Theo Epstein addressed the trade that sent Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to the Athletics for INF Addison Russell, OF Billy McKinney, RHP Dan Straily and a PTBNL in a conference call with the beat writers Saturday afternoon.
Theo Epstein is hopeful this is the last summer the Cubs will have to be obvious sellers and said, “I really feel there is a light at the end of the tunnel.” The Cubs do not want to be sellers any longer and would like to be in the position Oakland is in soon and they can change the conversation in 2015 according to a report from Patrick Mooney.
Epstein thanked the fan base for their patience and reiterated the front office is “working extremely hard to reward them” for that patience.
Epstein admitted the Cubs have a lot of work to do on the pitching front and the front office realizes a team cannot win without pitching. Epstein said, “We have a plan to acquire good pitching and to build a really effective pitching staff. But there are more teams out there looking for offense then looking for pitching. It’s a lot of work ahead on the pitching front, but we’re excited about what lies ahead on the mound. Young pitching is hard to build plans around. You look up and guys are hurt, there’s attrition, there’s Tommy John, there’s ineffectiveness.”
The Cubs have a talented group of players that Epstein called “real prospects.” Epstein thinks this group of players has a chance to stick together and the fans will have a chance to know them. “Not just one or two years, not just mercenaries or free agent fliers from the outside, but a really good group of young players they can get to know and love and hopefully see win a lot of ballgames at Wrigley Field together.”
The Cubs are “ecstatic with the way” Starlin Castro is playing this season. And they are proud of what he has accomplished on the field so far this year. Theo Epstein had already spoken with Castro’s agent by the time of his Saturday morning conference call.
Theo Epstein called Castro “a centerpiece to the Cubs plans” and he said Castro is the Cubs shortstop and “shouldn’t be looking over his shoulder.” Epstein does not envision Castro moving from shortstop anytime in the near future.
Theo Epstein said Saturday it is his responsibility to do the right thing for the organization. There was not a pitcher available or a package of pitchers available on the market that would’ve netted the Cubs close to the talent that Addison Russell brings to the organization.
The Cubs had four different scouts follow Addison Russell’s rehab from the hamstring tear that cost him two months of his season. Russell is healthy and is expected in Double-A Tennessee’s lineup Sunday.
Jed Hoyer said Saturday the Cubs liked Addison Russell in the draft and was very high on him then before deciding on Albert Almora. The Cubs saw a lot of Russell in the Arizona Fall League last year due to the fact he was on the same team (Mesa Solar Sox) as Kris Bryant, Albert Almora and Jorge Soler.
Positions – Who Will Play Where?
With all of the position player talent that is getting close to being ready for the big leagues. Theo Epstein was asked where players such as Baez, Bryant, Alcantara and Russell would play.
Epstein explained the Cubs see Javier Baez has a shortstop, but he could also play second base, third base or a position in the outfield. Kris Bryant could play third or right field. Arismendy Alcantara could fit at second, shortstop or centerfield and Addison Russell could play shortstop, third base or second base.
Epstein pointed out having too many shortstops is a good thing. Shortstops are usually the most athletic players on the team and can be moved around the field. Impact players that can hit and play in the middle of the field are hard to find.
According to a report from ESPN Chicago, Epstein said, “We want to see this group play and develop together. We’re not smart enough to see how the pieces fit together, but it’s easy to be excited about a lot of the different permutations.”
The Cubs have assigned Dan Straily to Triple-A Iowa. Theo Epstein said Saturday the plan with Straily is the same they had with Jake Arrieta last year and they hope Straily responds the same way Arrieta did. The Cubs want Straily to go to Iowa and “take a deep breath.”
Jake Arrieta started seven games for Iowa after he was acquired in the deal from Baltimore. Arrieta started the nightcap of a day-night doubleheader against Milwaukee on July 30, then went back to Iowa where he stayed until August 16.
The Sun-Times reported Dan Straily could be added to the Cubs rotation “after the All-Star break.”
OF Billy McKinney has been assigned to High-A Daytona and is expected to be in the D-Cubs lineup on Sunday. Albert Almora is viewed as a pure centerfielder according to Theo Epstein. McKinney will see time in all three outfield spots in Daytona.
Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer admitted Saturday it was tough to trade Jeff Samardzija. But it got to a point where the front office realized they would not be able to sign him to an extension.
Epstein said, “In the end, that mutual interest wasn’t enough. Don’t blame anyone. Timing wasn’t aligned.”
And Theo Epstein said he spoke with Jason Hammel about coming out of Friday’s game early. Epstein told Hammel he was absolutely right and agreed with what he said. Epstein also told Hammel they were close to a deal that included him and Rick Renteria was asked to be smart about how Hammel was used Friday. The timing was weird with the front office working on a trade that included Hammel on the day he was pitching.
Players Reactions to the Trade
Darwin Barney told Patrick Mooney that with all of the turnover that his wife “is the only one left from 2011.”
James Russell said he and Jeff Samardzija “shared a beer and a cigarette” then Russell sent him on his way. Russell admitted it is “tough to see your boys leave.”
Finances and PTBNL
The Cubs and Athletics will complete the trade for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel later this year. According to Mark Gonzales the PTBNL deadline is after Nov. 20.
The Cubs did not send cash to Oakland in the deal according to Patrick Mooney. The Athletics took on the remainder of $6 million owed to Jason Hammel, plus the $1 million incentives package and the remainder of the $5.345 million owed to Jeff Samardzija. The trade cut around $5.5 million off the Cubs payroll for the remainder of the season.