Results tagged ‘ Theo Epstein ’
Some highlights from the Cubs Convention seminars:
* Javier Baez is headed back to Puerto Rico to continue to play for Santurce, most likely through the playoffs. GM Jed Hoyer says Baez is well aware he has to make adjustments.
“He has to earn his playing time,” Hoyer said of the 21-year-old infielder. “He knows he has to make more contact to stay in the big leagues.”
* The Cubs pitching staff actually did well last season but the offense struggled. The Cubs ranked 12th in the National League in runs scored, ahead of only the Reds, Braves and Padres; 13th in on-base percentage; and 14th in batting average with runners in scoring position (.223). Where will the runs come from in 2015? Theo Epstein says he’s counting on better performances from Jorge Soler, Arismendy Alcantara and Luis Valbuena, plus feels they will get more production from the catching position with the addition of Miguel Montero. What about Kris Bryant? Epstein said Bryant definitely is expected to be in the lineup in 2015.
“When it’s the right time for Kris’ development and the right time for the team, he’ll be on the roster,” Epstein said.
* The Cubs may open the season with three catchers: Montero, David Ross and Welington Castillo. The Cubs added Ross because they felt he was too good a player and person in the clubhouse to pass on, Hoyer said.
* Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts was asked about Sammy Sosa and whether the team can reconcile with the former right fielder.
“I don’t want to get into Sammy,” Ricketts said. “There will be a time and a place for it, and we’ll wait for that time and place.”
* Jon Lester’s ability to pitch at Fenway Park will help him at Wrigley Field, Epstein said. Lester would pitch at Fenway in ways that were counter to the type of pitcher he is, and that was because of the way the ballpark is built.
“We all know Wrigley plays two different ways,” Epstein said. “When the wind is howling in and it’s April, and it’s really hard to hit the ball out of the ballpark, he’ll go right at guys and be extremely efficient. He has the power and the mix to be able to do that. On the days when [the wind] is howling out, he can change things up and work his two-seamer a little more, change speeds a little more often and keep hitters off balance. For a left-handed pitcher having gone through your whole career basically at Fenway Park, that’s a gauntlet and it forces you to get creative.”
* Someone asked Epstein how he was able to lure Lester to the Cubs.
“Well, $155 million,” Epstein quipped.
– Carrie Muskat
With plenty of eyes on the Cubs as they kick off their winter convention Friday, Theo Epstein spoke on MLB Network Radio about the remaining plans for the offseason and the 2015 season outlook. Epstein, on “The Leadoff Spot” with Steve Phillips and Todd Hollandsworth, said that despite the big-name starting pitching free agents still on the market, the Cubs are content with their current rotation.
“We feel pretty good about the rotation as it stands, and especially good about the depth,” Epstein said. “We like our sixth, seventh, eighth starters this year better than we have in a long time.”
With newly signed ace Jon Lester at the top of the rotation, the Cubs also have incumbents Jake Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks and Travis Wood joining free agent acquisition Jason Hammel.
In other hot stove news, Epstein said the Cubs have kicked the tires on a few deals involving their bounty of catchers, but nothing has come to fruition.
“It might be a situation if we don’t find a match that we like and we’re not overwhelmed, we might just go into Spring Training because a quick way to derail a potentially good team is if you have an injury to one of your catchers and most teams, most organizations aren’t deep enough to call up a Minor League free agent or someone from Triple-A and it can really create a bit of a black hole in your lineup,” Epstein said.
That may leave the club largely as-is, and it’s a team the organization is excited about. First baseman Anthony Rizzo said Thursday he expects the club to win the National League Central, and Epstein didn’t have a problem with that statement.
“I think enthusiasm is great, especially with our players,” Epstein said. “I want our players thinking that way and having a little bit of swagger.”
– Joey Nowak, MLB.com
Jon Lester’s imminent decision of where he will take his talents remained a dominant topic of conversation during Day 2 of the Winter Meetings, and the Red Sox and Cubs could be emerging as the two finalists. This, after Giants assistant GM Bobby Evans pointed a more pessimistic picture of where his club stands with regard to Lester.
“I feel we’re probably in the back seat of this deal right now,” Evans said. “I feel like there are some other guys driving this, and probably we’re staying in it but I’m not sure how strongly we’re a consideration considering the other options.”
Evans felt that “heart strings” might pull the lefty to another franchise despite the fact the Giants have won the World Series three times in the last five years.
That line of thinking would point to the Red Sox and Cubs, given their personal connections to Lester.
According to FOXsports.com, Lester has multiple offers in the six-year, $150-million range, and perhaps one offer of seven years. The Dodgers are another suitor that has been mentioned, but they haven’t confirmed their level of interest.
“I think that ultimately Jon has a tough decision to make,” said Evans. “You have a player who’s very passionate about his teammates in Boston, he’s very passionate about the relationships he has with maybe two clubs, including the Cubs, so therefore I think it makes it a harder decision. We at some level may be in the back seat right now. That’s understandable because there are some good options for him.”
It was originally believed that Lester would make a decision by Tuesday. But it could stretch into Wednesday, as ownership from some of the respective clubs are in the process of approving final bids.
Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod – three top executives for the Cubs – were in Boston’s front office during the majority of Lester’s time there. Lester won the World Series with the Red Sox in 2007 and ’13. Though winning a third ring in Boston would be a thrill, Lester could be part of something historic if he could be part of the Cubs winning it all for the first time since 1908.
The past two offseasons, the Cubs have pursued pitchers with the intention of flipping them at the Trade Deadline for young prospects. They’ve taken a different approach this winter, which began with the hiring of Joe Maddon as manager. The goal is to add multiple starting pitchers in hopes of being competitive in the National League Central.
“We played well at the end of the year,” Hoyer said Monday. “Our young talent has gotten a lot of publicity, for better or worse. I don’t think it’s hard to talk about, ‘Hey, we think we’re about to be very good and good for a long time.’”
The Cubs will have to wait a little longer for Jon Lester to make a decision regarding where he wants to pitch next year. According to WEEI’s Rob Bradford, Lester will meet with at least two more teams next week. The free agent pitcher already has talked to the Cubs, Red Sox, and Braves. The Cubs made their push on Tuesday when Lester visited Chicago.
Getting players to make decisions at Thanksgiving has been one of Theo Epstein’s strong points. In 2003, Epstein and Jed Hoyer, then in the Red Sox front office, had Thanksgiving dinner with Curt Schilling, part of their effort to get the right-hander to drop the no-trade clause in his contract and accept being traded to Boston.
“If we didn’t sign Curt, it probably would have been the worst Thanksgiving of my life,” Epstein said in 2003. “We tried to refuse [the invitation], and Curt said it was a deal breaker, they would be insulted if we didn’t go.”
Lester most likely will spend Thanksgiving at home.
– Carrie Muskat
Theo Epstein said he welcomed an investigation by Major League Baseball into tampering allegations related to the team’s hiring of Joe Maddon. When Rays general manager Andrew Friedman left to take a job with the Dodgers, Maddon exercised an opt-out clause in his contract with the Rays, and was named the Cubs 54th manager in franchise history on Nov. 3.
Speaking in Phoenix, where the general manager meetings are being held, Epstein said the investigation was in the preliminary stages. The Cubs have yet to receive requests for phone or email records, he said.
“We welcome the MLB investigation,” Epstein said Monday night. “As we said last week, there was no tampering whatsoever. I’d rather they investigate, so we can clear our names and move on from this quickly. We’re giving our full cooperation.”
On Oct. 31, when the Cubs announced that Rick Renteria was dismissed as manager, Epstein detailed the events that led to Maddon’s hiring, saying they received an email from Maddon’s agent, Alan Nero, announcing his free agent status. Epstein first contacted Dan Halem, MLB’s executive vice president of labor relations, to confirm that Maddon had opted out before responding to Nero.
Maddon had a two-week window to make a decision, and he and the Rays did discuss a contract extension. But Maddon instead decided to see what else was available, and eventually signed a five-year, $25 million contract with the Cubs.
– Carrie Muskat
Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer began face to face meetings with agents on Monday while in Phoenix for the GM meetings.
“We said we’re going to be aggressive over the next 15 months and look for opportunities to get better,” Epstein told reporters in Phoenix on Monday. “It’s probably the first time agents can come into our suites without having to look both ways to make sure no one sees them coming in. We’re no longer the runt of the litter, I guess.”
The Cubs possess both payroll flexibility and young talent. Other teams and agents want to talk. And the Cubs will be linked early and often to free agent pitcher Jon Lester, who Epstein and Hoyer know from their days together in Boston.
“Free agents in general, they’re going to make good decisions for themselves and for their family and try to find a place where they can win and be comfortable and find a contract that works for them,” Epstein said. “To the extent that relationships help reassure players about those different factors, then [our relationship] is relevant. It establishes a comfort and trust. But beyond that … he’s going to have his pick [of teams].”
– Carrie Muskat
Joe Maddon’s agent says accusations that the Cubs are guilty of tampering is “insulting” and credited Theo Epstein for doing due diligence in making certain Maddon had exercised the opt-out clause in his contract before contacting him.
During an interview Sunday on MLB Network Radio, agent Alan Nero said the Cubs did not contact him about Maddon’s availability until the MLB commissioner’s office confirmed Maddon was available. Nero said he had heard from 10 different teams before the Cubs called, as well as media outlets interested in hiring Maddon for broadcast opportunities.
Maddon, who will be introduced on Monday as the Cubs’ 54th manager in franchise history, considered managing the Cubs a “once in a lifetime opportunity,” Nero said, and feels the move will help his charities in Tampa and Hazleton, Pa.
As for charges that the Cubs contacted Maddon before he had exercised the opt-out clause, Nero said those charges are “sad and a bit insulting.”
“Theo wouldn’t even talk until he had clearance from the commissioner’s office,” Nero told MLB Network Radio. “It’s silly to suggest that. If [the Rays] want to pursue that, that’s fine. It’s very unfortunate.”
Nero said they negotiated for five to six days with the Rays regarding an extension, but said it finally became apparent that was not going to happen. Did the Rays offer Maddon a new deal that would make him one of the top paid managers in the game? Nero said no, adding, “our proposals to them were under market value.”
– Carrie Muskat
The Cubs Friday announced that the club has fired manager Rick Renteria after one season. Here is a statement from president of baseball operations Theo Epstein:
“Today we made the difficult decision to replace Rick Renteria as manager of the Chicago Cubs. On behalf of Tom Ricketts and Jed Hoyer, I thank Rick for his dedication and commitment, and for making the Cubs a better organization.
“Rick’s sterling reputation should only be enhanced by his season as Cubs manager. We challenged Rick to create an environment in which our young players could develop and thrive at the big league level, and he succeeded. Working with the youngest team in the league and an imperfect roster, Rick had the club playing hard and improving throughout the season. His passion, character, optimism and work ethic showed up every single day.
“Rick deserved to come back for another season as Cubs manager, and we said as much when we announced that he would be returning in 2015. We met with Rick two weeks ago for a long end-of-season evaluation and discussed plans for next season. We praised Rick to the media and to our season ticket holders. These actions were made in good faith.
“Last Thursday, we learned that Joe Maddon – who may be as well suited as anyone in the industry to manage the challenges that lie ahead of us – had become a free agent. We confirmed the news with Major League Baseball, and it became public knowledge the next day. We saw it as a unique opportunity and faced a clear dilemma: be loyal to Rick or be loyal to the organization. In this business of trying to win a world championship for the first time in 107 years, the organization has priority over any one individual. We decided to pursue Joe.
“While there was no clear playbook for how to handle this type of situation, we knew we had to be transparent with Rick before engaging with Joe. Jed flew to San Diego last Friday and told Rick in person of our intention to talk to Joe about the managerial job. Subsequently, Jed and I provided updates to Rick via telephone and today informed him that we will indeed make a change.
“We offered Rick a choice of other positions with the Cubs, but he is of course free to leave the organization and pursue opportunities elsewhere. Armed with the experience of a successful season and all the qualities that made him our choice a year ago, Rick will no doubt make an excellent major league manager when given his next chance.
“Rick often said he was the beneficiary of the hard work of others who came before him. Now, in the young players he helped, we reap the benefits of his hard work as we move forward. He deserved better and we wish him nothing but the best.
“We have clung to two important ideals during our three years in Chicago. The first is to always be loyal to our mission of building the Cubs into a championship organization that can sustain success. The second is to be transparent with our fans. As painful as the last week was at times, we believe we stayed true to these two ideals in handling a sensitive situation. To our fans: we hope you understand, and we appreciate your continued support of the Cubs.”
On Friday, Theo Epstein and Crane Kenney met with Cubs season ticket holders at the Oriental Theater in downtown Chicago to discuss the 2014 season and look ahead to 2015. Here are some key points from the session:
* Kenney, president of business operations, said the team is in “extra innings” in terms of its television contract negotiations, adding that a number of potential partnerships have emerged. The Cubs’ agreement with WGN-TV ended with the 2014 season, which ended a relationship dating to 1948. The move now allows the team to get its broadcast and cable rights in sync. The Cubs have a contract with Comcast SportNet Chicago that runs through 2019.
A television deal is a significant revenue source. The Dodgers, for example, launched their own cable network this year, and are earning $8.35 billion over 25 years.
* The $575 million Wrigley Field renovations are underway, with the official groundbreaking scheduled for Saturday. The first phase involves the bleachers, and extending the outer walls of the ballpark to the curb of the current sidewalk along Waveland and Sheffield avenues to accomodate 300 additional seats in left field, 300 in right, and 300 standing room seats in the bleacher deck. Kenney said the changes will allow the team to install a 4,000-square foot video scoreboard in left and a 2,400-square foot video scoreboard in right field, as well as five other advertising signs.
“We’re not planning any ‘Kiss Cams’ or wild dance contests,” Kenney said of the video scoreboards, but they will show real time statistics, replays, historical highlights in response to fan surveys.
* During a Q&A, a fan wondered if the Cubs could buy all of the buildings around Wrigley Field to eliminate any conflicts with rooftop owners, and Kenney said it’s not feasible. Rooftop owners make $25 million a year from their businesses and “they don’t pay for the talent,” he said.
* The only boos from the crowd came whenever pitcher Edwin Jackson’s name was mentioned, and Epstein admitted it was “tough to watch” the right-hander struggle for the second straight season. Jackson will “have to make dramatic improvements to have a role on the team” next year and knows that,” Epstein said.
* Epstein said Kris Bryant, the 2014 Minor League Player of the Year by MLB.com and others, is in a position “to impact our 2015 season.” However, that doesn’t mean the third baseman is the Opening Day starter.
* Epstein said they have done “five to six years of work in three seasons” in restocking the farm system through the First-Year Player Draft, international signings and trades. He cautioned that the young talent still needs time to develop and there will be hiccups, but the players have taken a big step.
“I think it’s clear we have enough talent to compete,” Epstein said. “Do we have enough talent to win? That’s the beauty of baseball. You don’t know until you try. This is the first time we’ve had enough talent to compete. I believe when you’re competing, you have to set your sights high.”
* The Cubs plan to add impact starting pitching over the next 15 months, Epstein said, which means it could be this offseason or at the 2015 Trade Deadline or after next season. Is he wary watching top talent like Jon Lester and Max Scherzer, both free agents, who did not fare well in the postseason?
“This time of year is dangerous because we always take the small sample size events and create majestic narratives about what it means to build a winning team and a landscape in general,” Epstein said. “We’re not going to go out and lead the league in stolen bases next year because of the Royals. … We know that buying top of the rotation starters in free agency, those haven’t been the signings that bring the best return in investment.”
– Carrie Muskat