The Winter Meetings are Over … What’s Next for the Cubs?

The Cubs made three additions to the roster during the recently completed Winter Meetings, agreed to terms with another prior to baseball’s annual event and Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer are not done with the big league roster.

Kyuji Fujikawa will be introduced at a press conference at 11:30am CST on Friday at Wrigley Field. With the additions of Fujikawa and Hector Rondon, this year’s Rule 5 Draft pick, the Cubs’ 40-man roster will stand at 39 players. The Cubs will have to open up at least one spot to add both Nate Schierholtz and Ian Stewart to the 40-man roster.

The Cubs feel Rondon is finally healthy after dealing with injuries for the most part of the last three years. Rondon is expected to contribute out of the pen next season.

The Cubs are still looking to add to the pitching staff, both reliever and starters. They would like to add a right-handed hitting utility infielder to the mix and more depth in the outfield. The Cubs are waiting for Jason Grilli to make a decision on where he is going to pitch next year … and the Cubs have an offer on the table to Brandon McCarthy according to a report from ESPN Chicago.

Jed Hoyer on MLB Network Radio
Jed Hoyer spoke with Inside Pitch (MLB Network Radio/XM Radio) shortly after Thursday’s Rule 5 Draft. After exchanging pleasantries and holiday greetings with Casey Stern, Jim Bowden and Jim Duquette, the Cubs’ GM discussed a variety of topics with the guys.

Jim Bowden: Well you’ve done some shopping before you even got here. Scott Baker, Scott Feldman while you’ve been here you got Nate Schierholtz. Congratulations on all three. How do you balance the trying to get the big league team a little more competitive while you are waiting for the development of the scouting plan to go? How important is it to maybe sign a few free agents that maybe in July you can move to get more prospects? Can you kind of go through that element?

Jed Hoyer: Yea, you actually framed it up pretty well. I mean, first of all I do think in this game you want to give yourself a puncher’s chance. You know I look at and the way people always talk about it, last year Oakland, Baltimore and I don’t think either one of those teams sat here at the Winter Meetings and thought they were going to be in the playoffs. In 2010 with the Padres no one thought we were going to compete and we did so, I do think that things happen and if you put together a roster that doesn’t have holes and has some depth. You know and if that team gels correctly you can win. So, I do think you never want to give away that. I think we’ve been really clear about is that we are not going to make moves now that we think may hinder us in the future. So if we can make some shorter term deals and maybe they do end up netting us something like Paul Maholm did last year. There will be a time in the future that’s not our focus but for right now we just need to build up our assets and build up our farm system and get to that place. We have teams in our division like the Cardinals that are there. They’ve got their depth, they’ve got their pitching and they are a fully mature organization and that’s where we need to get to. We cannot do it over night. But in the meantime we want to try to be as competitive as we can and also take chances on some guys that have some upside. It doesn’t do us a lot of good to get guys that have no upside who are older veterans and you know exactly what you are going to get. We like to take our shots on guys that if things click, they might actually have some upside left and end up being a part of our future.

Jim Duquette: Is pitching still a priority for you? You signed a couple of guys. Do you expect to have anything here in the next couple of days? Or is still going to take some time you think?

Jed Hoyer: Yea, we are still after pitching, both starting and relieving. We go into the year and we’ve got [Matt] Garza and [Scott] Baker and [Arodys] Vizcaino, all of those guys have some health issues so having some more depth in Spring Training is important. Last year, we put Dale [Sveum] in a really tough spot with our bullpen. We weren’t deep. He had to really over use guys like [James] Russell and [Shawn] Camp and stuff like that. So building a lot of depth in the bullpen is important for us because it’s a long summer when the manager has to constantly shuffle guys in and out.

Casey Stern: Jed, talk about the outfield. Nate starts in right or at least looks to be the Opening Day guy. DeJesus moves to center? How does that mix go in the outfield?

Jed Hoyer: I can’t, can’t quite comment on that yet. But …

Casey Stern: Let me ask, could there be a player maybe?

Jed Hoyer: David gives us nice versatility because he can play centerfield. We can move him around. So yea, we have the ability to just find good players that is our goal. So we can play David in right. We can play David in center. It’s nice to have that kind of versatility. That’s one nice thing with the centerfield in Wrigley. It is a little small, smaller than most. The gaps are pinched so if we were playing in AT&T Park we wouldn’t have that luxury but we can do that a little bit more in Wrigley.

Jim Bowden: Now, let’s do some GM talk here. You know what it takes to win a championship. You did it in Boston. So let’s talk a little bit about what you have getting towards that goal. You’ve got Rizzo, you’ve got Barney, you’ve got Castro, you’ve got Samardzija. What else do you have in the big leagues and in the minor leagues we can sit there and go okay, here’s seven or eight core guys that we are building around and we are going to keep adding to this group.

Jed Hoyer: That’s a good question. We are hoping Vizcaino can develop into that kind of guy. He’s obviously coming off injury so there is a little risk. But we think he can develop into that kind of guy. We are really excited about guys in the minor leagues like Soler. We think he has a chance to be a big time power bat. Javy Baez certainly excited a lot of people. Albert Almora, our first round pick, we are excited about. We have a lot of other guys in our system that we think have the chance to make that leap. Our challenge right now is that on the pitching side in the minor leagues we are starting to get some good arms in the lower levels but our Double-A, Triple-A starting pitching isn’t where it needs to be. Like I said, I look at the Cardinals and they are running guys like Rosenthal up there and Shelby Miller and Joe Kelly and those guys. That’s a challenge for us because we do not have those kinds of arms right now. That’s what we need to develop. I think that we’ll have the bats there with those young guys in the minor league and we’ll have some money to spend in free agency. We’ve got to get to the point where we have those kinds of arms coming out of the system and that’s really the gap. The offense with the guys in the big leagues will be solid and that’s the place we need to improve.

Jim Duquette: Jed, what is realistic? We know that the fan base can be impatient there in Chicago but you guys have come in and been pretty clear on the timeframe at least where early on it’s going to be painful. What do you think is realistic in terms of getting this thing going in the right direction?

Jed Hoyer: I think we have to move the ball forward every year. I think that once the fans see that and once they see that is the plan. They see what Jim is asking me, they will have more patience. I think obviously last year was difficult. You never want to lose 100 games. We sit there all winter trying to put together a team that can have upside but at the same time can achieve on the field. The fans have been really patient and understanding. We want to reward that patience as soon as possible. It’s hard to put timetables on it but I think that with every year we feel like we have a lot more talent. I think it happens fast. I think I look at what happened in Washington. They are a great blueprint. They struggled for a few years. When they started ticking up it wasn’t right away then bang. It happened. You go back to when you were there. You were mapping it out and you might not have put a year on it but certainly what happened is the way you hoped. That is when it happens it goes quickly.

Jim Bowden: The other thing to just to follow up on that. Fans don’t always understand is that when you are losing like you are losing and Stan Kastens taught me that. And it did work because he kept saying we can put competitive teams on the field and finish .500 then we are never going to win championships. He kept saying when we drafted Chipper Jones, we drafted at the top, that’s how you do it. So to me, I look at you guys going okay, keep losing, and I don’t mean that in a mean way, keep losing four years in a row get top six in the country for that period of time with the scouts that you have you will be able to get the Strasburgs and the Harpers and all of the sudden it hits in one year.

Jed Hoyer: Yea, it is a difficult thing because you are competitive. You want to win every single game. You know you are right about finishing in the middle. You want to have that year that Oakland and Baltimore type-year where you win. But what is scary is when you keep picking 15-20 over and over it is very difficult. So you want to be picking at the end. You always want to put together a team that can win but at the same time, you are right, you get stuck in the middle. Washington is not where they are right now without Harper and Strasburg, no question.

Casey Stern: We’ve seen a lot of money get tossed around and outfielders are getting a lot. Pagan, four years, Victorino intense money. Swisher is going to get four years. So you’ve got a guy in Soriano that obviously is a very underrated teammate and people do not give him enough credit for what he does behind the scenes with younger players. He can still mash. Conversations at this point? Do you expect to have more conversations as we head closer to Spring Training on him?

Jed Hoyer: Teams have asked us. Obviously they should. This guy went 30 and 100 last year and had a great year. Really worked hard on his defense. Dave McKay and Sori deserve credit. He got better defensively. Listen he helps us a lot. He can bat fourth for us and protect guys in and do a lot of good things for us. But yea in this market, the money in the market certainly led people to ask us about him here because it is hard to find power. It is hard to find talent.

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Quote of the Day

"Don’t ever permit the pressure to exceed the pleasure." - Joe Maddon