Theo Epstein isn't trying out his hidden ball trick this winter.
He admitted as much during his annual press conference at Cubs Convention Friday evening at the Sheraton Grand Chicago, saying "it continues to be extremely unlikely" the Cubs will add a mega free agent this winter.
No, that wasn't one more ruse before the Cubs had Bryce Harper hop out from behind the curtain and run across the stage to surprise Cubs fans at Opening Ceremonies (a la Kerry Wood earlier this decade).
The only Harper descending upon Chicago was the winter storm creating Convention travel issues.
Obviously that's not what fans want to hear.
Epstein understands that. Joe Maddon understands that. The Cubs players understand that.
After a one-and-done playoff appearance last fall, Epstein sat at the podium during his season eulogy and passionately promised change coming for the team.
But we're three months into the offseason and the only notable addition to the roster is Daniel Descalso, a 32-year-old utility player.
"I'm not blind to that," Epstein said. "I get it. We've had meetings the last few days internally talking about the guys that we do have and the incredible talent that does exist in this organization and how we can learn from last year and continue to get the absolute most out of guys or take it to another level.
"We have to be excused for being excited, because we are really optimistic about this season. But I completely get it from a fan's standpoint and I know there are a lot of questions out there. I actually appreciate that. Just to have fans that are as passionate about baseball and about winning and about the Cubs as we are, you can't take that for granted.
"Even if the tone isn't what you always want sometimes, it's coming from the right place and it also reflects the fact that standards have been raised around here quite a bit. We're coming off a 95-win season, we've won more games than any other club the last four years and yet there are loud, legitimate questions from our fans. I think that's a good thing and I'm happy to provide answers the best I can. It just means there are fans who probably were with us through some pretty thin times who enjoyed the really good and even historic times with us and are eager for those to continue, as we are."
Epstein stopped short of calling fans "impatient" and corrected a reporter who used that term, instead calling the angst from fans "passion" and "expectations."
The Cubs president of baseball operations has a reputation of being very aggressive during the offseason and not making a habit of resting on his laurels even after a successful season.
Epstein and the Cubs have referenced their 95 wins in the regular season last year a lot this winter, but they also acknowledge they were caught from behind by the Brewers and didn't even make it to the National League Division Series.
This winter hasn't resulted in almost no change to the roster, but that doesn't mean the team won't be able to improve on last season.
"I understand the way things look from the outside in, especially in the winter," Epstein said. "We can't go out and win games in the winter and we can't go out and play hard in the winter. All we can do for the fans in the winter — in terms of public-facing — is adding players, and we haven't added as many players as we normally have.
"But behind the scenes, there's an awful lot we do. I promise you and I promise our fans this is as hard as I've ever worked in an offseason. The results in terms of adding players aren't there. We think we've done a lot of good behind the scenes to learn some lessons from last year and try to put our best foot forward."