Theo Epstein joined Bruce Levine and Jordan Bernfield at the top of Saturday’s Inside the Clubhouse (670 The Score) and discussed the Cubs off-season a week before the holidays.
Outside of a couple of smaller moves, the Cubs could be done making changes to the roster this off-season. Theo Epstein did not rule out making a big move or two, and said the Cubs are considering a couple of things. Epstein likes where his team is, from a roster standpoint, in the third week of December.
The Cubs are very happy with Jorge Soler and the progress he’s made this off-season. Soler is the topic of daily trade rumors but Epstein thinks an outfield of Kyle Schwarber, Jason Heyward and Soler could be one of the best in baseball.
Theo Epstein made it sound like the only way the Cubs would trade Soler is if they were blown away by an offer from another team.
On the Cubs tumultuous and very productive off-season
“It can be uncomfortable to get all of this kind of attention this time of year because typically teams that get the praise in December have time on their hands in October. We are going to ignore all of that. I think we feel confident that we did the right thing for our club. I think it was appropriate to be aggressive given the roster composition, given next year’s free agent class, which isn’t quite as good, and given the long-term outlook. Our fans certainly deserve it and I think our players do. And it feels great for ownership to give that kind of commitment and I think we made the most of it.”
On the aggressiveness this off-season, does he foresee a number of other moves being made at this point? Or will the Cubs make a smaller move or two?
“I think we are likely just about done. Maybe a smaller move here or there. We are certainly considering a couple of big moves, a variety of directions, but they are not that appealing right now. I don’t think they’re deals we would do under any circumstances. Right now I kind of like where we are with our ability to open the season with a really talented roster that fits together giving us the ability to read and react and see what the first half of the season brings. See how players adapt to positions that are relatively new for them. See what kind of shape players come back from the winter in. See how players who were challenged to improve defensively in certain areas improve in those areas. See what our starting rotation looks like, who has bounced back, who has taken it to a new level and see how our bullpen performs, then just read and react. There is a surplus in certain areas. We haven’t touched our farm system yet and for sure have the ability to make some nice adjustments mid-season.”
On it being a problem when players are often mentioned in trade rumors, like Jorge Soler and Javier Baez, and how difficult is it for the Cubs to look at players like Soler and be able to evaluate them before reacting to proposals from other teams?
“In this case it’s a little more challenging just because he [Jorge Soler] doesn’t have the long track record and he’s had a few injuries which have cost him time. But it wasn’t too hard to scout the post-season last year. I think it was nine or 10 games, or whatever it was, he was probably our best hitter through that stretch. He and [Kyle] Schwarber were the two most locked in guys that we had. I don’t think that’s a coincidence. I love this guy’s future. I think his bat could be as good as just about anyone’s in the game, and from a power standpoint especially. As soon as he learns to loft the ball just a little bit more, which I think he will, it’s something he’s working on. Then defensively we have challenged him to get a little bit leaner, a little bit more athletic, to work on his jumps in right field and that’s what he’s working on. Actually just saw some video of him yesterday and he looks great. He’s down to about 225 [pounds] and really working hard on his quickness and his defense and his flexibility and athleticism. He looks fantastic. This guy wants to play. He didn’t like it when he came back from that injury, the oblique, and wasn’t playing every day. He worked his way back into the lineup. He took Adam Wainwright deep, took Jake deGrom [Jacob deGrom] deep, kind of effortless with the ability that he has to hit the ball deep into the stands. That’s hard to teach. We will put our stock in his future certainly baring something completely unforeseen. He knows to ignore all of the trade rumors, just take it as a compliment.”
On in a perfect world if the Cubs would like to acquire another outfielder, if it didn’t cost too much, in order to have Jason Heyward play right field, would the Cubs prefer to play Heyward in right and find someone else for center field?
“Not really, not if it costs at bats for Soler or Schwarber. I guess in a perfect world maybe add to the bench a little bit. We like, we like Soler’s presence in our lineup. If you look at it we can start to get a little vulnerable against left-handed pitching under certain scenarios. Putting his huge right-handed bat right in the middle of it makes a really big difference. No, I think an outfield of Schwarber, [Jason] Heyward and Soler could be one of the best in baseball, especially with Soler really focused on coming back a little leaner, a little more athletic and really locked in defensively. With some defensive gains from Schwarber as well in left and we think Heyward is going to be a well above average centerfielder. I’m not going to say I don’t want to add an outfielder, certainly don’t want to get rid of one of those guys which I don’t.”
On the way Joe Maddon uses his bullpen does that lead him and Jed Hoyer to want to continue to add relief pitchers due to the attrition of relievers?
“Yeah, there is always attrition in the pen but I don’t think it has anything to do with Joe. In fact I think Joe has a really good track record for managing for the length of the season and keeping guys healthy, not abusing them, not using them too much early in the season. I think it more affects kind of the shape of the relievers that we want. I think with Joe’s willingness to go get starters early in the game, it just doesn’t look like it’s happening on a given day, we want just not one quote unquote long reliever but a number of relievers who could potentially go multiple innings and not just mop up and be really effective and put us in position to maybe win a game, that say we’re losing the game 4-2 in the fourth, we gotta have guys that can help us win that game 6-5 after nine. Travis Wood, if he ends up in the bullpen obviously fits that bill. What Trevor Cahill did late last year and in the playoffs, if he doesn’t earn a spot in the rotation, he fits that bill. Adam Warren with what he’s done, if he doesn’t end up in the rotation. All of those guys have the ability to be used really dynamically by Joe.”