Cubs News, Notes and Rumors Heading into the Winter Meetings

As the Cubs prepare for their first Winter Meetings with Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer at the helm, Epstein addressed several topics with the media on Thursday … Matt Garza, Carlos Zambrano, the coaching staff, the bullpen, Brett Jackson’s future, Andrew Cashner, Sean Marshall and Jeff Samardzija, Epstein seemingly touched on a majority of the hot topics surrounding the Chicago Cubs … while at times not really answering any of the questions.

Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have a lot of work ahead of them as they try to build a roster for next season and beyond. Epstein discussed the challenges on Thursday, “I will say that’s one of the greatest challenges of the job for any management team: balancing short-term interests with long-term interests and making sure they align. And being honest about where you are as an organization and when your opportunity to really win comes.”

As the baseball world begins making their way to Dallas, here is the update that includes more from the Cubs’ weekly press conference plus all of the news, notes and rumors …

Cubs Weekly Press Conference
Theo Epstein has jokingly said that the Cubs’ lead the league in press conferences. With all of the changes and additions to the Cubs’ front office and coaching staff, to say the Cubs have had their fair share of press conferences over the last several weeks would be an understatement.

And to not disappoint, Theo Epstein introduced David DeJesus to the Chicago media on Thursday morning. After DeJesus met with the media, Epstein discussed a wide variety of topics. A tip of the cap to Jordan Bernfield (WGN Radio) for doing an excellent job of passing on the info from Theo Epstein and David DeJesus.

In bullet point format, here are the highlights …

David DeJesus

  • DeJesus: “Leading off the game you want to see pitches for the guys behind you. You want to see what the pitcher has that day.”
  • DeJesus: “My job is to set the tone of the game. Get on base anyhow, walks, hit by pitches, base hits preferably. Hustle and give life to the team.”
  • DeJesus said he didn’t know Dale Sveum and went to Wikipedia and looked him up.

Theo Epstein

  • The Cubs are still processing the new CBA. Epstein thinks there are still ways to be aggressive in the draft.
  • Epstein: “In the end, I think the new rules make it even more of a scouting contest. You have to get the evaluations right.”
  • Epstein: “Still going to build this around young players. Free agency should never be the primary area you rely upon to build your club.”
  • Epstein on Starting Pitching: “You can’t take your chances very seriously as a club if you go into the season without not just five guys you can point to, but six, seven, eight guys. You better know who you’re ninth starter is going to be, because you are going to need him. The numbers show you’re going to need your ninth starter at some point.”
  • Epstein on adding a Left-Handed Bat: “As far as adding a left-handed bat? Yeah, it’d be nice, but under the right circumstances. But we’re not going to force anything.”
  • Theo Epstein was very impressed with the Cubs’ site in the Dominican and the scouts there. Epstein said it is one of the strengths of the organization.
  • Epstein said he is not sure how the signing of David DeJesus affects Bret Jackson. Epstein added he is excited about Jackson and believes he has a bright future with the Cubs organization but alluded to the fact he could begin the year at the Triple-A level.
  • Epstein on Matt Garza’s future with the Cubs: Garza is exactly the type of pitcher they would like to build around.
  • Epstein on the Cubs’ bullpen: “It’s one area where we have some core pieces already in place, but we need to continue to add depth. We’re one-two pieces away from having the pen we’d like to have going into the year.”
  • Epstein said he was encouraged by Andrew Cashner’s performance in the Arizona Fall League.
  • Epstein also liked how Jeff Samardzija pitched in the second half of the season last year.
  • Epstein on Sean Marshall: “I think [Sean Marshall] might be the most valuable left-handed reliever in all of baseball.”
  • Epstein said he liked having position-flexible players such as Blake DeWitt, Jeff Baker, Darwin Barney and Bryan LaHair.

Starlin Castro
Starlin Castro made Keith Law’s list of the top 50 players in the majors age 25 or under. Castro was ranked sixth behind Justin Upton, Andrew McCutchen, Mike Stanton, Buster Posey and Clayton Kershaw.

From ESPN.com:

Castro is an extremely gifted hitter, leading the NL in hits (and at-bats) despite being the youngest regular in the circuit, and is going to come into more power over the next few years as he fills out.

He has outstanding hand-eye coordination and the bat control you’d expect from that, keeping his hands inside the ball well and adjusting to off-speed pitches like a big-league veteran. He’s an average runner at best and not a high-percentage basestealer, so he’ll either have to improve his reads or stop making so many attempts

.

The biggest issue for Castro is that his lower half is already slow, and if he gets thicker and slows down further, it’ll guarantee he moves off short and could in theory keep him from second base as well, although his arm is strong enough to play anywhere on the field. He’s likely to keep posting .300 averages and should end up with 20-plus homers and slugging percentages around .500, perhaps even better if he can work on getting into better counts.

News, Notes and Rumors

  • Theo Epstein said Thursday that the announcement of Dale Sveum’s coaching staff would not likely be made until next week at the Winter Meetings … or soon after. From all indications, the Cubs will officially announce Jamie Quirk (bench coach), Chris Bosio (pitching coach), Pat Listach (base coach) and Lester Strode (bullpen coach) will join Rudy Jaramillo on Sveum’s staff. Could Craig Counsell’s decision be the cause of the delay in announcing the staff or could Sveum be interested in hiring a coach or two from Terry Francona’s staff?
  • Carlos Zambrano is doing fine after taking a line drive off the side of the head/face a couple of weeks back. Zambrano was scheduled to pitch last Saturday but was pushed back. Theo Epstein said Thursday that Zambrano is healing and there is no timetable for him to pitch again … but it should be soon.
  • As of Thursday, the Cubs top priority going into the Winter Meetings is adding starting pitching. But according to Bruce Levine, the Cubs are eyeing starting pitching and a lefty bat.
  • Aramis Ramirez could be heading to the West Coast. Ramirez met with the Angels and could receive an offer in the near future from the Los Angeles Angels. Ramirez has narrowed his list of suitors down to a few teams and could sign as soon as next week with one of the teams. Jim Bowden (MLB Radio Network/XM Radio) has heard that Ramirez is one of the back-up plans for the Brewers if Prince Fielder signs elsewhere.
  • Speaking of the Brewers, according to Buster Olney the last formal offer they made to Prince Fielder was a five-year, $100 million contract. The Brewers have let it be known they would go to six years and $120 million to keep Fielder.
  • Jim Duquette (MLB Radio Network/XM Radio) has heard the Angels have joined the list of teams that is interested in trading for Matt Garza.
  • According to George Ofman, three unknown AL teams have kicked the tires on Alfonso Soriano. The Cubs would have to pay a lot of the $54 million still owed to Soriano to move him and they are looking for young players in return.
  • According to the Sun-Times, the Cubs search for starting pitching includes a run at left-hander Chris Capuano. As the Sun-Times pointed out, Dale Sveum and the anticipated new pitching coach, Chris Bosio, know Capuano well.

Ernie Paicopolos from Fenway Nation emailed the CCO about his side blog and asked us to pass along to our readers. His new blog is based on Theo Epstein’s move to the Cubs … Boston Theo Watch.

Well, that’s the update … and I’m sticking to it!

For the latest rumors and news on the Chicago Cubs … Follow ChicagoCubsOnline on Twitter: @The CCO

Quote of the Day

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