Cubs

What does Epstein mean by 'The Cubs Way?'

573448.jpg

What does Epstein mean by 'The Cubs Way?'

Theo Epstein had enough self-awareness to promise that he wont answer every question by referencing his time with the Red Sox, even if thats exactly who the Cubs want to be.

Professionally, Epstein had started to become stale after almost 10 years in Boston. He also understands that his staff cant rest on what they did at Fenway Park. He promised that his front office would have a research and development wing to discover that cutting edge.

Because everyone understands that this is the information age. The Cubs will focus more on on-base percentage and run prevention. They need to see more pitches, make starters work and wear out bullpens. They have to improve their defense, because they werent very good in that phase by just about any advanced metric or eye test.

But every organization looks at the numbers and hopes to build up the farm system and create chemistry. The Cubs are looking to answer: Whats next? And define what, exactly, is The Cubs Way?

The offseason officially begins after the final out in Fridays World Series Game 7. Epstein went underground after Tuesdays press conference at Wrigley Field and brought in his inner circle, Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod, two Padres executives he used to work closely with in Boston.

So theyll continue to gather information. They have to make quick decisions on: manager Mike Quade and his coaching staff; the 16 million club option on Aramis Ramirez (which he can void); and Ryan Dempsters 14 million player option.

Epstein took this presidents job because he wanted to look at the bigger picture and create a vertically-integrated system where theyre playing the game the same way in the Dominican summer league, rookie ball, at Double-A Tennessee and Wrigley Field.

This isnt revolutionary, and it wont happen overnight. But Epstein will have a chance to help write the scouting and player development manuals, like he did in Boston, and remake this organization in his image.

Epstein will be given more resources than anyone else in the National League Central, and a direct report to ownership, so there will be no excuses.

During his first session with the Chicago media on Tuesday, Epstein went along with a question about last summers draft. The Cubs were aggressive and took risks and wound up spending close to 20 million in the draft and international signings.

Heres how Epstein described the reaction in the Red Sox war room: They finally get it. Theyre going for it.

The dollars that we spend in the draft (and) internationally (are) the best investments that we make, Epstein continued saying. It was a clear philosophical change (and) it got everyones attention in the game. It certainly aligns well with my vision for how to run a baseball operation.

McLeod has a good relationship with Cubs scouting director Tim Wilken, and the idea is that Epsteins front office will pool their resources, not shut out the Jim Hendry loyalists.

McLeod found impact players like Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury. Baseball America had his drafts among the top five in three of his first four years as Red Sox scouting director.

Epstein kind of rolled his eyes at the mention of Carmine, the computer system thats been played up in the media. He made it clear that decisions wont be made a by a laptop, that his staff will combine objective analysis with old-school scouting.

The way to see the player most accurately, to get the truest picture, Epstein said, is to put both those lenses together and look through them simultaneously.

Again, these arent earth-shattering concepts, and Epstein would admit as much. But its a clear vision that shouldnt get much interference from anyone else in the organization. He built up capital with a five-year contract and those two World Series rings.

In explaining his decision to leave the Red Sox, Epstein cited Bill Walshs theory that coaches and executives shouldnt stay around a team longer than 10 years. Walsh was 47 years old when he took over the San Francisco 49ers.

Now its time for Epstein to innovate and refine his West Coast offense.

Tom Ricketts mentioned how he sensed that Epstein wasnt content and still felt hungry. The chairman is betting that Epstein, at 37, is not one of those post-prime free agents being paid for past performance instead of future results.

Theres not one way to play this game, Epstein said. The Cubs Way will be a dynamic, living, breathing entity that changes every year.

Podcast: Bold predictions for the Cubs offseason

harper_and_machado_bold_predictions_podcast_slide.jpg
USA TODAY

Podcast: Bold predictions for the Cubs offseason

With the MLB offseason about to kick off, we run down the boldest predictions for the Cubs winter from around the NBC Sports Chicago Cubs content team. Topics include where Bryce Harper and Manny Machado will sign, how much money they’ll get, what the Cardinals will do this winter, Cubs offseason trades and how Theo Epstein’s front office may add to the pitching staff.

 

One topic we could all agree on was David Ross' potential as Cubs bench coach if the incumbent Brandon Hyde ends up taking a job as manager for another team around the league.

 

Listen to the entire podcast here and check out all of our bold predictions below:

 

 

David Kaplan

 

—Anthony Rizzo and his new wife, Emily, will adopt Manny Machado, change his last name and see Manny Rizzo playing third base for the 2019 Cubs.

—Because of the Rizzo move, the Cubs will move Kris Bryant to a full-time outfielder.

—The Cubs will trade away Jose Quintana and sign Patrick Corbin.

—The Cubs will sign a pair of former Indians relievers for the back end of the bullpen in Andrew Miller and Cody Allen.

—The Cubs will trade Kyle Schwarber to the Royals for Whit Merrifield, who will start 155 games in the leadoff spot in the order.

—Joe Maddon will be a lot more consistent with the Cubs' lineup and batting order all season.

 

Kelly Crull

 

—Anthony and Emily Rizzo will receive more wedding gifts from Cubs fans than Kris and Jessica Bryan received.

—Anthony Rizzo will train this offseason so he will be able to sing — or play the piano — for the National Anthem at Wrigley in 2019.

—The Cubs will have no money left to remodel the media room at Wrigley Field.

 

Luke Stuckmeyer

 

—The Captain Morgan Club at Wrigley Field is going to be replaced by Kap's Kryo & Keto Korner.

—The Cubs will finally find a solution to the leadoff hitter issue.

 

Tony Andracki

 

—The Cubs sign Bryce Harper for less than $250 million. (He follows 23 people on Twitter)
—Manny Machado does not get a contract for more than $250 million, either.
—The Cardinals will sign Craig Kimbrel and either Machado or Josh Donaldson to play 3B. 

 

Rationale: St. Louis could really use the bat and closer and they have a sense of urgency in the division this winter we haven't seen from them in at least a decade. The Cubs and Brewers have clearly been better for two seasons now and look to have a better chance at contending than the Cardinals in 2019, as well. That can't be sitting well with the "Best Fans in Baseball." 

 

Jeff Nelson, producer

 

—The Cubs will trade 2 of the following players:  Kyle Schwarber, Ian Happ, Addison Russell, Albert Almora Jr.

—The Cardinals will sign Manny Machado to play third base.

—Because of construction delays, the visitors’ clubhouse will not be ready for the home opener, forcing the Pirates to dress at their hotel and come to the ballpark in full uniform.

Mike Piff, social media manager

—Cubs sign Nick Markakis.
—Cubs sign Tyson Ross.

Eric Strobel, producer

—The Cubs 2019 saves leader is not currently on the roster.

Rationale: We saw what happened to the bullpen in Brandon Morrow's absence; it got the job done by and large, but was not longer truly feared. Deep 'pens are the norm in October now with lockdown relievers being counted on more and more. The front office knows they can't truly entrust that kind of workload to Morrow with his injury history - Theo admitted as much in his end-of-season press conference. While they probably will not make a big splash, a huge focus of the offseason will be to surround Morrow/Strop/Edwards/etc. with as many talented arms as possible. The Cubs could very well enter next season without a designated closer, but if they do, it will not be Brandon Morrow.

Scott Changnon, multi-platform producer

—The Cubs will sign Bryce Harper.

Rationale: "I dunno, maybe."

Nate Poppen, producer

—Cubs sign Andrew McCutchen, plug him into CF and make Almora a 4th OF (or expendable)
—Bryce Harper signs with Yankees.
—Manny Machado signs with Angels.

Matt Buckman, producer

Non-roster prediction: The Cubs will welcome Sammy Sosa back to Wrigley Field. Sammy turns 50 this winter, and fueled by our wonderful documentary on 1998, the Cubs will finally mend their broken bond with Sammy and bring him back to Wrigley.

Roster prediction: The Cubs will trade Kyle Schwarber for a leadoff hitter. Joe has had to get very creative with the top of his order since Dexter Fowler left. Though the front office has downplayed the importance of a lead-off hitter the last two off-seasons, they will look to add one for 2019 so that Joe doesn’t have to be so creative. They won’t have a place to play Schwarber after they sign Harper so they will swap his power for a new “you go, we go” guy. Look at KC or TB as AL teams that need to add power and also have guys who could potentially lead off for the Cubs. Mallex Smith (TB) or Whit Merrifield (KC) would be interesting options.

No-brainer: The Cubs should absolutely bring back Jesse Chavez in 2019 bullpen

No-brainer: The Cubs should absolutely bring back Jesse Chavez in 2019 bullpen

Should the Cubs bring Jesse Chavez back for the 2019 bullpen?

This question shouldn't have anywhere near the polarizing effect the Daniel Murphy query had earlier this week, and for good reason.

It's hard to find any real downside for the Cubs working Chavez back into the fold next season. 

Sure, he's 35 and he'll turn 36 in August, but Chavez just had far and away the best season of his 11-year career and all signs point to it being legit.

He won't have a 1.15 ERA forever, of course, but he clearly found something with his mechanics that helped lead to the remarkable consistency he showed in a Cubs uniform (4 saves, 4 holds, 1.15 ERA, 0.79 WHIP, 42 Ks in 39 IP). 

The Cubs will be looking to add some reinforcements to their bullpen this winter and Chavez fits the bill in many areas.

When asked about how to address the bullpen this winter, Theo Epstein said his front office will be "looking for guys who can throw strikes and execute a gameplan and take the ball and pitch in big spots."

The Cubs have publicly placed an emphasis on "strike-throwers" out of the bullpen over the last two winters now and that is right up Chavez's alley.

He threw 68.5 percent first-pitch strikes while with the Cubs, which would've ranked near the top of the league in 2018, right up there with aces like Miles Mikolas, Clayton Kershaw, Aaron Nola and Justin Verlander. Among all relievers, Chavez ranked 5th in baseball in first-pitch strike percentage in the second half.

Expanding further (since the first pitch isn't the only one that matters): Chavez threw the fourth-most strikes in baseball among all MLB relievers after the All-Star Break. Since the day Chavez put on a Cubs uniform, Philadelphia's Tommy Hunter (70.5 percent) was the only reliever in baseball (minimum 30 innings) to throw a higher percentage of pitches for strikes than Chavez (69.8 percent).

If you want strikes, there's no better reliever on the market right now than Chavez.

He also shouldn't be all that expensive at age 35, even despite the breakout and high level of importance placed upon relievers these days. A similar deal to the one Brian Duensing got last winter - $7 million over 2 years - seems appropriate and would be a steal if Chavez can continue to find even a modicum of the success he had since putting on a Cubs uniform.

Speaking of the Cubs uniform, Chavez reportedly doesn't want to wear another logo in 2019, saying this after the NL Wild-Card Game:

That was an emotional time, but Chavez repeatedly raved about the Cubs clubhouse and culture throughout his time in Chicago and really appreciated the way his teammates made him feel comfortable from Day 1.

When the Cubs first acquired Chavez in that under-the-radar trade, they touted his versatility which has become a valuable asset, especially in today's game where relievers are often asked to pitch multiple innings. If necessary, he could also represent depth for the starting rotation, having made 70 starts over his MLB career. 

Unless there's a surprising market that develops for Chavez, bringing him back to the North Side of Chicago on a 1- or 2-year deal is a no-brainer.