Cubs

Epstein sees Sveum making a power play

592284.png

Epstein sees Sveum making a power play

Dale Sveum flew to Milwaukee and didnt bother to pack a blazer for his interviews with the Cubs and Red Sox. They had to stop on the ride down to Chicago to pick one up for the press conference the next morning.

They walked into a Mens Wearhouse in Racine, Wis., on Thursday and you definitely got the sense that Theo Epstein doesnt shop there. Sveum also had to get fitted at a tuxedo shop because hell be the best man at the wedding for a Brewers clubhouse attendant.

The Cubs president of baseball operations cracked up on Friday telling the story: The kid working behind the desk goes: Oh, please dont leave us Dale. He looked at him and (said): Youre a lot taller than you seem on TV.

Sveum isnt flashy and doesnt have a big ego. But he will cut a bigger figure in the organization than you think. Cubs executives say they didnt just hire a puppet manager, and that perception bothers the front office.

I want to correct that right off the bat, Epstein said. Its his call what he does with the players and what buttons he pushes on the field and what lineups he writes out. Thats all him. Hes going to grow into this job, but hes strong from Day 1.

That Sveum organized the bachelor party for a clubhouse guy this weekend tailgating in Green Bay and going to a Packers game says a lot about how he builds relationships and influences people.

Dales not afraid to walk up to (anyone), Epstein said. Whether youre the 25th guy on the roster, a clubbie or a superstar player making 100 million, hes going to talk to you like a man.

Epsteins management style is to be surrounded with people wholl challenge him. Epstein saw the speculation that Sveum would be weakened because he hasnt done it before at this level (except for 12 games and a playoff series as the Brewers interim manager in 2008).

Epstein insisted that you dont need 10 years of experience as a big-league manager to be strong. Sveum has credibility after playing parts of 12 seasons in the majors and working six years as a Brewers coach.

Sveum wont be the face of the franchise that Lou Piniella once was here, but he will have a say in his coaching staff. He said he already has an idea of names Im going to interview to be his pitching coach. (Mark Riggins is not signed for next season.)

Sveum called Robin Yount his best friend, but said the Hall of Famer wont be joining his staff. Coaches Pat Listach (bench), Rudy Jaramillo (hitting) and Lester Strode (bullpen) are well-regarded and under contract for 2012.

The information age and the Moneyball culture Sveum hasnt read the book or seen the movie has glamorized executives and eroded the power of managers.

The idea that you want someone you can control? general manager Jed Hoyer said. Not at all. You want someone thats incredibly well-prepared. Well probably offer some information (and) hell probably offer some input on player transactions. Thats the way it should be. We should have that kind of relationship.

That exchange of ideas sold the Cubs on Sveum during the interview process, an intense and revealing series of questions and game simulations. If they didnt believe in how he would run a game, they wouldnt have hired him.

Sveum had to trust Epstein and Hoyer who knew him as the Red Sox third-base coach in 2004 and 2005 because he felt like he was about to get an offer from Boston.

It was getting to that point, Sveum said. I had the second interview and I met with the owners, so you sensed it, but it never happened. It was irrelevant at that time once the Cubs offered me the job.

The Cubs made an offer on Wednesday after Sveum had lunch with Red Sox ownership and closed the deal the next day.

The head was probably spinning, he said, but I think the arrow fell in the right spot.

The Cubs had to act fast because Texas pitching coach Mike Maddux a very compelling candidate wasnt going to ignore his family considerations. Maddux called his friend Sveum one of the best baseball people I know in a classy statement issued by the Rangers.

Its the man that matters more than the experience, Epstein said. You look at all the great managers in the game the (Jim) Leylands, the (Tony) La Russas, the (Joe) Torres, Terry Francona everyone (needed) a first chance.

Youre looking at the attributes that can make a great manager (because) once they get that opportunity, they go on to have 20 years in the game and become a household name. I hope Dales going to become known as one of the great managers in the game. And I think he will over time.

So Sveum wont get paid like Francona in this three-year deal with an option for 2015. But hell have every chance to earn the next contract. Just dont expect him to buy any fancy suits with the money.

If Rangers sign Nicholas Castellanos, it could lead them to Kris Bryant after

If Rangers sign Nicholas Castellanos, it could lead them to Kris Bryant after

After losing out on free agent third baseman Anthony Rendon, the Texas Rangers have spoken to agent Scott Boras about Cubs free agent outfielder Nicholas Castellanos, according to Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News.

Castellanos played third with the Detroit Tigers from 2014-17, but considering he posted a -64 Defensive Runs Saved in four seasons, he won’t be moving back there. Interestingly, however, Castellanos is willing to consider playing first base, according to Grant.

The Cubs — who are reportedly still pursuing Castellanos — obviously would be affected if the 27-year-old signs with Texas, as they'll lose one of their most productive players from 2019. But besides that, Castellanos landing with the Rangers would impact the Kris Bryant trade market.

The Rangers are looking for a consolation plan at third base after missing out on Rendon. They have a three-year offer on the table for Donaldson, according to Grant, and signing him would only entail money. The same cannot be said about acquiring a third baseman via trade, like Kris Bryant, who would acquire several assets.

But if Donaldson doesn’t sign with the Rangers, they’ll be more inclined to pursue Bryant. Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said at the Winter Meetings they’ll address third base this offseason, and the Cubs third baseman would be the best option left, if the Rangers don’t land Donaldson. That is, unless Texas calls the Rockies about Nolan Arenado.

Daniels pointed to how the Rangers are unlikely to trade for a player with only a few years of team control left (like Bryant) without making other major additions.

“There are some trade options [that] would have quite frankly made more sense in our mind if we had landed the free agents at the top of our list,” Daniels said. “I don’t love the idea of half measures. I don’t love the idea of taking a chunk out of the system if it doesn’t really make sense. Trading for somebody with a year or two of control if the club is a little more filled out.”

If the Rangers land Castellanos, a pursuit of Bryant could follow. The same can be said if they sign Donaldson, even, thanks to Bryant’s positional versatility.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams Cubs games easily on your device.

With Winter Meetings over, Cubs gearing up for 'trading season'

With Winter Meetings over, Cubs gearing up for 'trading season'

SAN DIEGO — What a difference five years makes. 

At the 2014 MLB Winter Meetings — the last time the offseason spectacle was in San Diego — the Cubs had just tabbed Joe Maddon their new manager and spent the week trading for Miguel Montero, working out a free-agent deal with Jon Lester and then celebrating those big successes.

This time around, the "big" move the Cubs made during the Winter Meetings was selecting pitcher Trevor Megill in the Rule 5 Draft Thursday morning. 

But the bigger news was the moves the Cubs didn't make — they have not yet shaken up the core of the roster with a significant trade.

All week long in Ron Burgundy's hometown, the Cubs front office reiterated the team is not shopping at the top — or even the middle — of the free agent market and pointed to how free agency had to see more movement before they could jump into the fray on the trade market. At least they aren't having to wait as long as normal for free agency, with the biggest names off the board this week in an offseason moving much quicker than the last couple that extended into February.

That's setting the stage for a potentially busy January for the Cubs.

"In general, there's been a focus on free agency, which is totally logical," Jed Hoyer said Thursday morning. "I think there's still some really good players in the free agent market. We're not there yet. There's still some guys that teams are focused on, but I do think that the way things are moving — traditionally, Christmas was always a boundary for free agents, so to speak. Everybody wanted to be signed by Christmas. 

"Maybe we're going back to that. That would certainly leave the rest of December after that and January would be more of a trading season. So maybe we're back to that traditional calendar, I'm not sure. If the primary free agents are off the market, that definitely clarifies the dynamic for different teams."

So mark your calendars for January as potential "trading season."

What Hoyer is saying makes sense. Anthony Rendon is off the free agent market (reaching a deal with Joe Maddon's Angels), but there's still a very good third baseman available in Josh Donaldson. Why wouldn't teams continue to try to sign him and only commit money and a compensation draft pick instead of giving up a haul to the Cubs in exchange for Kris Bryant?

Right now, it appears the Rangers, Nationals, Dodgers and Braves are still in need of a third baseman and the Phillies might be, as well. Donaldson is only one person, so depending on how the rest of the trade market plays out, there could conceivably be three or four teams bidding on Bryant.

"As the free agents go off the market, it clarifies things for us and for other teams," Hoyer said. "I wouldn't say that moves us closer [to a move], but I think it definitely provides clarity. ... It feels to me like continued action in free agency in the days to come and early next week. 

"It seems like there's probably some free agent deals that are closer to fruition and they're not ready to be announced yet, but it seems like there's a lot of activity. I think as those things get finalized, it will clarify the trade market. There's gonna be teams that still want to improve after free agents are generally off the board."

Whether any team ends up meeting the Cubs' asking price is another matter entirely. Bryant is one of the game's best players, a fantastic role model and is well-liked within the clubhouse and fanbase. Plus, he's under team control for the next two years for somewhere between $40-$45 million (assuming he does not win his service time grievance). 

If the Cubs don't get a franchise-altering haul, they aren't trading Bryant. They won't make a move just for change's sake, as Theo Epstein insisted this week.

Nothing appears imminent on the trade front in any capacity — with Bryant, Willson Contreras or any other player — but signs still point to some sort of major shakeup to the roster this winter. 

Epstein said he would be fine heading into spring training with the "status quo" on the roster because he likes the talent of the players and the fresh dynamic created by David Ross, a new coaching staff and a revamped group behind-the-scenes.

But make no mistake — the Cubs' ideal winter would not be migrating down to Mesa, Ariz., with a status quo roster. The ideal winter would include shaking up the roster to fortify current weaknesses and improve the long-term health of the franchise beyond the 2021 season.

"We've been talking in a lot of hypotheticals — if we get this guy, if we get that guy. And we also always circle back to with the roster we have right now — status quo — because it's hard to acquire players," Epstein said. "So I'd feel good. I'd feel like we'd have one of the most talented teams in the league, but that we'd have some areas of exposure where we'd need things to go right. But we'd have a lot of guys in place that have a lot of potential and things could really break our way and we'd be fairly dynamic. 

"But leave no doubt, there are areas where we want to acquire players to address our weaknesses and put us in the best possible position to succeed. Status quo is not a bad option, but we're obviously out there looking to make changes and change the dynamic and improve and grow."