The Cubs sent down three of the best young players in the system Monday and two, in Kris Bryant and Addison Russell that are ranked among the top five prospects in baseball.
Kris Bryant and Addison Russell were extremely impressive this spring and will be part of the big league team in the near future. Javier Baez showed signs of putting it together at the plate and making more contact. And the Cubs’ brass thinks it close to clicking for him.
Theo Epstein addressed Monday the team’s decision to send down Kris Bryant, Javier Baez and Addison Russell with the team’s beat writers.
On sending Kris Bryant, Javier Baez and Addison Russell to minor league camp
“Yeah, we sent down three extremely talented young players today, but I have a feeling they will be back at the right time and help us win a lot of games over the next many years.”
On Javier Baez being optioned to Iowa
“I think we all felt like, I think we all agree that Javy [Javier Baez] is an extremely talented player. He’s going to be a big part of this organization for a long time. We agree that he does so many things well on a baseball field. We also agree, all of us, that this was the right move. Right now he’s so close to getting it figured out in the batter’s box where we just feel like Triple-A is the right forum, the right venue for him to continue to make those adjustments and get locked in. He does everything else so well on the baseball field. He’s a winning baseball player. He’s just got to take that same mindset into the batter’s box. It’s a slight adjustment. It’s a little bit of a tweak to his approach. We feel like he’s not far from making it. We have his back 100 percent. But we just feel like he needs those reps at Iowa, those ABs at Iowa to get it figured out.”
“I think this is the appropriate time. We are getting close to final cuts and guys need at bats. We need to sort of start playing as an Opening Day roster.”
On what the internal debate was like in regards to Javier Baez
“If you ask me, I would have said the same thing [as Joe Maddon]. I mean we’ve all been talking up … In a healthy organization there should be different opinions expressed, bounce ideas off each other, talk about different aspects of the game and how you weigh different variables. These players were new to Joe [Maddon] so he’s just seeing them for the first time and we couldn’t have had a healthier debate about it. In the end we all agreed.”
On if it was a difficult decision to send Kris Bryant down
“It’s always difficult to send talented young players down because it’s news they don’t want to hear. But I think we entered camp with the presumptive move being to send him to Triple-A and it’s always the presumptive move for us with young players who haven’t played in the big leagues yet. You see how camp develops and you see how the rest of your players are performing and how the roster shape up and see if there’s ground for an exception to the rule but in this case we felt like it was the right thing to do. I think his performance mattered and we told him that today. It wasn’t as if he went out and performed in a vacuum. His performance really mattered. It made a great first impression on Joe and I think it demonstrated clearly to everybody, including to us, that he’s really close to being … not just being in the big leagues, but playing an important role on the team. So, I think his camp mattered. We’re more likely to get him sooner than later at this point with how he’s playing and how close he showed. We are going to afford him the same luxury we tend to afford most, if not all, young players. Which is go off and get into the rhythm of the season, play and we’ll get to you quickly.”
On which position Kris Bryant will play, outfield or third base
“Primarily third base with some outfield mixed in.”
On how much Kris Bryant improved defensively in camp
“I thought he played pretty well at third after he came back from missing a little bit of time with the arm issue. Thought he moved pretty well and I think he’s on his way to being a pretty good third baseman. Will need to continue to work on it.”
On how Javier Baez and Kris Bryant handled being told they were being sent down
“Extremely well and professionally and you couldn’t ask for more. It’s tough news, but I think both guys see the bigger picture. Both guys worked extremely hard in camp and we appreciate that and all three guys we sent out today are big pieces of our future.”
On if there are any hard feelings towards Kris Bryant
“No, not at all. The only thing Kris [Bryant] did to contribute to the story was play really well and that’s what we want our players to do so how can you get upset at him?
On if there are any hard feelings towards Scott Boras
“No hard feelings at all. Scott [Boras] was doing his job for his player. He’s an agent so he has a right to choose how he wants to get his point across. I just control what I can control, which is how the organization handles things and what we say publicly. We’re thrilled to have these kinds of issues present themselves. It means our players are playing extremely well. We couldn’t be happier to have Kris Bryant in the organization. He’s a remarkable young man and looks like he’s going to be a terrific big league player really soon. We’re excited about that.”
On if the Cubs are talking to teams or will make any trades before the end of Spring Training
“A little bit but we don’t think it’s a really high likelihood that we will make a move outside of this camp. We will monitor small trade possibilities and the waiver wire for certain spots but we think we have a lot of answers here in camp and then as we look forward in to the season with what we have at Triple-A, it’s pretty good in a lot of areas.”
On if he feels more comfortable with Tommy La Stella than he did before Spring Training
“Yeah, at third base … I think we were always comfortable with Tommy [La Stella], that’s why we traded for him. Specifically at third base he’s opened our eyes. He’s gotten a lot better for a guy who hadn’t really played the position coming into camp. We joked with Joe this morning. I said that ‘Now La Stella looks like Brooks Robinson at third, do you think you can get him some work at second?’ It’s pretty impressive the adjustments that he’s made over there, the confidence he’s making plays versus how he looked just three weeks ago. I’m proud of him. He’s clearly established that he’s someone the manager can put in the lineup at second or at third and feel comfortable knowing that he’s going to give really competitive at bats, especially against good pitching. He’s one of those guys you like against really good pitching because he makes contact.”
On if he would be surprised if Bryant, Baez and Russell all contribute in the big leagues this season
“That wouldn’t surprise me. That wouldn’t surprise me at all. Nothing’s guaranteed, but that wouldn’t surprise me. I think I could probably be in this game for a long time and not send down three players that talented on the same day every again. Those three are pretty good.”