Day Two of the 2013 Cubs Convention … Meet the Cubs Baseball Management

The second session on Saturday was ‘Meet the Cubs Baseball Management’ featuring Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer, Dale Sveum and assistant general managers Randy Bush and Shiraz Rehman. The session was chalked full of information, including the latest on the signing of Carlos Villanueva.

Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer were once again very transparent with their answers and Dale Sveum showed a lot more confidence as he prepares for his second season as the Cubs’ skipper. The Cubs’ front office did not dodge a single question and shared info on the reported deals that did not happen.

Meet the Cubs Baseball Management

Dave Eanet began the session by asking Theo Epstein how his perspective about the organization has changed since taking over baseball operations a year ago. Epstein said he has been able to learn the players, the personnel and the organization from top to bottom as well as the expectations of the fan base. Epstein feels very lucky to be with the Cubs and to take on the challenge of delivering a winner. Jed Hoyer added that they were not going to stop until they are able to deliver a championship.

One of the first questions poised to Epstein was about Terry Francona’s book and what Epstein said about the Red Sox. Epstein did not want to be a part of the book when he was first asked but Francona pushed and Epstein gave in. Theo said he has a lot of respect for the Red Sox and feels that respect is mutual but what happened in Boston is in the past. Epstein did say he is looking forward to reading the book when it comes out.

The panel was then asked about what happened with “botched” trades with the Braves, Diamondbacks and agreeing to terms with Anibal Sanchez. Jed Hoyer fielded the question and admitted they have to do a better job of keeping things out of the media but in their defense nothing was “botched” because the deals were never finalized. Hoyer pointed out that if a deal falls through when buying a house because the house did not pass inspection or something else went wrong, no one ever uses the word “botched”. The deal just simply did not happen, why is this any different? Nothing was botched the deals were never finalized.

The Cubs had a deal in place with the Braves for Ryan Dempster 8-10 days before the trade deadline. Dempster decided that he did not want to go to Atlanta after the two teams had agreed in principal to the trade. Dempster exercised his no-trade rights because he wanted to go to Los Angeles to pitch for the Dodgers. As for the rumors that Dempster was in Hoyer’s office while Jed was on the phone with Ned Colletti, those reports were inaccurate. Dempster was nearby because they were trying to find a place for him quickly and due to time restraints, he had to be accessible in order to approve a trade if the Cubs found a deal that they could live with.

As for the Carlos Marmol for Dan Haren trade, nothing was finalized between the Angels and Cubs before the deal leaked. Hoyer called the situation “frustrating” and the same for Anibal Sanchez. When news leaked on Twitter about the Cubs agreeing to terms with Sanchez, Hoyer saw the reports while he was talking to Edwin Jackson in California and knew those reports were inaccurate.

Shiraz Rehman said that they are still working through details with Carlos Villanueva and that signing should be made official in a few days.

Theo Epstein described ‘The Cubs Way’ as a doctrine. There are several hundred pages of details and terminology of how the Cubs’ front office wants the game to be taught in the minors and the terminology they want used. Epstein stressed that if they want the players to know it [The Cubs Way] then they had to document it.

The panel was asked about Alfonso Soriano and his future with the team. Randy Bush was quick to point out that Soriano is one of his favorite players. No one wants to win more than Soriano according to Randy Bush and both Theo and Jed have a much different perception of Soriano than they did a year ago. Soriano brings leadership to the clubhouse and everyone respects what he brings to the team.

Another leader in the clubhouse is apparently Anthony Rizzo. Dale Sveum did not say Rizzo is a leader in those exact words but alluded to it and pointed out that players look up to him. Sveum added about Soriano that they need him on the team all year long if they are going to be successful.

Hoyer said that Darwin Barney is in the Cubs’ long-term plans and they feel he has an upside offensively.

As for third base, the Cubs plan on Ian Stewart manning the hot corner but as Sveum put it, “Ian has to step up this year.”

The panel was asked about what happened with the agreement with the Peoria Chiefs. The same gentleman poised the question to Tom Ricketts earlier and followed Tom’s advice and asked the baseball operations staff. During the Ricketts family forum, Tom did say that he felt the Cubs handled the situation better than it was reported in the media. Hoyer acknowledged that Peoria was a terrific affiliate for the Cubs for many years but they needed one closer than Peoria. The Cubs plan on using Kane County for rehab assignments for their Major League players plus the players are able to learn firsthand about the market they will be playing in once they make it to the majors. The Cubs decision to move from Peoria to Kane County had nothing to do with Peoria and their long history with the Cubs but it was more out of necessity for the organization moving forward.

Theo Epstein is hoping that this June is the last time the Cubs pick second in the amateur draft. When asked if they would be taking a pitcher with the second pick, Epstein reiterated, ”We are going to take the best player available.” Selecting a position player in the first couple rounds of a draft has been proven to be more successful than taking a pitcher. Epstein stressed that if the Cubs do not select a pitcher with the second pick or even in the second round, they would not neglect their need to add pitching to the organization in June’s draft.

As for all of the shortstops in the Cubs’ system, Shiraz Rehman correctly pointed out it is a good problem to have. The Cubs expect great things out of Starlin Castro and they will deal with the problem of having too many shortstops when they have to. They are planning to keep players at their current positions as long as possible without moving them. The Cubs are very excited about Javier Baez’s “special bat speed” and feel Junior Lake is a toolsy player that needs more time in the minors. They are glad that the talented Junior Lake has had the opportunity to move around and play other positions in winter ball.

Theo Epstein pointed out that the Cubs have basically built an entire pro scouting department over the last year from scratch. There has been a lot of change but he feels they have the right people in place now. It just takes time and he wishes they could have five drafts … right now. The Cubs are going to draft a player they feel they will be able to sign. Epstein does not feel that would be a problem with the resources they have but they must be careful due to the restrictions that now exist in the draft.

The changes made with the draft and in international signings have made building volume difficult according to Jed Hoyer and the new restrictions slow down the rebuilding process.

Hoyer was then asked about what he thought about the Cubs’ clubhouse at Wrigley the first time he saw it. Hoyer said the shortcomings at Wrigley are remarkable and it is quite shocking when you walk in there for the first time. Hoyer indicated the clubhouse at Wrigley is comparable to those found at the Double-A level and that the Cubs deserve a A-plus facility.

Dale Sveum was asked about Brett Jackson and the progress he has made with his swing this winter. Sveum pointed out that Jackson has made drastic changes, similar to the ones Anthony Rizzo made a year ago. Sveum is looking forward to seeing how Jackson has improved since he last saw him in November. Sveum feels last year was good for Jackson because he kinda hit rock bottom and now they get to find out he responds.

As for the timeframe for the big league club to complete, Epstein thanked the fans for their patience and said how important it is to have the support. Sometimes organizations are not able to follow through with a plan due to outside pressures then they end up deviating and it ends up not working. The Cubs’ front office realizes that one paper they are going into a season as not one of the teams that will be picked to make the playoffs. The organization did take steps forward last year and will again this year. Epstein pointed out that they have two of the top players in the game under the age of 25 (Castro and Rizzo) and they feel the pitching that was added in the off-season will pay dividends right away.

Epstein admitted that he went the long way around to answer the timeframe question but the plan is to build in 2013, start bringing up from the system in 2014 and by 2015 the Cubs should not just be talking about October but making plans for October.

Notes from Meet the Cubs Baseball Management Session

  • Randy Bush said Nick Struck is one of the pitchers in the Cubs’ system to keep an eye on this year.
  • Jed Hoyer pointed out that there is very interesting work going on in baseball on quantifying defense.
  • Jed Hoyer said the Cubs are still looking to add outfield depth before the season.

Recaps from the From Draft Day to the Big Leagues, Dale Sveum and the Coaching Staff and Wrigley Field Restoration sessions will be posted soon.

2013 Cubs Convention Recaps

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Quote of the Day

"From what we get, we can make a living; what we give, however, makes a life." – Arthur Ashe