The front office’s plans for the winter season took an unexpected detour that enabled them to hire Joe Maddon to call the shots in the dugout. Once Maddon’s coaching staff is set, the front office should be able to focus a majority of its attention to filling holes on the roster.
The Cubs have already met with Russell Martin and his agents and more face-to-face conversations will take place this week at the General Managers Meetings in Phoenix (Nov. 10-13). The Cubs have four areas they would like to add veteran leadership to the roster: the bullpen, the rotation, on the bench and in the lineup.
Jed Hoyer told the beat writers Friday the Cubs are not going to force anything and “have some supercharged off-season.” Hoyer does not think any moves will be made quickly because the free agent process is just beginning.
“The way I always see it is you’ve got your list of guys that you want to pursue and at the appropriate time you do that,” Jed Hoyer said in his weekly spot with David Kaplan and David Haugh (87.7 The Game). “I think every team kind of gets out of the gate quickly and makes sure players know they are interested that they want to acquire them. But it takes some time. This is a big decision for all of these players. They usually sift through a lot of different offers and a lot of thoughts.”
“Certainly things happen in November but I don’t think you go into thinking things will get done quickly. I think you realize you have to act quickly. Then at that point there is sort of a process that takes a fair amount of time.”
In an interview on ESPN 1000 with Fred Huebner and Jesse Rogers, Hoyer said, “We will talk to a lot of teams. We will talk to a lot of agents. We expect to be active. We definitely want to fill our holes and hopefully we can be aggressive to do that. At the same time things have to make sense for us. We’re not going to do anything overly aggressive.”
As Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer pointed out after Joe Maddon’s press conference, the Cubs are not going to deviate from The Plan. And just because the Cubs have the payroll flexibility to sign multiple impact free agents this winter it doesn’t mean they will.
The Cubs have $30.5 million on the books for next year with arbitration raises due to 10 players currently on the 40-man roster. Theo Epstein explained where the Cubs stand with next year’s payroll and the front office’s stance on signing free agents on the Waddle and Silvy Show (ESPN 1000).
“If you look at our roster we have so many players making the league minimum or close to it or players on under market deals and very few onerous commitments that even if we keep our payroll the same, and we booked $20 million last year that we decided it could have more of an impact keeping it and spending in 2015 or beyond versus spending it on the ’14 team, you put all of those factors together and we have plenty of money to spend,” Epstein said.
“I’m not sure if we will spend it all. If we find the right values, the right players in the market, we’re certainly well-positioned with the young players that we have to be aggressive.”
“To me if you are going to make a massive commitment in free agency, I think it is irresponsible to do that unless you’re set up with your roster and your payroll and with depth of talent in the organization to survive it if it becomes a mistake,” Epstein said. “If the player, God forbid, gets hurt the first month of his contract and he contributes nothing the rest of the way, you have to be able to survive that because that’s always a possibility. The only thing that is guaranteed about those contracts is the contracts themselves. You are not guaranteed any performance. You have to be able to withstand it.”
“You have to have someone ready to come up behind him in the minor leagues. You have to have other young players hit in the middle of the lineup if your free agent can’t. You have to have other pitchers ready to step in if your free agent doesn’t perform and I think we’re positioned to withstand that.”
“Free agency is not for the faint of heart and there’s no guarantee of success,” Epstein said. “But over the next couple of years, perhaps starting as soon as the next couple of months, we are positioned financially and in terms of the talent and make-up of our organization to take those kinds of educated risks.”
It’s just the beginning of what has already been an interesting winter season for the Chicago Cubs … and it really will kick into gear this week across the league.