Jim Bowden spoke with Theo Epstein earlier in the week and discussed a variety of topics with the Cubs President of Baseball Operations.
Theo Epstein talked about the trade with Oakland and explained a little of the process that went into pulling the trigger on the deal, all of the shortstops in the system and the Cubs have plans on where all of the impact talent can fit on the field together.
Theo Epstein also discussed the trade deadline, free agency and said that a year from now the Cubs will have impact talent on the field.
The interview began with Jim Bowden congratulating Theo Epstein on the recent birth of his child, the personal reason Epstein did not make the trip with the Cubs to Fenway Park earlier in the month.
On the trade with the Athletics early in the month that sent Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to Oakland for Addison Russell, Billy McKinney, Dan Straily and a PTBNL and the reasons and factors that led the Cubs to pull the trigger on the trade.
“Because we got what we were really looking for,” Epstein said. “We didn’t want a volume deal. We got a nice return on Garza last year. But it was more of a volume deal without involving any one true elite prospect, a can’t miss impact-type guy. With Jeff Samardzija really coming into his own, with our difficulty signing him and then realizing you had a year and a half of control left, we really wanted to try to acquire one player we could hang our hat on, someone who would impact our future and change the landscape of the franchise as we forecast all of the pieces fit together. We assumed going in that we would be able to land a starting pitcher, or starting pitchers, that fit that category, but when Addison Russell became available as much as we thought of him and the fact that Billy [Beane] was willing to go all in early if we put [Jason] Hammel into the deal is just something we couldn’t pass up. The certainty of a young 20-year old position player performing in Double-A with the tools that he brings to the table, and his makeup and his track record, that was something we couldn’t pass up.”
On Starlin Castro, Javier Baez and Addison Russell and the blueprint as well as a possible timeline, if all of the shortstops stay in the system and where they could play
“We already started exposing Javy [Javier Baez] to second base. Coming out of the All-Star break we’ve played him about eight out of 10 games at second base. He got a little exposure to third base in the Fall League a couple of years ago. We will probably see him, if he does move off shortstop, we see him more as a second baseman currently than as a third baseman. He’s made a seamless transition over there. Good shortstops can go elsewhere in the infield and be an impact defender and that’s what Javy has shown so far. But we are keeping him at short as well so that he doesn’t lose that. Having too many shortstops is never a problem. They are the best athletes and the best defenders. We will find spots for all of these guys. Addison Russell is playing shortstop in Double-A doing a great job. We think he is athletic enough and versatile enough to play all over the infield, same with Javy. [Starlin] Castro has really done a nice job cutting down his errors this year, coming to get the ball a little more, playing through the ball a little more consistently with his throwing. We don’t see it as a problem. We have lots of different ways they can all fit on the field together. Kris Bryant, who is playing third now, also has the option of going out and playing right field. He played some right and some center in college. We just want to keep all of those bats and all of those athletes on the field together at the same time if possible.”
On the possibility of smaller, or minor, deals leading up to the deadline, like trading James Russell
“I think the chances are pretty good that we will make at least one move. We have a number of players, like James [Russell] that are under control and factor into our plans going forward and the threshold to move those players is certainly higher because we have to be mindful of the 2015 Cubs as well. You are probably more likely to see a deal for a player who is eligible for free agency at the end of the season. Those types of players have more value to a contender than they do us because our window with those players expires in a couple of months. So, I think you will see a trade or two that fits that category from the Cubs.”
On free agency and is this the off-season the Cubs delve into the free agent market or is the team a year away
“There is no switch that gets flipped that says now all of the sudden we are big players in free agency. We’ve been active in free agency but we’ve set our value for the player and we don’t go beyond it,” Epstein said. “So with [Masahiro] Tanaka, for example, we made a very, very significant investment in him and we were all in trying to acquire his services from an effort standpoint, but there was a financial threshold that we weren’t going to surpass right up to the point where we thought it made sense and not beyond. That is the approach we will take again this winter. If there is a player that fits our organization, that fits our other pieces and that we think is a true difference maker and who’s window of being an impact player will overlap with our window of contention then absolutely we will be aggressive right up to the point where we think that it is no longer in the organization’s best interest. But in free agency you have to be willing to walk away. If you convince yourself that you are one player away and that you have to get any one player at all cost, you are probably missing the real issue is that your organization is not healthy enough that you should look in different places. We will take that aggressive approach to free agency but always be willing to walk away.”
On the timeline on when he thinks the Cubs will be ready to contend
“I don’t think anyone benefits from giving a strict timeline,” Epstein said. “But I will say this, 365 days from now when you look up there is going to be impact talent on the field, it is going to be young, but any time you have impact talent, you catch a few breaks and you get some career years from some veterans, you have health in starting pitching and anything can happen. There will be impact talent here and it’s up to us to shape it and grow it and make sure we win, not just once but consistently and that’s what we are working towards.”
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