Daytona and Double-A Tennessee.
– Carrie Muskat
The bidding may start soon on Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka. According to various media reports, Major League Baseball and Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball have reached a basic agreement on a new posting system. The Japan Times reports the new system will have a maximum posting fee of $20 million. Final details are still being worked out but FOX Sports and MLB Network’s Ken Rosenthal says if multiple teams submit the same bid, the player will be allowed to negotiate with all of those teams. Only the signing club would be required to pay the posting fee, which would not count against MLB’s luxury tax. Tanaka’s team, the Rakuten Golden Eagles, opposed the $20 million max posting fee but the other 11 Japanese teams approved it.
During an interview on Comcast SportsNet Chicago Wednesday night, Theo Epstein said the Cubs were looking for “impact” pitching, and Tanaka would fit that. The 25-year-old was 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA in 28 regular season games with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles.
– Carrie Muskat
According to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, the Yankees and Dodgers are expected to be the most aggressive in pursuit of Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka when the posting system is finalized. Major League officials and the Japanese league are ironing out details.
Sherman said executives from two clubs expect the Cubs to be in the mix as well, with one saying they will be “really aggressive.”
Sherman notes that the Cubs have several impact position players (Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Jorge Soler, Albert Almora) but not enough pitching.
Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer have been involved in the posting process for Japanese players before. They were with the Red Sox when they gave $51.1 million posting fee to land Daisuke Matsuzaka. If the Yankees, Dodgers, Rangers and Red Sox are in pursuit of Tanaka, it will be expensive.
The posting fees are still to be resolved. According to Sherman, MLB officials have been trying to lower the fees transferred from their teams to Japanese teams as part of the process to gain negotiating rights. The Rangers paid the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters $51.7 million posting fee to get Yu Darvish, then signed him to a six-year, $60 million contract.
MLB has a current proposal that involves a limit of $20 million, Sherman writes.
Why is Tanaka so highly regarded? Tanaka, 25, was 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA in 28 regular season games with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, that’s why.
– Carrie Muskat