Tag:Theo Epstein
Posted on: March 7, 2012 5:17 pm
Edited on: March 7, 2012 6:56 pm
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Cubs may be closing in on Jorge Soler

Theo Epstein

By Dayn Perry

Power-hitting Cuban outfielder Jorge Soler may eventually sign with the Cubs for $27 million, MLB Network's Peter Gammons reports via Twitter

Soler is inevitably compared to his countryman Yoenis Cespedes, who signed a four-year, $36-million pact with the A's earlier this offseason, but there's one key difference: age. At 26, Cespedes is more major-league ready than the 19-year-old Soler. However, Soler, obviously, will have the opportunity to spend his formative baseball years under the aegis of a major-league organization, and he also boasts the higher ceiling. It's generally acknowledged that Soler is ready for High-A right now, so it's conceivable he could reach the highest level for good by late 2013. 

As for Soler's baseball skills, Baseball America's Jim Callis likens him to Royals uber-prospect Bubba Starling and suggests that, had he been eligible, Soler may have gone in the top five of last year's draft.

More from Callis: "Six-foot-3 and 205 pounds, Soler has explosive bat speed and power potential. He also has plus speed and arm strength and profiles as a classic right fielder, though he runs well enough to play center. Because of his youth, he'll need some time to develop, but he should be worth the wait."

After signing left-hander Gerardo Concepcion earlier this winter, Theo Epstein and the Cubs are obviously undaunted by the difficulties in vetting and projecting Cuban talent. Indeed, if the Soler rumors come to be realized, then this would amount to Epstein's boldest move since assuming control of the Cubs' baseball operations.  

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Posted on: February 24, 2012 10:02 pm
Edited on: February 26, 2012 7:57 pm
 

Spring primer: Chicago Cubs



By Matt Snyder


After watching the Cubs go from a 97-win club to a 71-win version in just four seasons, owner Tom Ricketts took serious action in 2011. He fired general manager Jim Hendry and landed his version of a big fish, in former Red Sox GM Theo Epstein. Epstein took over as club president then added Jed Hoyer as general manager and Jason McLeod as senior vice president of scouting and player development, among other front office pieces. The new management group then hired Dale Sveum as the big-league manager and started to clean house. It's going to be a long process, but said process has begun in earnest.

Scott Miller's camp report: Cubs Giddy With Optimism | Likes, Dislikes

Major additions: OF David DeJesus, 1B Anthony Rizzo, 3B Ian Stewart, LHP Paul Maholm, RHP Chris Volstad, LHP Travis Wood
Major departures: RHP Carlos Zambrano, OF Tyler Colvin, RHP Andrew Cashner, 3B Aramis Ramirez, 1B Carlos Pena, LHP Sean Marshall, LHP John Grabow

Probable lineup
1. David DeJesus, RF
2. Starlin Castro, SS
3. Marlon Byrd, CF
4. Bryan LaHair, 1B
5. Alfonso Soriano, LF
6. Ian Stewart, 3B
7. Geovany Soto, C
8. Darwin Barney, 2B

Probable rotation
1. Matt Garza
2. Ryan Dempster
3. Paul Maholm
4. Randy Wells
5. Travis Wood

Chris Volstad will also be in the mix, but I gave Wood the nod because he's left-handed.

Back-end bullpen
Closer: Carlos Marmol
Set-up: Kerry Wood, Jeff Samardzija

Important bench players

IF Jeff Baker, C Welington Castillo, OF Tony Campana, OF Reed Johnson

Prospects to watch
There are two here in particular that could make an impact in 2012: OF Brett Jackson and 1B Anthony Rizzo. It's entirely possible both are in the lineup come August. With Rizzo, it's a matter of whether or not LaHair can hit in the majors long-term -- as he could merely be one of those so-called Quadruple-A players. If that is the case and Rizzo is hitting well in Triple-A, the Cubs might well decide to turn to Rizzo. With Jackson, he's blocked all over the outfield, however, center field could easily be cleared in July. If the Cubs fall out of contention prior to the trade deadline -- and let's face it, that's a pretty good bet -- Byrd is a great trade candidate (sorry, I don't think the Cubs can deal Soriano just yet due to his contract). Byrd is in the final year of his contract and can play all three outfield positions, so surely some contender would cough up one mid-tier prospect for him. If that happens, the logical step for the Cubs would be to see how Jackson fared in center field for the final two months to determine if he can stay there or if he needs to be moved to a corner.

Fantasy sleeper: Bryan LaHair
"Usually, when a player in his late 20s puts up eye-popping numbers at Triple-A like a .331 batting average, 38 homers and 1.070 OPS, he's dismissed right away as a Quadruple-A player, but apparently the Cubs' front office thinks LaHair is different -- and not just because of his impressive 59 at-bat stint in the majors last year. The experiment could still be a failure of Kila Ka'aihue proportions, which is why you shouldn't bother with LaHair in mixed leagues, but late in NL-only formats, why not?" - Scott White [Full Cubs team fantasy preview]

Fantasy bust: Carlos Marmol
"If blown saves were Marmol's only problem, it'd be one thing, but the bottom line is he's not the efficient out-getter that Epstein and Hoyer would like their closer to be. His walk rate is as bad as it gets, and as a result, he's always pitching out of jams. Sure, his high strikeout rate helps compensate for it, but if he produces anything short of a best-in-the-league-type hit rate, his WHIP is in the danger zone." - Scott White [Full Cubs team fantasy preview]

Optimistic outlook
The deep pitching staff throws well and pays immediate dividends, as the bullpen improves with much better rest. Plus, behind the changes in right field and third base, the defense is also improved. Even Marmol's control issues drastically dwindle. LaHair and Stewart prove they can hit major-league pitching throughout the season and DeJesus turns out a perfect leadoff man for the suddenly balanced offense. And the Cubs find themselves right in the thick of the NL Central race with the Cardinals, Reds and Brewers until the end of the season, possibly even finishing somewhere in the top three.

Pessimistic outlook
By the end of July, Garza, Dempster and Byrd are all traded as the Cubs have no shot of making the playoffs. The Cubs try to avoid the cellar in a battle with the Astros, but continue the rebuilding effort and look forward to hitting the 2013 free agency class full-steam (less than $40 million is committed to 2013 payroll so far). Really, this is more realistic than pessimistic, because as much as the Cubs' coaches, players and front office say they're trying to win this year, it's obvious this is a two-year plan at the absolute minimum.

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Posted on: February 22, 2012 9:59 pm
Edited on: February 22, 2012 10:06 pm
 

New Cubs manager Sveum puts together bunt tourney

By Matt Snyder

As the Cubs franchise strives to do a complete makeover, fundamentals have been reemphasized in camp this season. More attention is reportedly being paid to baserunning and pitchers' fielding, for example. Also: Bunting.

And in the spirit of the upcoming March Madness -- watch the NCAA basketball tournament on CBS! -- new manager Dale Sveum has devised a 64-man bunting tournament that will begin Thursday. With there only being 62 players in camp, Sveum threw himself in the bracket along with strength coach Tim Buss (via Chicago Tribune). Tribune beat writer Paul Sullivan has posted a picture of the entire bracket on his Facebook page.

Sveum made setup man Kerry Wood a No. 2 seed -- and if that's an accurate ranking, it's a good thing the Cubs are refocusing on bunting considering Wood hasn't had a big-league plate appearance since 2007 -- and put himself against Wood in Round 1 as a 15.

Sullivan reports the players' consensus is that starting pitchers Ryan Dempster and Randy Wells are the favorites, though speedy outfielder Tony Campana named himself the man to beat.

Having seen many Cubs games the past several seasons, I'd be shocked if anyone beats Dempster -- not that the winner really matters. And my reaction to seeing Alfonso Soriano as a 15-seed? How are there at least four worse bunters in camp?

Two things here do matter, though:

1. The focus on fundamentals.
2. Having fun. It's a long spring training and exercises like these help bring the team together. If you scoff at that notion, note that Joe Girardi had the 2009 Yankees compete in a billiards tournament in spring training as a team-building exercise. Obviously these Cubs don't have the same level of talent as the eventual '09 World Series champions, but the point remains that Sveum has his head in the right place.

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Posted on: February 21, 2012 11:46 am
Edited on: February 21, 2012 3:25 pm
 

Red Sox receive RHP Chris Carpenter for Epstein

Chris Carpenter

By C. Trent Rosecrans


In what only seems fitting, the Red Sox and Cubs have agreed upon the compensation for new Chicago president Theo Epstein, but there are still players to be named for both teams to complete the deal, dragging out the case even longer. The two teams have been trying to figure out the compensation for Epstein's move from Boston since the World Series, when Epstein was hired.

The Red Sox will receive right-hander Chris Carpenter (no, not that Chris Carpenter) and a player to be named, while the Cubs will also receive a player to be named. Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington told reporters the players to be named will be decided by the end of spring training. Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said the two players to be named are just a "procedural" thing to satisfy MLB transaction rules.

Carpenter, 26, was ranked the No. 13 prospect in the Cubs' system by Baseball America (and the same publication had the Cubs' system ranked No. 14 overall).

The Cubs drafted him in the third round of the 2008 draft out of Kent State. Last season he pitched in 10 games for the Cubs, putting up a 2.79 ERA in 10 innings, allowing 12 hits, a home run, seven walks and eight  strikeouts. In his first season as a reliever, Carpenter pitched in 32 games between Double-A and Triple-A, going 3-4 with a 5.91 ERA and 34 strikeouts in 42 2/3 innings. He had a WHIP of 1.617.

"I am relieved that this process is over and particularly pleased that the teams were able to reach agreement on their own without intervention from MLB," Epstein said in a statement from the Cubs. "I truly hope and believe that this resolution will benefit both clubs, as well as Chris, who is an extremely talented reliever joining a great organization at a time when there's some opportunity in the major league bullpen."

While there had been reports that Bud Selig would have to decide the matter, Selig said the two sides worked out the move on their own.

"I am pleased that the Cubs and the Red Sox have resolved this matter," Selig said in a statement realsed by MLB. "It has always been my preference that Clubs resolve matters like this amongst themselves, as they understand their unique circumstances better than anyone else could.  Though the matter required time, both Clubs demonstrated professionalism throughout their discussions, and I appreciate their persistence in finding common ground."

Cherington said he was happy to have the matter decided.

"I think it took this long because it was a unique circumstance," Cherington said, according to the Associated Press. "We talk to teams all the time about trades and it's player for player and it's pretty easy to, easier to, assign value and figure out what's fair, what's not fair. In this case it was just tougher because it involved not just an executive but a friend."

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Posted on: February 21, 2012 11:06 am
Edited on: February 21, 2012 11:18 am
 

Epstein compensation may be announced Tuesday

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Major League Baseball is expected to announce the compensation the Red Sox will receive from the Cubs in return for the hiring of president Theo Epstein on Tuesday, CBSSports.com insider Jon Heyman reports.

According to Heyman, the compensation was negotiated by both parties with input from MLB. One thing that worked in the Cubs' favor was the fact Epstein only had one year to go on his contract and his relationship with John Henry was seen as deteriorating. The Red Sox are expected to receive a minor-league player or players in compensation for allowing Epstein to go to Chicago, but the perceived value of that player or players is what has been in question since Epstein's hiring in October.

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Posted on: February 13, 2012 1:52 pm
Edited on: February 13, 2012 1:53 pm
 

Epstein compensation decision expected this week

Theo Epstein

By C. Trent Rosecrans


Major League Baseball is inching closer to a conclusion in the Theo Epstein compensation talks, with a decision expected as soon as this week, CBSSports.com insider Jon Heyman reports.

Both teams have already submitted briefs, and the commissioner's office has had time to look them over.

For Red Sox fans with images of Brett Jackson dancing in your head, well, you can stop. Word is the fact the Epstein had just one year left on his contract, and his deteriorating relationship with John Henry and Larry Lucchino, could affect what kind of return the Red Sox get.

Epstein was named the Cubs' president of baseball operations on Oct. 21. The two sides originally had 30 days to settle on compensation, but that deadline was then pushed back and ultimately sent to the commissioner's office last month.

The only precedent for a GM leaving his post and then taking another gig came in 1994 when the Twins' Andy MacPhail left Minnesota for the top job with the Cubs. The Twins received right-hander Hector Trinidad as compensation. Trinidad was ranked the team's No. 30 prospect at the time and never made it past Double-A. According to Baseball America, the Cubs' No. 30 prospect this year is outfielder Shawon Dunston Jr., the team's 11th-round pick in 2001 and son of former Cubs shortstop (and top overall pick) Shawon Dunston.

The Marlins gave up two players, utility infielder Ozzie Martinez and reliever Jhan Marinez, to the White Sox for compensation in return for manager Ozzie Guillen. Baseball America ranked Marinez, a right-hander, the No. 6 prospect in the White Sox system, although it should be noted he'd be ranked much lower than that in any other system. The White Sox minor-league system is almost universally considered the worst in baseball by a wide margin. Martinez was not ranked by Baseball America.

Epstein should be worth more than a manager, and probably more than what the Cubs gave up 18 years ago -- but how much more will be what makes it interesting.

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Posted on: February 9, 2012 4:51 pm
Edited on: February 27, 2012 10:47 am
 

Spring position battles: National League Central



By C. Trent Rosecrans


The National League Central is often looked down upon, but it produced both teams in the National League Championship Series last year, as well as the World Series. Both the Cardinals and Brewers have large voids in their lineup due to free agency, but all the teams have some questions when pitchers and catchers report to camp. Here's the NL Central spring position battles:

Chicago Cubs
Old vs. Young: Bryan LaHair and Marlon Byrd vs. Anthony Rizzo and Brett Jackson

For so long the Cubs' motto has been "wait 'til next year" -- that may have been changed to "wait 'til a couple of years" as Theo Epstein has fully embraced the rebuilding effort. The question is whether the braintrust thinks it's better for some of their younger players to learn at the big-league level or continue in the minors. The two biggest choices will be Rizzo and Jackson. Rizzo, 22, struggled in his call-up last season, hitting .141/.281/.242 with a homer in 153 plate appearances, but that was as a 21-year-old in San Diego. LaHair may only have 65 games in the big leagues, but that doesn't make him young -- just inexperienced. LaHair turned 29 in November and spent eight years in the minors. He hit .288/.377/.508 in his 20 games with the Cubs last season, but he's hardly anyone's idea of a long-term solution. Epstein drafted Rizzo while with the Red Sox and then traded for him when he took over the Cubs. It's Rizzo's job to lose. Meanwhile, Byrd is in the last season of his three-year, $15 million contract, so he's more likely to get traded than to be unseated in spring. The 23-year-old Jackson put up a .297/.388/.551 line at Triple-A Iowa with 10 homers in just 48 games after being called up from Double-A. The team's first-round pick in the 2009 draft will have a chance to show he's big-league ready. If the team does go with Rizzo and Jackson, it could be a sign of the team's future and the patience that Chicago will show going forward.

Cincinnati Reds
Left field: Chris Heisey vs. Ryan Ludwick

The Reds signed Ludwick to a bargain deal, hoping he can find the stroke he left in St. Louis. The 33-year-old has always hit well at Cincinnati's Great American Ball Park, putting up a .276/.321/.600 stat line with nine homers in 30 games and 112 plate appearances in his new home park. Both Ludwick and Heisey are right-handed batters who fare better against right-handed pitchers. Ludwick is a career .272/.339/.464 hitter against righties and .237/.316/.435 against lefties. Heisey's split is more extreme -- .288/.346/.539 against right-handers and .180/.248/.300 against lefties. One thing that helps Ludwick's case may be Heisey's strength as a pinch-hitter. Last year the 27-year-old Heisey hit .324/.333/.529 with two homers as a pinch-hitter. There's another option here, as well. If Drew Stubbs struggles at the plate, Hesiey could be an option to play center alongside Ludwick in left. That's a remote possibility, though. The Reds are high on Stubbs' power/speed combination and he is an excellent defender in center.

Houston Astros
Third base: Brett Wallace vs. Chris Johnson vs. Jimmy Paredes

The fact that the Astros are looking to move Wallace to third base may tell you what they think of Johnson and Paredes. If Wallace shows he can play third, he's the likely favorite. Johnson struggled in 2011 after showing promise in 2010. Paredes hit .286/.320/.393 after taking over the position for the last two months of the season, but he's not seen as a long-term solution. Wallace could be.

Milwaukee Brewers
First base: Mat Gamel vs. himself

With Ryan Braun's status resolved, the Brewers don't really have many question marks. All five starters return, as do its closer and top set-up man. The lineup, with a platoon of Carlos Gomez and Nyjer Morgan and newcomer Aramis Ramirez at third base seems pretty much set -- barring injury. The only hole is a big one -- the one left by first baseman Prince Fielder. The position is Mat Gamel's to lose. The 26-year-old played in just 10 games last season, getting 27 plate appearances. His only extensive big-league experience came in 2009 when he hit .242/.338/.422 with five homers, primarily playing third base. However, he's never been able to establish himself and after playing both third base and the outfield, he played primarily first base at Triple-A Nashville last season, while making six errors in 20 games at third base. He's a first baseman now and a first baseman only. He's hit  well at Triple-A, hitting .301/.374/.512 in parts of four seasons at the top level of the minors, hitting 28 home runs for Nashville last season. Gamel will probably start at first on opening day even if he struggles in spring, but right fielder Corey Hart could be used at first if Gamel struggles even more. The team did sign Japanese outfield Norichika Aoki, who could play right if Hart moves to first.

Pittsburgh Pirates
Third base: Pedro Alvarez vs. Casey McGehee

Acquiring the veteran McGehee from Milwaukee could be seen as a kick in the pants for the second-overall pick of the 2008 draft. Alvarez hit just .191/.272/.289 in 74 games last season and the team may be getting worried about whether he'll ever develop into the star as expected. McGehee is coming off a rough season of his own, hitting just .223/.280/.346 with 13 homers after hitting 23 homers and 104 RBI in 2010. McGehee was replaced by Jerry Hairston Jr. at third base during the playoffs and by former Pirate Aramis Ramirez after the season.

St. Louis Cardinals
Second base: Skip Schumaker vs. Daniel Descalso vs. Tyler Greene

General manager John Mozeliak has insinuated he'd like to see Greene win the job. The 28-year-old has yet to produce at the level expected of him, hitting just .218/.307/.313 in 150 games and 359 plate appearances. Descalso filled in for the injured David Freese last season and responded with a .264/.334/.353 line, while Schumaker is the incumbent having hit .283/.333/.351 while starting 89 games at second, but none in the World Series. All three have some positional versatility.

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Posted on: January 27, 2012 8:21 pm
Edited on: January 27, 2012 9:19 pm
 

Selig hopes to settle Epstein compensation soon

Bud SeligBy C. Trent Rosecrans

The Cubs and Red Sox have made their proposals for Boston's compensation for allowing Theo Epstein to move to Chicago, but commissioner Bud Selig said he doesn't have a timetable for making a decision.

"I'd like to get it done as expeditiously as possible," Selig said Friday night at SoxFest in Chicago, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The two teams have submitted written proposals, possibly including names of specific players, to Selig, according to the newspaper.

"The clubs tried to settle it themselves. I have a lot of patience because everything controversial generally winds up on my desk," Selig said. "In this case, I did give the clubs more latitude and hoped they could come to some conclusion. But they didn't and now it's my case."

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