2016 Cubs Convention: Baseball Management
After the highly successful 2015 season, the Baseball Operations department has been hard at work gearing up for the 2016 campaign. Len Kasper interviews President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein, Executive Vice President/General Manager Jed Hoyer, and Assistant General Managers Randy Bush and Shiraz Rehman about the offseason and what lies ahead in 2016.
Theo Epstein opened up the panel, thanking fans for their loud applause during the Opening Ceremony. He discussed the successful offseason, especially with Jason Heyward, where he felt it didn’t feel like signing a free agent, it felt more like adding to our young core. Adam Warren, the return for Starlin Castro, is a guy that could sneak up on people.
Hoyer was reminded of how hard it wins 97 games. He and Epstein looked at each other that last week as the wins kept racking up, and were in some disbelief.
They were asked at what point they may part with members of the elite bench or prospects for top-level players, and they said that with so much talent on the major league front, they may be more willing to dip into the minor league depth.
The front office is extremely excited about Minor League Player of the Year Willson Contreras, and they see him as an incredibly talented catcher. He projects to be a front-line backstop in the big leagues for a long time.
They were asked about some drastic splits with a few of the young Cubs, and how they can be better balanced. Hoyer think Kyle Schwarber will be able to hit lefties if they allow him enough at-bats, which they plan to do. He believes Kris Bryant’s home/road splits are a little more random. They also just hope Jorge Soler will get used to the cold weather.
Hundley discussed the difference of Wrigley Field versus any other stadium in terms of hitting. He says the weather plays a big role and there is an adjustment period involved, especially with young players.
Rehman was asked about the back-to-back transaction of the Ben Zobrist signing turning into a Starlin Castro-for-Adam Warren deal. He said a lot of work is involved.
“Getting access to starting pitching was something we really wanted to do this winter,” Rehman reiterated.
Epstein also brought up that relationships and trust are important when making multi-level moves. He said it took almost two full months of Zobrist’s trust. They also had talked about the Castro-for-Warren deal with the Yankees at the 2015 trade deadline.
Hoyer anticipates the changes of the international market spending policies. There could be an international draft at some point soon.
Epstein said they have so many hitters coming up, that they all would like a designated hitter, but it’s out of their hands.
With regards to adding talent prior to Spring Training, Hoyer talks every day with teams and agents trying to upgrade the team. But they’re not looking for big changes at this point. There is a lot of versatility, both with the position players and the pitchers. He believes the Cardinals are going to be good year after year, but it’s in the Cubs’ best interest to build the best roster for themselves.
Epstein is planning for projected lineups for the next half decade. He made that point to state they won’t abandon the search for young players and hope to keep a deep farm system.
Epstein said there was plenty of talent ready for him in Boston that they were able to win from the beginning. He realized when he got to Chicago, he needed to build from the ground up. He thanked fans for their patience and he hopes the upcoming seasons will be worth it.
Rehman thinks the players enjoy the idea of potentially coming in and playing positions or doing something they maybe haven’t done in previous seasons. It makes it fun for the front office too because manager Joe Maddon is willing to try something new or outside of the box when a transaction is proposed.
Epstein isn’t a fan of the arbitration. He hasn’t had a player go to arbitration in 15 years. They are the biggest Jake Arrieta fans and they want to see him in a Cubs uniform for the foreseeable future.
The Cubs were aggressive this offseason because of how “dry” the upcoming free-agent class is going to be. They don’t want to rely on free agency every year.
When going into a draft, the front office talks about the person drafted just as much as the player. They are going to have to project how a young player gets challenged in a new situation.