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

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2014 Cubs Convention Reports

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Quote of the Day

"People who write about Spring Training not being necessary have never tried to throw a baseball." – Sandy Koufax