Day Two of the 2014 Cubs Convention: Meet Cubs Baseball Management

Meet Cubs Baseball Management was next up on Saturday with Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer, Rick Renteria and assistant general managers Randy Bush and Shiraz Rehman.

Theo Epstein stated during the session the Cubs are not done adding players to the roster this off-season. The Cubs are “always looking to add impact players at the right age.” The Cubs held back spending some of their budget this winter in case an opportunity presents itself to add impact talent. The front office will likely be able to rollover the earmarked payroll to next off-season if they are unable to use it this year.

While the Cubs could not directly comment on Masahiro Tanaka, it was implied Tanaka was the player being discussed.

The Cubs will announce the full list non-roster invites to Spring Training soon. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer said all but three of the players not on the 40-man roster that were in Chicago for the Rookie Development Program will receive invitations. At least two of the three players will be starting pitchers. There is simply not enough work for the starters to prepare for the season if they are in big league camp. Epstein confirmed Kris Bryant and Albert Almora will be in Major League Spring Training along with Javier Baez.

Meet Cubs Baseball Management

WGN Radio’s Steve Cochran and Andrea Darlas hosted the event and asked more questions than the audience. Rick Renteria is “totally excited” about Spring Training being right around the corner. And on a side note, Renteria was not seen without a smile on his face over the last two days.

Randy Bush has been around the organization longer than anyone else in the front office. Bush explained it is an exciting time for the Cubs right now. The Cubs are building the vision that Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer had when they took over the team. Bush added in order to win championships, and not just win one year at a time, an organization has to be built this way.

Theo Epstein appreciates the support and the passion of the fans. The only way Epstein knows to make the fan base happy is to deliver consistent baseball in October. The Cubs have a vision of what they want to create and Jed Hoyer realizes that being patience with the process has been a challenge.

The front office has done their best to be transparent over the last two-plus years. Hoyer hopes they have been transparent enough so the fans understand what they are attempting to do. “We are not trying to catch lighting in a bottle,” Hoyer explained. And the only way to make up for what the Cubs are going through right now is to have a “magical run.”

Steve Cochran asked how they planned to address the regression Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo and Darwin Barney had last year under Dale Sveum. It is important for the Cubs to create the best possible environment for their young players. They must have a “support network” in place. There are a lot of prospects on their way to the majors and their development will not stop just because they are Major League Baseball players. The Cubs are “going to be youth-centric.”

Other teams were interested in hiring Rick Renteria. The Cubs had to step up their pursuit of him. Renteria wanted to be the Cubs’ manager. Renteria wants to work with young players, or his kids, as Renteria refers to his players.

Jed Hoyer addressed the PED question and said the game will never be 100 percent clean. There is not one sport that is. The declining stats throughout the league are pointing to baseball getting clean from performance enhancing drugs. Hoyer explained there is a steady decline and they have noticed the trend due to comparing their players with the league averages. The steady decline, Hoyer said “dropping like a stone,” reaffirms the need for young players. Simply said, the young players have more power.

A seemingly new trend in the league is teams including opt out clauses in long-term contracts, instead of no-trade clauses. The Cubs continue to evaluate the value of an opt-out clause. It is tough to give because if the player is performing well the team might lose him. The team also has to weigh the probability of him staying if he is underperforming. Shiraz Rehman said for now the best way to evaluate opt-out clauses is on a case by case basis and not to have a blanketed stance on not including them in contracts.

The Cubs “are always looking to add impact young players at the right age.”And Theo Epstein said the Cubs are not done adding players to the roster this off-season. The Cubs have “held back funds” this winter in case the opportunity presents itself for them to add young, impact talent. If the front office is not able to use the earmarked money this off-season they will likely be able to roll it into next winter and spend it then.

Epstein and Hoyer were asked about Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters. Epstein was quick to respond on Jackson and said their manager wanted him brought up to the majors so he could work with him on his swing. Epstein admitted they made a mistake promoting Jackson when they did. Josh Vitters is going to play left field this season. The Cubs are hoping he can make the switch to the outfield, stay healthy and contribute to the big league club.

Steve Cochran asked Epstein and Hoyer if the Cubs’ job has turned out harder than they initially thought it would be. Both indicated it is what they thought it would be. They knew what they were getting into.

“Sometimes when you take on a challenge you know you are going to wear it and be unpopular,” Epstein said. “We are not going to stray from our vision. We are going to deliver.”

Theo Epstein is hoping the Cubs will be able to have their new clubhouse and workout facilities at Wrigley Field completed by Opening Day of the 2015 season. The construction would not begin until next off-season. Jed Hoyer brought up how cold it was this past week in Wrigley’s clubhouse. Wrigley is great to watch a game at but the players’ facilities are bad.

A fan asked Epstein why he should spend his hard earned money to go see the Cubs. Epstein said he will never tell anyone how to spend their money. They are not proud of the product on the field but they are sticking to the vision. They are working hard on the big league team but to be quite honest about it, the odds are not good the team is going to win this year according to Epstein.

Theo Epstein promised once again he and his staff will do their best to pay everyone back for their patience. The Cubs are not going to stray from their plan.

Chet Coppock jumped on a microphone and asked Epstein about the report that is running in Sunday’s Sun-Times concerning the Cubs’ finances. Coppock asked if he was worried his check was going to bounce.

Theo Epstein was quick to point out he and his staff have the same faith in the Ricketts family they did when they took the job. The family knows they are going to own the team for a long time and are willing to take the hit in the media because they want to build a winner. “They are in this for the long haul, Epstein said. They are giving us the opportunity to build a foundation for a winning team.”

Up NextScouting and Player Development with Jason McLeod, Joe Bohringer, Jaron Madison and Matt Dorey


2014 Cubs Convention Reports

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Quote of the Day

"If a baseball could talk, it would sound like Ron Santo." – Pat Hughes - Remembering Ron Santo #10 (1940-2010)

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  • SuzyS

    Neil, Once again, thanks for your extremely comprehensive reports.
    I’ve thought for a long time that the Cubs lack of action over this off season was due directly to their intent to truly compete with the “big boys” for Tanaka.
    Now that we are on the cusp of an outcome, I’m ambivalent about whether I want the Cubs to land him or not.
    He’s such a huge investment. I’m starting to think like cubtex, lol…not sure if that is good or bad:-)

    • Tony_Hall

      Tanaka can never live up to his contract he will sign. Think of it like when the Nationals signed Jayson Werth for way over market. He helped them as a player, but not enough to cover his pay on the field. But it moved them closer to being a playoff contending team.

      • GaryLeeT

        Werth finally did earn his money last year. His .931 OPS was the 6th best in baseball.

        • Tony_Hall

          3 years and only 360 games and a line of 277/367/450/817 for his $40M. Not too bad when shopping at the FA window. I watched the game where he rolled his glove hand diving for a catch. He was also on my fantasy team, and I immediately went to look for a new OF.


          He has 4 years $83M left for his age 35-38 years. That is the price they are going to pay for making the move.

          The good thing about Tanaka is a 7 year deal will cover his 25-31 year old years. So rare that a player, let alone a pitcher of his caliber is available on FA at this age.

      • Brp921

        I have at times been critical of this Front Office, but I think the Cubs finally will have the offensive side of the team going toward the end of this year, with the talent coming up. By 2015 we could contend if we have some pitching. That is why I’m OK with overpaying Tanaka, if we can get him. It is my hope that he can pitch well and Samardziga then signs and becomes the pitcher we all hope he can be. That would give us two decent pitchers at the top of the rotation, with guys like Wood, Jackson, Arietta and possibly a couple more decent pitchers behind them. That team would look pretty good compared to what we’ve seen the last few years. I think we’re seeing the beginning of the plan come together.

        • Tony_Hall

          Yes it can come together fast.

  • SuzyS

    BTW…Dorasaga, you’re absolutely right about Caverretta…He should have been honored at this convention.

    • Dorasaga

      Indeed. Wrigley-100, and nothing about the three World Series played there with Cavarretta? I hope the Cubs at least mentions him with Andy Pafko, RIP.

      Phil Cavarretta was the ninth MOST VALUABLE Cubs position player between 1920 and 1968*, according to Fangraphs career w.a.r.

      Phil was right after Billy Williams and Hack Wilson. He was above Woody English.

      Pafko was 12th on this list, above Hank Sauer.

      *After the ban of spitball, or “Live Ball Era,” and before the multi-series installed as “postseason.” League started to have divisions. Before 1969, only World Series was played. I think the system changed too much during Dead Ball Era and the newer division-rival thing. Teams were built for those purposes. 1920 was year-four of the Cubs calling Wrigley Field home.

      • paulcatanese

        As I have said before, observing both players on and off the field, they both deserve more than they have received from the Cubs. Much harder since they played years ago and a lot of fans don’t know what they were about, but it’s up to the FO to show just that, instead of the constant re-runs that they put out there from the not too distant past.

        • Dorasaga

          I concur. Reruns and reruns… they might as well do the same thing for Wrigley 110 and Wrigley 120 and Wrigley 150… But what really drives me nuts! — I would assume that if any Cubs top management, as statistical and objective as they’ve been, actually spent 5 minutes on a Sunday afternoon to go through those numbers, he’ll see the value.

          Imagine if the Redsox forgot about Carl Yaz and Luis Tiant just because they are too long time ago, and not piling up the stats to be Top 5? Tiant isn’t even in the Hall of Fame, but played only a few games for the Sox? Yet, they invited him to events and World Series.

          Wouldn’t it be nice that the Cubs shall bring together the close friends and relatives of Cavarretta, Pafko, Sauer, and Hack Wilson (191 RBI, a World historical record), recount their stories, throw in some memorabilia? But of course they won’t. They forgot what it’s like to actually own legacies and history of the league.

          That’s why, the Cubs will stay inferior, both in honor and substance, in front of the Yankees and Sox.

          • Tony_Hall

            D – I love your passion for this subject. I can say I know very little about the Cubs from that era. Looking up Cavaretta, I guess I must be missing something though, as he was 3 time All-Star, MVP 1945 and a career line of 293/372/416 sounds great today, but not so sure it was great in this time frame. He had a couple of great years (age 27-29) surrounded by many years of being a good starter on a team.

            As a Cub he has the 18th best WAR at 33.8

            2. Santo 72.2
            4. Banks 67.6
            5. Williams 61.8
            18. Cavaretta 33.8

            Once again, I love your passion for this player and time frame. But I must be missing something as to why? If it was because it was the last team to play in a World Series, ok, but way more people today, relate to the 69, 84, 89, 98, 03 Cubs then 45.

          • Dorasaga

            Can you find a better player for the Cubs to represent the Glory Days of 1930s and 1940s, repeated appearances at World Series? This reason alone is enough.

            I brought up the glory of Beantowne. Another comparison–The Cardinals made Stan Musial one of the many representative figures of their legendary 40s and 30s. He was best remembered, but any diehard Card fan can recount the players and events of those eras. You think age and time make a difference? It does! The longer it was, the better it proves how relevant it is to us.

            The Cubs are what they are with all the years went by. I especially believe it’s important to remember what a powerhouse this franchise was before the 50s and 60s.

            I see you have doubt and did not consider the historical content. I’ve said this many times before. He was an innovator and a winner. Phil was the first manager to mandatorily play batting helmet for the whole team. When he was a player, he went out to the bleachers and removed the center field seats that interfered batting sight. He knows his baseball, and he was a fireball.

            This is the kind of legend that the Cubs have lacked for many years. It’s like Peter Pan and Lord Nelson. Age matters. We understand our present and know our future based on where we came from. So should the Cubs.

          • Tony_Hall

            Those Cardinal teams won multiple World Series that is why their fans know about those teams.

            When Cub fans think of older teams, that is the reason Tinkers to Evers to Chance is remembered and why Three Finger Brown is well known. They won.

            I have read all your posts on Cavaretta and this era.

          • Dorasaga

            Yes, it’s easier to remember players who won the Series. I admit, I might have a losing cause for honoring Phil Cavarretta and Andy Pafko. I’m counting Hack Wilson and a few others as well. For the business side of baseball, it’s much easier to sell and market the overrated than the underrated, just because of many reasons such as not winning the Series*.

            *I also found it easier to group 1920-1968 for future studies. Many players we remember today benefited with fame from the prolonged postseason games, accumulated stats playing division parity, and many factors that shaped a very different baseball environment since 1969.

            What’s important: Recognize the era they represented. A time of sustained success. A time when winning actually mattered to the Cubs.

  • CubbyDenCritic

    I will bet that Hoyer will not be at the next Cubs Convention……..scapegoat for Theo…………lets hope that Rizzo can save Jed’s job with a great season…….but deep down in my heart, I know Vogelbach’s name will come up by July.

    • Tony_Hall

      I’ll take that bet!

  • CubbyDenCritic

    From Carrie Muskat…….”According to Nikkan Sports, five teams made formal offers to Masahiro Tanaka, including the Cubs and White Sox. Also submitting bids were the Yankees, Dodgers and Diamondbacks. All of the bids were believed to be more than $100 million and over six years.”

  • GaryLeeT

    Love him or hate him, It’s hard not to admire Theo’s confidence in his abilities.

  • Pingback: Cubs Reportedly Make Formal Offer to Masahiro Tanaka - Chicago Cubs Online()

  • Tony_Hall

    They keep telling us what they are doing. Think of this like when someone tells you how they make sausage. Until you see it for yourself, you truly don’t get how it actually is made.