Theo Epstein was in Boston on Thursday for his annual “Foundation To Be Named Later” dinner and talked to the local media about the Cubs and his former team.
Before the private dinner, Epstein was asked about David Ortiz as he enters his final season in the big leagues. Epstein would like to see Ortiz go out on top and play in the World Series, hopefully against the Cubs.
“I’m really rooting for him to put the cherry on top of a Hall of Fame career and go out on top … well, to get to the World Series and hopefully the Cubs will be there, as well. I’m rooting for him. I’m proud of his entire career, how he’s conducted himself and everything he’s meant to this organization. He deserves a great year personally and for the club as a whole in his swain song.”
Nick Cafardo spoke with Epstein about the Cubs and the unexpected season his team had a year ago.
“They really arrived a year earlier than we expected,” Epstein told the Boston Globe. “We built in a year adjustment period for the players last year. We knew we had a chance to be really good because of the talent on the roster and youth on the roster, but based on baseball history we expected those guys to have tough adjustment periods the second half of the year and maybe come back stronger for it in 2016. But much to their credit and a testament to their character, they got stronger as the year went on.”
Epstein praised the Royals for the “masterful job” they did developing their young core and having the patience to stick with the plan as the players dealt with growing pains. Epstein and the front office spent time early in the process of building the organization studying the Royals.
One of the positives for the young players last season, according to Epstein, was the strength in numbers.
“We just had a little magic last year. I can’t fully explain it,” Epstein said to Nick Cafardo. “I think there’s strength in numbers. Players rose to the moment. When Kris Bryant started to get tired and the league caught up a little bit, Kyle Schwarber came up and took some of the pressure off, hitting some big homers, and then Kris had time to adjust. And in the post-season, Jorge Soler got hot and reached base nine straight times and hit big home runs.”
The additions of John Lackey, Ben Zobrist, Jason Heyward and Adam Warren have put the team in position to compete for a division title. But the Cubs have not entered the final phase of the rebuild.
“I think you can get yourself into trouble if you think you’re taking that last step or two and building the perfect team. Often times it leaves you in a worse spot because it leaves you inflexible to react during the season and address weaknesses that crop up. We have some issues that we’re curious to see as guys respond to new roles.
Epstein indicated he “thinks the Cubs have good bullpen depth, but feels they’re thin in starting pitching depth in the minors.”
As Cafardo pointed out, once the Cubs reach the ultimate goal, Theo Epstein will punch his ticket to Cooperstown.
Brewers – Diamondbacks
There was a rather significant trade on Saturday night between two of the Cubs foes in the National League.
The Brewers sent SS Jean Segura and RHP Tyler Wagner to the Diamondbacks for RHP Chase Anderson, INF Aaron Hill, SS Isan Diaz and cash. According to Nick Piecoro, the Diamondbacks included $5.5 million of the $12 million owed to Aaron Hill on the final year of his contract in the deal. The Diamondbacks are expected to allocate the $6.5 million to other areas Dave Stewart would still like to address.
Stewart said after the trade the D-Backs are still “looking at middle/late inning relievers.” Stewart explained “there are trade options that have been out there all winter” and the reliever does not have to be a free agent. The addition of Segura also creates other options for the Diamondbacks. Stewart can now use some of the infield depth on his roster to “perhaps make another deal.” Other GMs have “already asked” about the D-Backs infielders.
Dave Stewart addressed Segura’s role with the Diamondbacks. And he will see time at short in Spring Training while competing for playing time at short and second base.
The Diamondbacks have an excellent defensive shortstop on the roster in Nick Ahmed, which only made Saturday’s trade more confusing. There is not enough difference offensively between the two players to disregard Ahmed’s defense.
Brewers’ GM David Stearns told Adam McCalvy the deal with the Diamondbacks “had been in the works for months.” Stewart was one of the first contacts Stearns made when he took over in Milwaukee.
Trading Segura opens a spot at shortstop for Orlando Arcia. The 21-year old is expected to start the season at Triple-A and figures to be in the big leagues much sooner than anticipated now. And Chase Anderson gives the Brewers another young, controllable starting pitcher that has big upside. The downside is that Anderson could have trouble keeping the ball in Miller Park.
News, Notes and Rumors
• The Royals signed OF Travis Snider to a minor league contract that includes a NRI to Spring Training. Shortly after the Royals announced signing Snider, Jerry Crasnick posted the rather long list of free agent outfielders that are still available: Dexter Fowler, Austin Jackson, David Murphy, Alex Rios, Will Venable, Marlon Byrd, Chris Denorfia, David DeJesus, Jeff Francoeur, Jonny Gomes, Matt Joyce, Nate McLouth, Ryan Raburn, Skip Schumaker, Grady Sizemore, Drew Stubbs and Shane Victorino.
• According to Matt Eddy, managers “let left-handed batters face left-handed pitchers in 8.1 percent of plate appearances in 2015, which is down from peak of 9.2 percent left-on-left matchups in 2012.” Strikeout percentage has fallen on left-on-left matchups in the last three years while average, isolated power and walk percentage has risen.
• The Rays could turn to the free agent reliever market to fill the hole in the bullpen that was created by trading Jake McGee to the Rockies. According to Marc Topkin, LHP Craig Breslow and RHP Tommy Hunter could be among the relievers Matt Silverman is interested in signing.
• And speaking of the Rays, they “have at least explored” signing Ian Desmond according to Jon Heyman.
• Joe Mauer is done with catching according to a report from Hardball Talk.
And last, but not least … the Pirates announced Saturday the team hired Joe Block as the team’s new play-by-play announcer. Block joins Greg Brown, Steve Blass, Bob Walk and John Wehner on the Pirates’ broadcast team. Andy Masur was a finalist for the job.
This Day in Cubstory
2006 – Cubs signed free agent Jamal Strong
2002 – Cubs signed free agent Pat Mahomes
1999 – Cubs signed amateur free agent Renyel Pinto
1989 – Tommy La Stella, born
1931 – Ernie Banks, born
1914 – Charlie Wiedemeyer, born
1889 – Ray Brown, born