Theo Epstein Talks Cubs on Boston’s WEEI

Theo Epstein joined Rob Bradford and Alex Speier during last Thursday’s Hot Stove Show on WEEI. The Cubs President of Baseball Operations talked about the Red Sox latest championship, the challenge of building the Cubs system and when the right time is to sign a player to a long-term extension. Plus, Epstein admitted during the interview that he tried to trade for RHP Junichi Tazawa since he took over the Cubs while Tazawa was out recovering from Tommy John surgery, but Ben Cherington would not deal the right hander.

Theo Epstein covered a lot of topics in what ended up being close to a 30-minute interview on Boston’s WEEI.

This is not a full transcript of the interview with Theo Epstein on WEEI. The first several minutes of the interview was spent discussing the Red Sox latest World Series Championship, the relationships Theo Epstein still has with the Red Sox front office and the players he brought into the organization that helped the Sox win their third crown in the ten years. The full audio of Theo Epstein’s interview with Rob Bradford and Alex Speier can be heard by clicking here.

WEEI: Well that is obviously the idea with developing homegrown talent, developing young players into future regulars of a championship caliber team is kind of central of what you are trying to accomplish in Chicago right now. Where do you feel like you guys are in terms of what you inherited which was a significant building project? This has been an off-season that last year you identified some building blocks. You signed guys like Rizzo, like Starlin Castro to long term deals. And then of course you have to have the transition, the managerial transition after the season. Where are you guys in terms of building the foundation for what you believe will be sustained success?

Theo Epstein: Well, I think you have to separate each category out as far as the infrastructure and where we are with our scouting department and our player development department. I really like where we are. We brought over a lot of the processes that we had instilled in over a decade in Boston. And since the game is always changing we tried to improve on them as well so we don’t fall behind. Brought in some people, kept some people and it is really hard to get your processes running full speed, especially with the draft. We really try to run a thorough department where we focus on the currency of the draft which is information and digging deep in statistical and scouting and medical and make-up information. That is something that, you know, took a few years to get up and rolling in Boston and I think you have a really competitive advantage once you have a process that works and people that buy in and you go out and apply it every year and you refine it and you have a lot of good drafts that way. It doesn’t happen overnight so it took us a year to really transition and now we really feel like we are rolling in that department, same with player development. We were lucky enough to bring in Brandon Hyde as our field coordinator the first year. He became our director of player development for a couple of years and now he is actually our bench coach and he brought in a good team of coordinators with him. Jaron Madison is now the farm director. So, just really good people. In player development we’ve got our player plan system up and running. We wrote the Cubs Way manual, pilfered a little bit from the Red Sox Way …

[All laughs]

TE: … And changed it a little bit for the National League. So those departments I feel really good about and I rest easy at night. I think we’ve had a couple of good drafts. Almora, Pierce Johnson and some quality pitchers the first year and then the second year highlighted by Kris Bryant and then a slew of college pitching. And our system I think has reflected that and in addition to the aggressive international signings that we’ve made, we’ve gone from a system that wasn’t very well thought of to one that’s, I think pretty clearly a top five system in all of baseball and we’ve been ranked as high as second in some publications. We have some impact position player talent coming. We need to get a lot deeper with pitching. And clearly those results have not manifested yet at the big league level. So we are two years into a building project that is probably going to take a longer time than that, but I think there is plenty of momentum internally and plenty of momentum in the farm system. Our job is to make sure that the transition with those players to the big league level goes smoothly and that we accumulate as much talent as possible at the big league level so that when we are ready to make a run we can sustain it for a long period of time.

WEEI: Theo Epstein, president of the baseball operations for the Cubs is joining us. Theo before we get into something you mentioned about the challenges of building a starting rotation, you also talked about the evolution of baseball and how you are going to have to adjust on the fly. In the years since you’ve been in Chicago, what has been the biggest challenge for you because of the way things have changed?

TE: I think the biggest challenge is really the change to the CBA. You can’t really choose how much you want to emphasize the draft anymore. In Boston we decided that is was going to be fundamental to our approach that in order to win a World Series we needed to develop homegrown players. In order to develop homegrown players we wanted to shift as many of our resources as we could to the draft. Not only scouting resources and our time and our attention but to a certain extent, the extent the rules permitted, dollars, and draft prospects. And so we let free agents walk after the ’04 World Series. We let Pedro and Lowe and Cabrera walk. And we used those picks to sign the Ellsburys and Buchholtzs of the world. And then you made a trade for Victor Martinez knowing that yeah you are going to get a year and a half of production from him and help us get to the post season hopefully and then we are going to let him walk. I think we got Henry Owens and Matt Barnes for Victor. So that was just a fundamental part of the approach. It was a strategy. It was pretty important to how we built the organization. Then we also gambled on later round players and gave them first and second round money. And that was a significant help to building the organization as well. Then we obviously worked really hard on our scouting process and the scouts that we brought in and how we were going to evaluate talent. That played a huge part of it. You can’t just put resources in without having great scouting acumen. I thought frankly we did all of that well and that was probably the single most important thing we did to put us in a good position to have good success for a long period of time. And now, you can’t really develop a strategy around accumulating draft picks. Sure you might have someone in a given year you can make a qualifying offer to. In the case of the Red Sox and Yankees maybe a couple, multiple players you can make qualifying offers to and get picks that way. But you only get one pick you don’t get two anymore. The scope of players who can receive compensation is much more limited and most mid-market teams and below will very rarely, if ever, will have compensatory picks for leaving free agents now. So that’s just something you can’t factor in and obviously you can’t overpay players in later rounds anymore unless you really go for a bargain with your first round pick. So that’s just really changed the game. You can still, quote-unquote, dominate the draft and make an impact in the draft the way we used to try to, but it’s on a much smaller scale. I think the days of getting like Barnes, Swihart, Owens, Bradley with your first four picks, like we did in 2011, those days are probably gone and you just have to make do with one or two picks like that in a given year instead of going for the whole bounty.

WEEI: With regards to the kind of scarcity of, you know, the possibility of building through the draft it seems like that’s had considerable impact, in terms of the market, for veteran players, from my vantage point certainly. You said that you have had struggles in order to build the rotation part of what you have going forward. You guys were very publicly connected to Tanaka in his posting case. Were you surprised by where the Tanaka market ended up? And to you, what does the fact that he ended up signing that contract, functionally a seven-year, $175 million contract, or at least team commitment to him, say to you about how valuable pitching has become? How scarce it has become?

TE: Well, I think it is actually, probably in practical terms even a bigger contract because if you factor in the impact on the CBT tax that the Yankees will have to pay going forward now, if indeed Tanaka was the player to push them over it for this year and therefore a higher rate in subsequent years. I can’t say I’m surprised because to answer your question it just reflects the dynamic that there are many, many teams with lots and lots of dollars to spend and very few places to spend them. A very few players that represent sound investments for the dollars. I think anytime in this market that you find a player who will be in his prime years, or pre-prime years, or close to his prime years and has been healthy and has sort of recognized tools and has a track record, in this case not even a track record in the Major Leagues, but a track record that you can point to, that player is going to draw significant interest and probably get more than is expected just because the supply and demand dynamic dictates it. There are lots of teams demanding talented, prime-aged players and the supply is really a trickle because fewer and fewer players of that ilk are reaching free agency. It’s pretty rare that you find a player, maybe one player a year like that through the posting system. Maybe one through Cuban free agency that was a player that qualifies to be outside of the international spending pool and that is about it. So you are going to see these prices that cause people to shake heads. You still have to justify it, it still has to fit your long-term payroll plan, but because of the TV deals, the teams that have them, have a lot of money and not a lot of players, attractive players, to spend the money on.

WEEI: How much pressure does that put on an organization to make long-term commitments to young players, maybe even young pitchers, earlier than might have been the case in the past? Or is that decision making process the same as it was for you for instance with guys like Castro and Rizzo and your efforts to talk at various points long-term with Samardzija? Is the impetus to do so the same as it was when you went through the kind of slew of early career deals with the likes of Lester and Buchholtz and Pedroia?

TE: I think there is a little more significance to wrapping up your players now with a little bit more urgency. But it is not as transformative as it is in the draft. It just means you cannot miss in the draft now. Because it’s really the acquisition and development of everyday players and hopefully impact players that dictate your fate now. Whether you take a player that you develop, year by year and have them for six and in most cases six and a half to seven years and then let them go or you wrap them up and buy some of their prime years in early free agency that way and extend the window. Either way, that’s what your ability to do that and your ability to do that consistently over time will dictate the success of your franchise. Whether you choose to wrap up a guy here or there or let a guy walk here or there, those decisions are important but there are two kinds of organizations. The kind that can consistently produce young players through the draft and international market and the kinds that can’t. And the kinds that can’t will have to be extraordinarily good in professional scouting and extraordinarily good in trades and extraordinarily good, slash lucky, in free agency in order to have any kind of sustained success.

WEEI: You know Theo, Jon Lester was here last week and he talked about maybe taking a hometown discount and I know that’s a relative term, but in general terms when you’re dealing with a player and you’re dealing with a player’s agent. How much of it in your experience is the player driving the agent or the agent driving the player? Or does it just depend? Because people in the public just see it as the player should be running the show and if he wants a hometown discount then he’s going to take it. What’s that dynamic like in your experience?

TE: It is completely dependent on the player and in some cases dependent on the agent as well. But it just depends on a lot of factors. The player’s personality, the player’s history with the team with the agent, so you get all kinds. You get players that are very clearly running the show and making the decisions and the agent clearly works for the player and the player will identify the priorities and will say get a long-term deal done with this team. Or he will say put a condition on it and say if you can get really close to market value or really close to my free agent value, get a long-term deal done. Or he will say I want the most money and if we can get a long-term deal done that we feel good about, great. If not, we’ll go to free agency. And then there are other cases where players, in my experience at least observing it from a close proximity, there are the players who kind of don’t necessarily get that involved in it and just asks for their agent to update them when there is something important to talk about. With those players it is a little bit harder to get long-term deals done because you end up running it through the agent and the agent presents it to him and you are not sure necessarily how it is presented. I think it definitely to get the right long-term deal done with a homegrown player it definitely has to be bilateral. It’s really hard to just have a unilateral negotiation where you’re entirely chasing a player to make it happen because yes there’s security that counts and matters, that’s how those deals get done. But the lure of free agency is very attractive so if the player is passive through the process, he tends to just go year by year. It takes a player having some interest to make it happen as well.

WEEI: You know it’s fascinating because you go through your tenure in Boston and you really, seemingly timed out approaching guys at the right time. I go back to Beckett. He was down, I think you guys might have done that in the middle of 2006 when he was down and you approached him and he wanted to get a deal done. And you obviously approached Lester and Buchholtz and these other guys at really, really good times because you end up getting deals done. What is that conversation like within the front office? Do you look at guys and say, okay every guy is different as you said, but this is a good time to approach him because maybe their value is a little bit down? What’s that like because you did have great success in doing that?

TE: Yes, there are a lot of factors that go into it. Probably the threshold question, is this a core player or is this someone we really want to have part of what we have going on here for a long period of time. In the cases of players who are talented enough that we think they are going to be stars that can be a pretty obvious answer. But we also factor in, not just talent but makeup. Now that there is such a level playing field and it is harder and harder to just go out and acquire impact talent. You really want to make sure that your core players are team first guys and are pretty unselfish and are competitive and love the game and driven to win and good teammates. So, that’s a pretty big factor in the discussion as well. Then, even for players who are more role players it might be appropriate, given the specific situation with the contract to wrap them up, just to increase their value internally and potentially externally by having a contract that offers more control. So the threshold question is how valuable is this player to the franchise? How much to we want to wrap them up? And the second component really revolves around timing. In general buying low is a good thing. I think that if a player goes out and has a career year that’s normally not the time that you want to rush out and wrap him up to a deal. You might want to maybe wait until he’s having a season that’s more typical of his performance. Then if there is ever an instance where a player underperforms for any reason, it can be randomness, it can a non-chronic injury, there might be something going on in his life where there might be some circumstance that causes him to underperform. But if you believe in the player’s projection and you believe it’s better than his recent performance that’s always an attractive time to try to lock up a player as well. Just as, you know, agents always want to talk after a career year, teams usually want to talk after a down year. But, another factor is just the player’s age and timing and how you see the arc of their career and how you see them fitting into the roster construction of the club going forward. So, if you look at like Pedroia’s deal …

WEEI: … Signed after his MVP year, so good job buying low on him [all laughs] …

TE: … So I was going to use that as an example of not buying low. So he just won rookie of the year and then the subsequent year he won the MVP, so we weren’t buying low but we felt like once he had that much hardware and once got into the arbitration process it was going to add up. We knew he wanted to be here. From the day we drafted him we were all in on his make-up and we had become all in on his talent and we felt like if we could do a long deal it made sense. So getting him after his second season it didn’t make sense to do a shorter deal but if we could do a long deal that really bought out a couple of years of free agency and gave us a club option that made sense. Youkilis, a player we tied up a little bit later who we weren’t certain was going to have the world’s longest career, but was a top three, top five MVP guy for a couple of years in a row in his prime. We felt like we could get just the right window with him and that the timing of that contract ended up working out really well because if we hadn’t tied him up we probably would have had to re-sign him at free agent dollars …

WEEI: … At Jayson Werth money, right? That was that class …

TE: … Yes, you know and the Red Sox would still be paying him huge money now and now that his Major League career seems to maybe be over, or at least taken a pause as he goes to Japan. So, the timing of those deals worked out well. The Buchholtz deal it was really important for us to get a couple of club options. If you can ever do that with a pitcher it just extends the window just right. And with Jon Lester, he had interest in staying if we would do a fair deal. I think it made sense to do a deal that would give him another bite at the apple, but we extended his window and got a club option. So, it ended up setting up really well for the club and for the player and he’s going to, knock on wood, get his other bite at that apple with another healthy season this year, or maybe sooner. The timing of those deals is probably the biggest thing. At the time we stress over $500,000 here or $250,000 there and making sure it is just the right amount of years and getting those extra club options. And that stuff is important and I thought we did good deals for the most part. But in the end what matters is that you put the player in a position to perform because if he performs those deals are going to be good deals. Then as importantly you timed them right. You buy out as many prime years as you can. You get as many free agent years as makes sense and you get a club option. We established that policy. We would not do a deal with an arb or a pre-arb player without getting at least one free agent year and without getting at least one club option. That’s a policy that I took with me to the Cubs. I think it makes sense if you are going to give that kind of security, the club should get a benefit in return. I think that if you talk to the players that signed those deals, they don’t have regrets. They got security. They were paid well. They got to play where they wanted to play. And they were put in a position to perform. They worked their tails offs. They performed. They got to win championships and then they get another bite at the apple. So it was really a win-win.

WEEI: I will wrap up with this. Given the centrality of what we’ve discussed about acquisition of top amateur talent, in terms of team building, obviously this is an exciting time for you guys with the Cubs, in terms of the group of prospects that you have coming up and graduating to the upper levels. That said, how attentive are you to what some of the guys who you did bring into the Red Sox system who have yet to really make it into the Major Leagues? Bogaerts, having just scrapped the surface of course, but for instance with that insane class, draft class of 2011, or at least potentially insane draft class of 2011 with the Barnes, Swihart, Owens, Bradley group along with Mookie Betts or the Garin Cecchini of the world and the Xander Bogaerts of the world. How has that group developed relative to what your expectations were for it and how much do you follow what that kind of group of people to whom you were once fairly closely connected, at one point, are doing?

TE: I follow them really closely, probably with like equal parts admiration, pride and jealousy …

[All laughs]

TE:  I am really proud of what we built. As far as GMs go, I think I was pretty hands-on with how we built our scouting department and went out and saw the players. It was just a great decade. That was probably the most fun I had working on the draft was at the beginning and bringing in Jason McLeod and when Jason left promoting Amiel who has done a phenomenal job. So, yeah I’m proud of those players, and that last draft. Look, there was enough that went wrong in 2011. I think in time, it would be a wonderful thing for everybody if, maybe we’ll reach that day when people think of 2011, they think of that draft class, my last draft with the Red Sox. That would be nice, because it would mean great things for the Red Sox and it would mean that those players went on to have great careers that would maybe wipe some of the memory of September 2011 away for everybody and for myself, as if that hasn’t happened enough already with a lot of those same players helping to win a championship in ’13. But, yeah it was a great decade in the draft there, a great last draft and those players are performing really well and we see them up at the top of prospect rankings. I definitely root for them. I covet them here with the Cubs at times …

[All laughs]

TE: … But I wish them well. I think the Red Sox are just really well positioned because Ben has done a phenomenal job with the clubhouse mix and with the talent that he’s brought in. It’s probably the deepest system in baseball on the way with plenty of impact talent. They should be good for a long, long time. I think of the 50 players on the World Series rosters, I think there were something like 35 or 38 homegrown players between the Red Sox and Cardinals. Those two franchises are going to continue to excel. That’s really our model with the Cubs. We’re starting from the bottom of the well but we’re digging our way up. That’s where we want to be. We want to have a team with young players, pre-prime and prime age players, mainly homegrown, not that we won’t use players in trades and bring in talent from the outside, not that we won’t complement them with free agent signings from time to time, but we want to get to a point where we feel great about the roster, great about our farm system, great about our salary structure, great about the five- and 10-year outlook, and then you can have off-seasons like the Cardinals and Red Sox have had where you just operate from a position of strength and you get to pick and choose what you want to do because you have depth and redundancy at a lot of positions and those players that you referenced are going to be a big part of making that a reality for the Red Sox. They have great scouts and great leadership so they should continue that dynamic for a long time.

WEEI: Theo, thank you for joining us, we really appreciate it. I know that we all expect good things from the Cubs this year and I look forward to following you this year.

TE: Alright, sounds good guys. See you soon.

_____________________________________________________________________________

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  • Tony_Hall

    Great interview and as always, amazing job Neil on these transcripts.

    Very much worth the time to read, as it takes a good in-depth look at the way Theo looks at players and how to structure contracts.

    I think this part sums it up pretty well at the end.

    “I think of the 50 players on the World Series rosters, I think there were something like 35 or 38 homegrown players between the Red Sox and Cardinals. Those two franchises are going to continue to excel.

    That’s really our model with the Cubs. We’re starting from the bottom of the well but we’re digging our way up. That’s where we want to be.

    We want to have a team with young players, pre-prime and prime age players, mainly homegrown, not that we won’t use players in trades and bring in talent from the outside, not that we won’t complement them with free agent signings from time to time, but we want to get to a point where we feel great about the roster, great about our farm system, great about our salary structure, great about the five- and 10-year outlook, and then you can have off-seasons like the Cardinals and Red Sox have had where you just operate from a position of strength and you get to pick and choose what you want to do because you have depth and redundancy at a lot of positions and those players that you referenced are going to be a big part of making that a reality for the Red Sox.”

    • cubtex

      You should have copied and pasted the entire interview. Lol! I think your boy Theo needs to recheck his math. 25 man Red Sox WS roster had at least 12 or almost 1/2 from outside organization. Talk about getting your facts wrong. Lol

      • 07GreyDigger

        He didn’t say the Red Sox organization, he said both Red Sox and Cardinals.

        • cubtex

          I understand Digger but IF I counted only 10 homegrown with the Red Sox and “Theo’s quote was 35-38″ between the 2 teams. I love those 2 squiggly things. I finally figured out what they were for.
          Now- to count on my fingers and toes that means to reach the number 35….The entire Cardinal roster would have to be homegrown. So Matt Holliday, Carlos Beltran add up the numbers if you wish Digger. I only had to do the Red Sox to discredit his “quote”

          • Tony_Hall

            The Cardinals were almost completely home grown and The Red Sox were about half. He threw out a number that was a little high, it happens. You should understand.

          • cubtex

            It wasn’t half. 15 from outside and 10 homegrown. It is like saying the Ripken brothers played more games for the O’s than any combination of infielders in history. One…. Cal played a ton and the other didn’t.

          • Tony_Hall

            Another way to look at it is how many came via FA versus who was brought through the farm system and who was acquired using players in the system.

            Only 12 of the 50 players were FA signings. That leaves 38 that were homegrown or traded for using other homegrown players.

            Pure homegrown players was 27 of the 50.

            11 players were acquired in trade.

            And 12 players were signed as free agents. Of those 12 includes David Ortiz, who the Red Sox turned into a star.

          • cubtex

            alright man. not going any further. Theo said that between the Red Sox and Cards 50 man WS roster…35-38 were homegrown. Wrong! Only 10 were from Red Sox. Damn even the Cubs could have 8 if they keep a Watkins or so. Castro,Barney,Castillo, Lake, Watkins,Shark,Russell, Parker/Cabrera

          • Tony_Hall

            LOL, he mispoke either the number or the context of players during a live interview. It happens.

            The Red Sox homegrown players were the heart and soul of the team and they have a very highly ranked farm system still. That was the point of his statement, that the Red Sox and Cardinals are well positioned moving forward due to homegrown players and more on the way.

          • cubtex

            lol. mispoke or mislead. He obviously heard or thought of that number from somewhere. Theo left with the farm system on the decline and Cherrington built it back up….while winning by trading the AGon’s and Crawford’s and by drafting very well the past 2 drafts.

          • Tony_Hall

            How did he build up the Red Sox farm system with the trade of AGon and Crawford. Allen Webster is 7th.

            Speaking of the Red Sox farm system that Ben built back up. Here is their Top 10 and who acquired them.

            1. Bogaerts – Theo
            2. Bradley – Theo
            3. Cecchini – Theo
            4. Barnes – Theo
            5. Owens – Theo
            6. Swihart – Theo
            7. Webster – Ben
            8. Betts – Theo
            9. Vazquez – Theo
            10. Ball – Ben

            http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=22508

            Ben’s fingerprints are all over it.

          • cubtex

            you have an old list. baseball america is where you should get your info. Majority of those players came from 2011 draft where John Henry was in the draft room telling Theo who to pick since they were grooming Cherrington for the job and knew Theo was on his way out.. LOL!!!

          • Tony_Hall

            January 6, 2014. Ancient!

            Baseball Prospectus I feel has better lists and info than Baseball America.

          • Tony_Hall

            http://www.baseballamerica.com/minors/2014-boston-red-sox-top-10-prospects/

            Not much different but is really old, December 16, 2013.

          • cubtex

            no reaction to John Henry telling Theo who to draft? Hahaha

          • Tony_Hall

            It is just not true. Talk about misleading.

          • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

            Theo has been using the stat all winter. The first time he said it that I am aware of was during the meetings with the season ticket holders in November. Here is the link to the report I posted about the Friday meetings.

            http://chicagocubsonline.com/archives/2013/11/theo-epstein-crane-kenney-discuss-cubs-season-ticket-holders.php#.UvlF__ldUxg

            He did not include the entire stat on WEEI. My report has it.

          • cubtex

            I agree he obviously looked into it or someone told him but it isn’t accurate.

          • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

            Please read the link. The stat is explained there.

          • cubtex

            I read it. Even by adding in the players aquired by homegrown talent only adds 2 more. I got 12.

          • Tony_Hall

            Let me help you.

            “Epstein said that 35 of the 50 players on the Red Sox and Cardinals rosters were either homegrown players or players acquired with homegrown talent.”

          • cubtex

            how misleading is that??? OK. We got Quintin Berry and Mike Carp for a fringe minor league player from our system so came via a homegrown player. Ridiculous.

          • Tony_Hall

            That is not misleading. If the Cubs trade Baez for 2 SP’s from another system, you wouldn’t consider that to using homegrown talent to acquire players, versus buying them in free agency.

          • cubtex

            whatever man. Keep working the Theo PR train. We are talking about the 24th and 25th player on a roster and using a misleading stat to inflate the Red Sox number when in reality..It is only 10

          • cubtex

            Let me help you. Even with that “misleading” example. I love these quotes. I only came up with 2 more on the 25 man roster. Jake Peavy and Salty. The others were not aquired with ‘homegrown” talent. Look for yourself. Therefore….12 players from the Red Sox with 22 or 23 coming from the Cards to equal 34 or 35.

          • Tony_Hall

            I think you are helping yourself. I have already given all the numbers that lay it out very easily.

            So what’s the issue he said 35.

          • cubtex

            one team had almost twice as many. It’s like saying the Cubs and Cardinals combined for 163 wins last year. One team had 97 and the other had 66. That was a ridiculous example to compare the Cards with the Red Sox WS roster

          • Tony_Hall

            How about this comparison then?

            You say Ben did a great job rebuilding the Red Sox farm system, yet he is only responsible for 2 of the Top 10. Yet Theo is responsible for 6 of the Cubs Top 10.

            Therefore, Ben and Theo are responsible for almost half of the Cubs and Red Sox top prospects for their respective team. Yet Theo is responsible for 14 of the Top 10 for each team. Even JH is responsible for more of them then Ben. JH – 4

          • cubtex

            Ben didn’t tank seasons and actually won a WS while still adding 2 players in the top 10. Can you imagine that Tony? They moved up while winning mlb baseball games??? Imagine that!

          • Tony_Hall

            2012
            69-93 record
            7th pick in MLB Draft was Trey Ball their number #10 prospect.

          • cubtex

            Yep. They were terrible that year. 173 mil payroll. Ben had a lot of work to do to gut that team the next year. Got rid of AGon, Crawford and Beckett to turn that mess into a WS winner. They weren’t tanking with that roster, it was just a terribly constructed team.

          • GaryLeeT

            Only 1 year dip, like it should be for a major market team.

          • Tony_Hall

            Especially when that major market team already had a great farm system, loaded with players. Helps keep the dip shorter. If JH has been gone one or two years earlier or done this himself, we would already be out of this dip ourselves.

          • GaryLeeT

            And then maybe missed Baez? Sure. The farm system under Hendry was not that poorly ranked. It was, and still is, short on starting pitchers.

          • Tony_Hall

            I would love to still have Cashner. But I also want Rizzo. I still believe when we look back at the careers of these 2, Rizzo will be the one we wanted.

          • Tony_Hall

            Did you mispeak or are you misleading by saying Ben built the farm system back-up?

          • cubtex

            what were they ranked when Theo left? What are they ranked today?

          • Tony_Hall

            They have moved up because of the system that Theo built and the players he drafted and signed as IFA.

          • Tony_Hall
          • Tony_Hall
    • GaryLeeT

      That’s all well & good, but the FAs the Cards added like Beltran, and Holliday had a major impact on a team like the Cardinals. And I don’t just mean on the field, but in the clubhouse too. You could do this with every WS winner and find it to be true.
      The Cubs don’t get “first dibs” on the players they want, and there will always be a Yankee FO they will have to go up against. There is zero evidence that the Cubs will be able to afford or attract the missing pieces.

      • Tony_Hall

        Judging by the reaction on here when the Cubs don’t sign the big free agents you would think most somehow think the Cubs do get “first dibs” on the players.

        The Cubs will use FA and trades to fill out the team. The Cardinals traded for Holliday and re-signed him in the off-season. He was not a free agent acquistion.

        • GaryLeeT

          Holliday filed for free agency on November 5, 2009.

          Sometimes your nitpicking is a bit much.

          • Tony_Hall

            LOL, we have been over this one before. He filed but re-signed with the Cardinals. That is not a free agent signing. Even Neil stated this same thing on this subject. Are you going to say his nitpicking is too much?

          • GaryLeeT

            Either he was a free agent or he wasn’t. If he filed, then he was. End of story.

          • Tony_Hall

            Not so. Sorry. When players re-sign with the same team it is just that re-signing. He is not considered a free agent addition.

            Here is how the 2013 Cardinals were built and MLB considers hiim acquired via Trade.

            http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article/mlb/how-they-were-built-st-louis-cardinals?ymd=20131022&content_id=63235260&vkey=news_mlb

          • GaryLeeT

            I don’t care about ” for all intents and purposes”, I care about the technicality of it. Of course you have to deflect from the real intent which was to point out there are plenty in important pieces to a championship team that are not home grown.

          • Tony_Hall

            LOL, I think you are doing the deflecting here worried about how Holliday was acquired by the Cardinals when everyone knows they had to trade to get him.

            Using your same logic, Derek Jeter was a free agent addition by the Yankees for the 2011 season.

            All teams have non home grown players. All teams need them. But the Red Sox and Cardinals have both used their farm system effectively to produce many of their needs. Just like the Cubs are trying to do.

          • cubtex

            To put the Red Sox and Cards in the same breath is ridiculous. Red Sox have always been big in free agency and had a huge payroll. Cards haven’t. Cards have developed own pitching. Red Sox never have. 2 way different organizations.

          • Tony_Hall

            They have had 2 of the best farm systems for quite awhile. That is what puts them in same category. It does seem like a theme that Theo believes in offensive players from within and using many different angles to get SP.

          • cubtex

            If you look at his drafts, he has missed quite a bit on pitching. It’s not like they never drafted pitching, it was more like they drafted the wrong pitchers.

          • Tony_Hall

            I know you like to judge baseball executives on their failures, but this is a sport where you judge them on their successful additions and on the number of rings on their fingers.

            All baseball executives would be considered failures if you judged them on their misses as there are far, far more of them.

          • cubtex

            Look at Cards homegrown pitching compared to Red Sox. These organizations are as different as night and day

          • Tony_Hall

            The Cardinals have done the best job of building through their own system. There was a point where Mozeliak said they were just not going to use FA to build their team and put the emphasis on rebuilding the farm. If it wasn’t for Albert Pujols carrying this team each year, they would have went through a more noticeable rebuild.

            Hopefully one of our young stud bats turns into superstar even remotely close to Pujols as it will make Theo look a lot smarter, just like Pujols made the Cardinals look so smart. There were many years, where you needed a scorecard to know their starting lineup, yet year after year they were competitive having Albert batting 3rd.

          • cubtex

            Yep. And Chris Carpenter leading the staff didn’t hurt either.

          • Tony_Hall

            Absolutely, a injured pitcher they took a chance on.

          • GaryLeeT

            Hmmmm, was Chris Carpenter a FA signing, or did he come from their farm system? Until recently, Cardinal starters were not from their own system. Most were Dave Duncan reclamation projects.

          • Tony_Hall

            Yes and some point they made the decision to stop using FA to fill their roster, just like Theo is doing now. There was a really good article on John Mozeliak where he discussed this process and how they were willing to take a short term hit to make the long term better. Pujols though helped make many of those teams competitive, all on his own.

          • BillyFinT

            Someday, people will understand the Yankees had one of the best farm system in baseball and built Dynasties out of it. Before then, people can say whatever about free agent and championships.

          • paulcatanese

            True, Yankees had an extensive farm system dating back to the fifties. So deep it was hard to imagine. The Cardinals in the same time frame, as well as the Dodgers, very good systems.
            The Cubs in those years did not.

          • BillyFinT

            I would love to ride that Back to Future and see the Yanks in the early 50s. Five consecutive World Series with players like DiMaggio, Berra, and Whitey Ford, led by Casey Stengel. And it was always them against the Brooklyn Dodgers, with Jackie and Pee Wee Reese, but never won those Yanks. I wonder what older Dodger fans from New York think about that misfortune?

          • cubtex

            Yankees SUck Yankees SUck. BillyT Fin or Dorasaga. We weren’t talking about the Yanks here. No one cares about Berra or Stengel. I’m bored. I’m out.

          • BillyFinT

            Yup, Yankee Sucks!

          • Tony_Hall

            Yes they did. There best run was at the beginning of the Jeter era and was done with homegrown players. It was all the money and free agents that kept them in the playoffs but never brought home the hardware like the homegrown team.

          • GaryLeeT

            Both of them got it done doing it their way, but according to most, only using a small market rebuild is doing it “the right way”.

          • Tony_Hall

            LOL Gary. There is more than one way to build a team.

            Ricketts has chosen to build the team from the ground up and do it with a team that will have the resources to keep the best of their young players. Nothing small market about that, except the beginning phase we are in now. But I am sure all of the small markets teams that put out a competitive team most years, would love to be able to keep their top young players like the Cubs will be able to.

            Ricketts could have come in and said buy all the players they could, but the structure required by Zell wouldn’t have allowed any new owner to use that philosophy.

          • GaryLeeT

            Or, he could have come in, and said buy all the Beltrans you can on short term deals to provide the fans with a team that did not embarrass them more than 104 years of losing already has.

          • Tony_Hall

            Make up your mind, either you want the Baez’s of the world or you want an 80 win team that is respectable but not playoff worthy.

          • GaryLeeT

            These days, there are multiple other markets to find players, and you don’t have to be bad to get them.

          • Tony_Hall

            I believe the Cubs led the IFA market this year with a great class.

            They have been active in the Japanese market.

            They have signed a Cuban players using the Cuban market.

            They have used the injured pitcher market and allowed these guys to rehab market.

            The use FA to get veteran roster fillers and young under the radar types.

            So the only market they haven’t used is the high priced FA market.

            Did I miss one?

          • Tony_Hall

            What they have done that frustrates so many is they are using most of these markets to get players that are for the future, not for putting together an immediate playoff team. And lets face it with the Cardinals right now and the Pirates and Reds in the NL along with a few others, it’s not like they are just a player or two away from the playoffs.

          • GaryLeeT

            How could they be a player or 2 away when they haven’t even tried to build the ML product. There were tons of 2 and 3 year FA deals out there to be had. They chose to tank the team for high draft picks, and to save on payroll. I don’t like the way they did it, and I never will like that as an approach. As has been discussed many times, their way is a way to build an organization, but not the only way, and not the only “right way’.

          • GaryLeeT

            Using the same logic that Cano was a free agent that everybody thought would resign with the Yankees.

          • Tony_Hall

            Yeah, well he signed with another team. That makes him a new free agent acquisition of the Mariners. If he had stayed with the Yankees, it would have been Cano re-signing with the Yankees. No one would have considered him a free agent addition.

          • GaryLeeT

            The Cardinals resigned him as a free agent.

          • Tony_Hall

            What?? Cano signed as a free agent to the Mariners.

            He would have re-signed with the Yankees, but left the Yankees via free agency to sign with the Mariners.

          • Tony_Hall

            Nice edit!

        • GaryLeeT

          The last time the Cubs got a big free agent was 7 years ago, so I don’t know where you get the notion that Cub fans think they get first dibs on those. There is ZERO evidence that the current FO has the wherewithal or resources to trade for, or sign an important piece that the farm system can’t provide.

          • Tony_Hall

            Where did I say they get first dibs?

          • GaryLeeT

            You said by their reaction, Cub fans think that, which is what I stated.

          • Tony_Hall

            I said judging by the reaction on here when the Cubs haven’t signed the Tanakas or Sanchez’s and other FA’s. The reaction by many is how could the Cubs have not signed this guy, when obviously the player has a say in it.

          • GaryLeeT

            What the player says is “show me the money” it’s not that complicated, or nuanced.

          • cubtex

            Especially to go to a last place team. They got to Jerry McGuire it!

          • cubtex

            EJax? I know. I would like to forget about him too.

          • GaryLeeT

            Actually, based on his season with the Cards, I lobbied for that signing. Of course, I forgot to factor in that having a front office who wants to tank the team for a high draft pick, does to the psyche of a MLB player.

    • cubtex

      BTW. I had to give you a down arrow for that. So there is no question. That was mine. I was actually off on the Red Sox 25 man roster. They actually had 15 that were not homegrown.
      P- Breslow, Dempster, Lackey, Peavy, Franklin Morales, Uehara
      C- David Ross and Salty
      IF- Napoli, Drew, Ortiz
      OF- Quintin Berry, Mike Carp, Gomes and Victorino.

      I need to be careful and not misquote anything to help my argument so I corrected my mistake. 15 outside. 10 homegrown

      • mutantbeast

        Funny, but the Red Sux actually traded there most expensive salaries and then won the WS with better TEAM players like Drew, Victorino, Gomes and Napoli then the overpriced players like Beckett and Crawford. Teams win. Individuals dont.

        • cubtex

          true. Cardinals are a great example of a homegrown team but to include the Red Sox in that is way off base. Cherrington signed several free agents and gutted the team when he took over.

        • GaryLeeT

          OK, I am the last person (oh, alright, the first) to be a grammar Nazi, but the incessant use of the word ” then:” instead of “than”, and “there” instead of “their”, is killing me. Please, have a little personal pride, and help put some faith back in the public (or in my case Catholic) education system.

  • Sonate

    One of the things I like about Theo is that he always provides a solid, logical rationale for any of his actions with respect to the club. This wonderful interview highlights this aspect nicely. Thanks very much for sharing this with us, Neil.

    • BillyFinT

      He offered the “rationalization” (quote) of why the Yankees or any super-rich club would overpay on anything is mind blowing. Just think about it. The top income clubs, NYY, Bosox, and LA-d. They have no where else to spend right now. They might as well spend on those few players that fit their plan.

      If I may work this thinking backwards… Big name pitchers – they were discussing Tanaka – they were never essential in the Cubs plan. It will come to Theo & Co., I’m sure someday, but it makes sense only to the selected few.

  • mutantbeast

    One thing we need to learn as Cubs fans, it took years for the Trib and Spendry to screw up this team, and it will take several years to get back to contention. We are not the Stankees, or the Dodgers, who each get over a billion/yr from local TV contracts, so salaries and not as important as winning.

    • SuzyS

      Well said.

    • GaryLeeT

      YEAH! it will take years to get back to Division Championships, and a chance in post season, like Hendry lead us to!

      • Tony_Hall

        This is where JH lead the Cubs to!

        • GaryLeeT

          Hope, and a chance? This team could use a little of that right about now.

          • Tony_Hall

            But then you don’t get the top draft picks. You have to see that is what they have been doing. Adding players like Maholm, Feldman and spinning them off for more prospects plus getting higher draft picks to get more draft fund to be able to draft more prospects.

            Hope for an 80 win team is just not going to win the Cubs a World Series.

          • GaryLeeT

            If they are the geniuses they claim to be, then a farm system can be built without a top draft choice.

          • Tony_Hall

            Not with new CBA. The talent goes out in order now, versus how it use to be, where teams could buy a Samardzija late in the draft because they could pay him. If JH had done this every year, he would still be the GM.

          • GaryLeeT

            False. Teams like the Cardinals, and Rays did it without the top choices falling to them.

          • Tony_Hall

            Not false. They built their farm systems before this CBA. And yes you can get good players late in the 1st round, but not a Bryant.

          • GaryLeeT

            So the Cards, and Rays drafted players that fell to them, because other teams could not afford them? Who?

          • Tony_Hall

            No, they have had superior scouting and development systems, like Theo has put together for the Cubs.

          • bmoneyy20

            the Rays were awful for years

  • Tony_Hall

    That’s enough for me tonight. I can’t wait until we can discuss who is our best player, Baez or Bryant!

    • GaryLeeT

      Or find despair in the fact that all hopes are pinned on unproven players that never come through. It’s like that long distance love that really can’t disappoint, because they are never there to do anything wrong.
      I am curious, when will fans say that the goal post has been moved far enough? 4, 5, 7 years?

      • Tony_Hall

        If the Baez’s, Bryant’s and Almora’s fail you can all get on your high horse and tell us how smart you were. But, when they succeed, I find it a difficult position to be in rooting for your favorite team winning, but having done it in a way that you criticized to death.

        MLB is full of unproven players, until they prove themselves. Almost every single player was a prospect at one time.

        • GaryLeeT

          I didn’t say they would all fail, but you know some will. Baez won’t, and that’s an easy call, but what does the MLB team do while we find out about the rest. Wait another 3 or 4 years to see who makes it?

          • Tony_Hall

            The volume of prospects they have right now allows for some of even the better ones to fail and still be able to fill the roster.

            Baez, Bryant, Olt, Alcantara, Villanueva, Vogelbach and Watkins could fill an infield and leave 3 of them looking to the OF. Yet we already have Castro and Rizzo. So that leaves 5 of them out.

            The OF has Almora, Soler are the elite prospects, but we also have the Vitters, Szczur’s, BJAX who could end up as the 3/4 OF. Plus we have Lake already there. When you add in Bryant and the infielders who can’t win a position in the infield, we have quite a few options to fill the OF. OF is also the most likely position to use FA to fill.

            And many of these names are going to be called up this year with the rest likely to be called up in 2015.

          • GaryLeeT

            As we have seen with Castro, and Rizzo, you have to allow time for development at the ML level too. If the Cubs are very lucky, that will be 3 or 4 years from now.

          • Tony_Hall

            No doubt it could. But I believe Baez,Bryant and Almora are better overall players than those 2. Baez and Bryant’s power is off the charts and Almora sounds like a Jeter type, no flashy skills, but a very good baseball player. Castro was very raw and brought up well before this FO would have called him up. Rizzo, to me is a Top12ish 1B where his peak will be Top 8 range, with Gold Glove caliber defense.

          • GaryLeeT

            Some exciting young players, does not a champion make. I still don’t have any proof whatsoever that one can be put together in the next 5 years. In fact, since they failed to get Sanchez, Darvish, Tanaka, and Girardi, all the evidence points to that they can’t.

          • Tony_Hall

            As the young guys come up and they start winning games, and the original deal with the debt limits goes away and the business side starts bringing in more money, they will be able to attract the FA’s they go after. It doesn’t mean they have first dibs, but they will be able to overpay for a player if they want them.

            I believe the Zell restrictions was going to take 5 years from the sale date.

          • GaryLeeT

            Or, the team could have been bought by a Cuban, and we would not have had to endure these penny pinching measures.

          • Tony_Hall

            Any owner would have had these restrictions on spending and debt. That is why Cuban dropped out.

          • GaryLeeT

            Hugh? The debt structure may have been the same, but there is NOTHING that can stop somebody from spending their own money on payroll.