The Beginning of a Long Off-Season for the Cubs

The off-season has begun for the Chicago Cubs. While the playoffs are underway and the focus throughout the game is on some set of games in late October, the Cubs remain focused on the future and building an organization with sustained success.

Theo Epstein spent just under an hour with the media in the dungeon the day after the season came to an end. The Cubs President of Baseball Operations addressed a number of topics, including Alfonso Soriano’s future with the organization and where the Cubs plan on Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters beginning the 2013 campaign.

The Cubs will add starting pitching this off-season and changes to the front office and coaching staff have begun.

Shiraz Rehman
The Cubs promoted Shiraz Rehman to assistant general manager. The Cubs made the announcement Thursday and Rehman will join Randy Bush as one of two assistant general managers in the Cubs’ front office.

Rehman was hired last off-season as an assistant to Jed Hoyer after six seasons in the Diamondbacks organization.

Theo Epstein the Morning after the 2012 Season
Several of the beat writers as well as WGN’s Dave Kaplan and Jordan Bernfield tweeted quotes from Theo Epstein’s exit press conference on Thursday morning. The news is a couple of days “old” but bears repeating for those that may have missed the information.

From the Tribune:

  • Theo Epstein said the rest of Cubs coaches are safe. James Rowson may go back to minors if a new hitting coach is brought in.
  • Theo Epstein said Josh Vitters and Brett Jackson have been told they will go back to Triple-A.

From the Daily Herald’s Bruce Miles:

  • Theo Epstein said Josh Vitters will play winter ball, “but the presumption is that he goes back to Triple-A. He’s got a lot of work to do.”

From Dave Kaplan of WGN Radio and Comcast SportsNet:

  • When asked about magnitude of rebuild Theo Epstein said, “It is fair to say that this is a comprehensive overhaul of the baseball operation. “This may be a longer rebuild than most of us want but we are committed to it. It’s our obligation to be disciplined to accomplish it.”
  • Theo Epstein: “I would grade behind the scenes moves we’ve made over 11 months as a B. We’ve done some good things but we can do better.”
  • Theo Epstein: “I thought Soriano had an incredible season both on field and off. People don’t get an accurate portrayal of him from across the diamond. Soriano was an eye opener for me. I had trepidation about him when I came over; I am thrilled with his play. He has value to us.”
  • Theo Epstein: “We will build the 2013 team this winter on the assumption that Vitters and Jackson are going back to AAA.”

From WGN’s Jordan Bernfield:

  • Theo Epstein said he thinks he understood the scope of the rebuild. There were pleasant and not so pleasant surprises. “I think there were some positive things that came out of the club.” Epstein added there was a real improvement in culture around clubhouse.
  • Theo Epstein: Cubs made a lot of progress regarding the draft and in the minor leagues. Epstein said there is a lot that still needs to be done.
  • Theo Epstein: The Cubs have to be transparent regarding the rebuild of the organization and the patience it is going to take. The front office is trying to communicate there is a plan and vision that will take time but will get there.
  • Theo Epstein: “We’ll have to pursue free agency to some degree for starting pitching.” Epstein does not see great value on the free agent market. “I’ve always believed and still believe free agent spending provides the lowest return of any investment in baseball operations.”
  • Theo Epstein said that it was not that surprising what happened with Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters. Epstein added it will take Vitters time to develop. Vitters takes a while to get acclimated at each level. Brett Jackson’s swing not ready to compete here yet.
  • Regarding Alfonso Soriano, Epstein said he was a pleasant surprise. “If teams pursue him in a trade, we’ll pursue it. But he has value to us. We will consider trading Soriano but we would have to get something back. He has value to us on and off the field.”
  • Theo Epstein: “I will be incredibly disappointed if our baseball operation isn’t better by 2014.”

From Comcast SportsNet:

Bruce Miles added more detail in his blog on Friday. There is a lot of information and well worth the time it takes to read it. Click here for Bruce Miles’ blog.

The Sun-Times questioned the Cubs’ plans and reported that the rebuilding plan raises a lot of red flags.

Alfonso Soriano
Alfonso Soriano put together his best season in a Cubs’ uniform but it could be his last. After switching to a lighter bat at the urging of manager Dale Sveum, Soriano put up very good numbers at the plate (.262/.322/.499/.821 with 33 doubles, 32 home runs and 108 RBI) and had his best season in the field after receiving coaching for the first time in his career. Dave McKay showed Soriano how to play the outfield and the 36-year old veteran was solid all year.

Soriano reportedly turned down a trade to San Francisco prior to the deadline but is now open to a trade. Soriano is owed $36 million ($18 million per season) over the final two years of the mega eight-year, $136 million contract he signed in November of 2006.

The Cubs’ rebuilding plans figure to take longer than two years and Soriano would like to be moved if that is the case.

Who’s on Third?
Ian Stewart questioned on his Twitter account the firing of Pat Listach and reiterated the Cubs are still on the fence about tendering him a contract for next season. Stewart did not produce before wrist surgery ended his season in June.

The Cubs like Luis Valbuena and he could be an option for next season if the Cubs do not go in a different direction. One possible option, according to Bruce Levine, is Lonnie Chisenhall. The 24-year old third baseman hit .268/.311/.430/.741 with six doubles and five home runs in 43 games for the Indians last season.

Coaching Staff
The Cubs will retain a majority of Dale Sveum’s coaching staff for next season. Pat Listach was dismissed following the finale with the Astros and could end up on Bo Porter’s staff in Houston. The mainstream media has not mentioned possible replacements for Listach, but one name to keep an eye on is Craig Counsell. Sveum wanted Counsell on his staff last year but Counsell could not make a decision on his playing career in time.

James Rowson served as the Cubs’ interim hitting coach after Rudy Jaramillo was fired on June 12. Rowson was hired last off-season after spending six seasons in the Yankees organization and was serving as the Cubs minor league hitting coordinator before taking over for Jaramillo. Rumors have suggested that Dave Magadan could be a candidate for the Cubs’ job, depending on what happens after the Red Sox hire a new manager.

Starting Pitching Rumors
According to a report from the Sun-Times, Anibal Sanchez and Shaun Marcum are two possible starting pitching options for the Cubs along with Edwin Jackson. Marcum has a relationship with Chris Bosio due to their time together in the Brewers’ organization.

Two starting pitchers the Cubs will avoid according to the Sun-Times: Zack Greinke and Jake Peavy. The Angels are looking to re-sign Greinke, plus his anxiety issues do not make him a fit for the Cubs and neither does Jake Peavy due to injury history and big price tag.

Minor League Transactions and Roster Moves
Randy Wells, Blake DeWitt and Alex Hinshaw declared Minor League free agency following the end of the season.

The Cubs reinstated Gerardo Concepcion and Casey Coleman from the DL and recalled both players. The Cubs also recalled Jacob Brigham, Brooks Raley, Junior Lake, Jorge Soler and Matt Szczur … all of these moves are procedural and are done at the end of every season. The Cubs’ 40 man roster currently has 40 players on it, with five players still on the 60-day DL (Matt Garza, Marcos Mateo, Blake Parker, Arodys Vizcaino and Ian Stewart) and many roster decisions on the horizon that will have to be made.

Bob Brenly
Len Kasper could have a new partner in the TV booth next season. The Diamondbacks dismissed both Mark Grace and Daron Sutton from their television broadcasts. Both Sutton and Grace were suspended during the season.

According to multiple reports, the Diamondbacks are expected to reach out to Bob Brenly to gauge his interest on a possible return to the organization. Steve Stone is also said to be in the running for one of the spots in Arizona’s booth. If Brenly takes the job with the D-Backs, rumors have suggested that Stone could return to the Cubs’ booth. Stay tuned …

Ryne Sandberg
The Phillies announced Thursday that Ryne Sandberg will serve as Charlie Manuel’s third base coach next season. Sandberg has been in the Phillies’ organization for the past two years managing their Triple-A team. Sandberg is considered as the leading candidate to replace Manuel as the Phillies’ manager if Manuel does not return after the 2013 season … the last year of his current contract.

And last, but not least … while Adam Greenberg provided a feel-good moment, he also provided a little controversy. RA Dickey struck out Greenberg on three pitches in his highly publicized at bat … and Dickey beat out Clayton Kershaw by one for the NL strikeout title (230-229).

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