Cubs Well-Positioned to Add Impact Starting Pitching

Theo Epstein spent time earlier this week on ESPN 1000 with Carmen & Jurko talking about the Jackie Robinson West team and of course the Chicago Cubs. Epstein discussed Javier Baez and the recent call-up of Jorge Soler while pointing out Baez and Soler are two totally different players with the way they approach hitting.

Epstein explained Baez will likely always have extremes in his game, “extreme bat speed, extreme raw power, extreme home run output and probably some extreme swing and misses and some extreme strikeout totals to go along with it.” Soler has a more polished approach and always has been a much more patient hitter than Baez.

Theo Epstein also talked about the upcoming off-season and if the Cubs have a chance to add impact starting pitching from outside the organization the front office is well-positioned to be aggressive with adding talent.

On having the money to spend in free agency and will the Cubs use that money this off-season on free agent pitchers, like Jon Lester

“We are going to grow this organization a certain way. We are going to build it around young players. We are going to build it around scouting and player development, but it’s probably not possible to win a World Series with 25 homegrown players. If we have a chance to add impact from outside of the organization we should be aggressive and try to do that. I never look at any one off-season as a time that we have to do something. I look at off-seasons and trade deadlines and future off-seasons together. Look at how the next 24 months or 18 months, I think that you will see us add impact starting pitching from outside the organization. We are well-positioned. We have so many young players coming who are cost controlled that we have a lot of payroll flexibility to go out and do some of the things that might add impact from outside the organization, even without raising payroll. But certainly when we get closer to our TV deal and our revenues increase I think that you will see a lot of that money poured back into the Major League team.”

PrintOn if there will be any International pitchers available this off-season the Cubs might be bidding on

“There are a couple of decent pitchers coming from Asia. The Major League starting pitching free agent market is pretty good. The free agent class is more pitching risk than position player risk this off-season. And frankly the class after that is even more impressive, the 2015-16 off-season. So, there are so good arms. You never want to build through free-agent starting pitching because historically it is a bad investment. There may be a point where we are so well stocked with our position player front and we have position depth and we really need that impact top of the rotation arm where we jump into those waters, but we are not going to look at it as something that has to be accomplished in one off-season. We have to grow our Major League team the way we’ve grown this organization which is methodically, patiently, not putting pressure on ourselves to do it but taking advantage of the right opportunities.”

On the way the team has played of late and if it is important for young players’ development to win games

“Yes, I think it is meaningful for a couple of reasons. Not the record itself per say but to the extent it helps create a bit of a winning culture where I think it is really important that players show up to the park each day knowing that the priority of the organization is to win that night’s game. And that is something that is hard to accomplish when you’re constantly trading your best two starting pitchers at the trade deadline every year and there is so much talk about the prospects. As we win more games we start to shift the focus back to winning that night’s game and where we are in the standings and that is a good thing because of the impact it has on our players and the culture it creates in the clubhouse and that is really important. I think it is also important to the extent that it reflects a better level of talent overall on the Major League team. Our roster looks a lot different now than it did on Opening Day. It looks a lot different now than it did in 2012. There are some real talented players and more to come. I think our recent record reflects that and hopefully we can keep it going. We know its baseball and there is going to be a lot of ups and downs. Creating a winning culture and having talent are two really important parts of building a championship team and we think we are making some progress in those areas.

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  • Ray Koenig

    24 to 18 months means no added “impact” pitching from outside the Cub organization this off-season.

    • Chris K.

      Never say never, but considering the way Hendricks, Arrieta and Wada have been throwing, you could get away with waiting.

    • SuzyS

      I don’t see that at all. Both Hoyer and Theo are on record saying that it takes more than one season to build a strong rotation….FA or not.
      IMO, It takes more than one TOR pitcher to win a WS…factoring in injuries etc.
      I can see the Cubs making a strong bid to get one TOR this season…and another the following season.
      Give the young Cub prospects one season to settle in….and plan for the Rocket launch 2016 and beyond.

      • Ray Koenig

        I must have misunderstood what Epstein meant by “the next 24 months or 18 months”.

        • Tony_H

          He is saying they are not going to add a SP for sure this off-season. But if they can add one they will. In other words if they miss on Lester and other elite guys they are not going to buy the next best thing like they did with EJAX.

        • http://www.AstroDecision.com/ Larry Schwimmer

          Ray, my interpretation is that he’s managing fan expectations. I believe he’s looking at the F.A. starting pitcher market from this off-season to the off-season in 2015 from which to find 1 or 2 pitchers to acquire. Who knows…during that time we might find ourselves a couple of great pitching prospects like Arrieta and Hendricks.

      • http://www.AstroDecision.com/ Larry Schwimmer

        I agree Suzy. THEO made it clear that he planned to pursue TOR pitchers this off-season. I don’t get how anyone would say that “he won’t pursue any this off-season.” But I agree with him when he says that generally, F.A. starting pitchers are a bad investment. Look at all the expensive contracts that are not working out because of injury. Homer Bailey is on the DL, too.

        THEO can see what all of us can — you try to aggressively pursue a TOR F.A. pitcher but if someone wants to throw “crazy” money like the YANKEES did for Tanaka — then let the Yankees have him. Obviously, I would have rather had Annibal Sanchez then Edwin Jackson. But Sanchez is currently on the DL.

        My hope is that we can get Lester by giving him a competitive offer and because he wants to be part of history bringing the CUBS to the world series.

    • Jeffrey Rogers

      No it doesn’t. He’s not going on some po dunk radio show and give away the entire offseason plan.

      • http://www.AstroDecision.com/ Larry Schwimmer

        Jeffrey you are 100% right. THEO is known among MLB GMs as being a clever, intelligent fox! He and JED play their cards close to their vest. And, they should. It’s in the interest of finding and trading for the best talent for the CUBS. We are lucky to have their talent and dedication. It does require some faith because we have a long history of losing. I think they will bring the CUBS their 1st entry into the World Series in 105+ years.

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  • http://www.AstroDecision.com/ Larry Schwimmer

    A few days ago I was chatting with NEIL & TONY about Kyle Schwarber. I was asking if he has the talent to be a MLB catcher? We all know that if he was that his hitting development might take a back seat. So what? I say who cares about that? After all having a great defensive catcher who can also hit for average is very special.

    Today, I saw quote in the Chicago Tribune I thought I’d share (if you haven’t seen it already). It confirms that Kyle has great talent for catching and indeed the CUBS are choosing to develop him as a catcher. Here’s the quote:

    “To say he has been better than advertised is fairly accurate,” said Tim Cossins, the Cubs’ minor league catching coordinator. “He has a desire to catch and has the natural ability to catch. His makeup, which is completely off the charts, has been the separator to his development thus far. He’s catching very well.”

    • Tony_H

      I think you are stretching that when you say he has great talent for catching. They drafted his bat, and knew he had the desire to stay at catcher. So if he was even average defensively they would say he is better than advertised and catching very well.

      With that said, I also don’t think you can say they have decided to keep him at catcher yet, because they haven’t said that.

      But I do think they will keep him catching into next year.

      • http://www.AstroDecision.com/ Larry Schwimmer

        Tony, I said the article confirmed that he has great talent for catching. The exact term in the article was; “he has the natural ability to catch.” We all know they drafted his bat. It sounds like you’re a bit cynical as to whether he really has the stuff to be a great catcher. You’re wrong, Tony. The CUBS have said that they’ve made the decision to “keep him as a catcher,” and develop his catching ability. Clearly he’ll have to prove that he can really be an excellent catcher over the coming months.

        If they see that he doesn’t have the stuff or that it grossly affects his hitting — they may make a change. But for now: He’s being developed as a catcher.

        • Tony_H

          I think he is being groomed to be a possible back-up.

          Please show me where they have said they plan to keep him as a catcher. I haven’t seen that. I have seen them say they will determine that in the off-season.

          The article doesn’t say he has a great talent for catching. It says in nice ways he is better than they expected (they had very low expectations) and that he has a strong desire to catch. Nothing in this article is new information.

        • Tony_H

          Also, I would love for him to make it as a starting catcher.

          • http://www.AstroDecision.com/ Larry Schwimmer

            I agree with you 100% about wanting Schwarber to have the talent to be a catcher for the CUBS.

            Yesterday, I read an article (I’m trying to find it for you). It stated that the CUBS have decided that rather than send him to the Arizona League — they were sending somewhere for catching instruction. So…Tony…they have made the decision that he’s got enough “natural talent” to be a catcher.

            Here’s the link to the article about his natural talent. The quote was by a talent coordinator Tim Cossins, the Cubs’ minor league catching coordinator. He’s one of the people that made the recommendation on Schwarber (http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/baseball/cubs/ct-minors-cubs-spt-0829-20140829-story.html).

          • Tony_H

            The catching instruction is to help determine if they plan to keep him at catcher, not that they have decided to keep him as catcher in 2015 yet.

            I think you are reading more into these quotes than they are really saying as most are coming with disclaimers in them and ways of saying that if he didn’t want really badly to stay at catcher and didn’t have natural instincts that his large frame of a body would not be even being considered as a catcher. They are giving him every chance to show he can stick back there, but none of that translates to say he is above average and definitely doesn’t say he has great talent. This is no Yadier Molina, Buster Posey or Joe Mauer back there.

          • Denver Mike

            Shadev Sharma, Wayne Randazzo, and Paul Johnson have been discussing this via Twitter quite a bit this afternoon, and they all seem to think there is more to that quote than you think. Not saying it’s a sure thing he’ll be a full time catcher moving forward, but all three of those guys have great sources around the org. so I’d be inclined to trust their opinions on this.

          • Tony_H

            I think they are going to give him every chance to stick at catcher, but he is going to need a lot more than just a desire to do it, he is going to have to be at least an average defensive catcher or it’s not going to happen as a full time starting catcher.

      • http://www.AstroDecision.com/ Larry Schwimmer

        Ok Tony, here’s the link on the decision that Schwarber will be a catcher (for now). The quote is from THEO himself.

        After you’ve read it: How about a comment back to me like, “Gee Larry…I was wrong. Sorry for breaking your chops. :) LOL

        “Defense, and especially defense behind the plate, is an area where players can see significant improvements,” Epstein told Barry Rozner and Matt Abbatacola after explaining that Schwarber will head to the Instructional League this offseason to focus on catching. “[Seeing those improvements behind the plate] is really going to be our focus, because with the way the pieces are coming together, if Kyle can make it work behind the plate, and we think he can, especially from a leadership standpoint, he really rounds out our lineup and complements our team extremely well.”

        http://www.bleachernation.com/2014/08/29/the-chicago-cubs-will-try-to-keep-kyle-schwarber-at-catcher/

        • Tony_H

          LOL! Sorry for busting your chops but that article just came out today and I hadn’t seen it yet. But even in it lots of disclaimers and they have not decided what he is doing in April of 2015 yet.

          The title alone “The Chicago Cubs Will TRY to keep Kyle Schwarber at Catcher”

          “So much so that the Cubs are planning to keep him at catcher for the time being” time being this fall.

          And even in your own quote Theo says “IF” Kyle can make it work, and of course they think he can until they think he can’t and put him in LF.

          Like I said, I would love for him to stick at catcher, but it is going to take a lot of work for him to do so and even with all of that he has to stick there as he goes to AA and then AAA and then get promoted to the majors to play catcher rather than a need to add a bat. Lots of upside to giving him every chance to stay at catcher with really no downside as they can throw him in LF anytime they think his bat is ready for the majors.

          • http://www.AstroDecision.com/ Larry Schwimmer

            Thanks Tony for having a good sense of humor. But I think you and I are going back and forth, to a great extent, over semantics. Please keep in mind, I never said that the CUBS have officially made Schwarber their new catcher; or that he’s another Yadier Molina or Johnny Bench.” I just said that a CUBs talent evaluator in the article said that he has the “natural ability to catch.” The other article clearly makes the point that THEO wants to see if Schwarber has the talent to be the CUBS catcher. So, they are going to focus on letting him develop his catching skills and then, I’m sure re-evaluate him. That’s all I’m saying.

            So, these 2 articles support what I’ve said. Maybe I should have just said, The Cubs want to “see” if Schwarber can be a catcher. I don’t know about you but I’m not sure that Castillo is the answer based on comments about the way he catches. And his offensive has really slipped. The only thing I like is that he’s got a great arm.

          • Tony_H

            I think Castillo is going to get competition this off-season for the starting job or even be shipped out.

            I agree, they will keep Schwarber catching as long as he keeps improving defensively. If he makes it as the starting catcher, they would talk about this draft pick for a long time.

          • http://www.AstroDecision.com/ Larry Schwimmer

            Well said; I agree. I suspect that behind the scenes Castillo does not have total confidence of the pitchers. He may lack that special talent for framing pitches or the maturity of taking control of a game. So, I hope you’re right and that they can find someone to replace him. Is MARTIN available?

            Yes…if Schwarber can improve his skills enough to be a catcher, the CUBS will have pulled off a major coup.

          • Tony_H

            R Martin is a FA this off-season, but we could also trade for one.

          • VBCubs

            I think Martin would be good on a 2 year deal. Him and Castillo can battle it out.