Current Cubs president of baseball operations and former Red Sox GM Theo Epstein covered a range of subjects in a fascinating interview on WEEI's Hot Stove Show on Thursday (audio link; transcript). In addition to discussing the two clubs he has headed from a baseball ops perspective, Epstein emphasized the impact of changes to the CBA. The new system has both reduced teams' abilities to reap draft picks from outgoing free agents, Epstein said, and made it difficult to pay for hard-to-sign talent in later draft rounds. Here's more from around the league, including other notable talking points from Epstein:
- Discussing his current club's reported pursuit of Masahiro Tanaka, Epstein noted that the pitcher likely cost the Yankees more in real terms than the team's $175MM contract and release fee commitment, once the collective bargaining tax is accounted for. The signing, said Epstein, "reflects the dynamic that there are many, many teams with lots and lots of dollars to spend and very few places to spend them, very few players who represent sound investments for the dollars."
- "There are lots of teams demanding talented, prime-age players, and supply is really a trickle," Epstein continued. "Fewer and fewer players of that ilk are reaching free agency. … You're going to see these prices that cause people to shake heads. … Because of the TV deals, the teams that have them have a lot of money and not a lot of attractive players to spend the money on." Indeed, as I explored earlier tonight, some teams' desires to use free cash to enhance the value of their player assets (i.e., control and contract rights) could result in increasingly robust contracts for some younger players that remain years away from free agency.
- One player that seems suitable for an attractive, long-term investment is Yoenis Cespedes of the Athletics. Fresh on the heels of today's extension of teammate Coco Crisp, Cespedes said that he, too, hopes to ink a new pact, tweets John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle. The 28-year-old slugger, who still has two years remaining on the deal he signed out of Cuba, said that he hopes to play for the A's for his entire career. Of course, given his relative youth, upside, and high profile, Cespedes figures to command a much higher price than the $22.75MM over two years just given to Crisp. It remains to be seen whether the A's will be willing to dangle a sufficient guarantee to get a deal done.
- Turning back to the aforementioned Tanaka, Yankees GM Brian Cashman told ESPN Radio today (via ESPNNewYork.com's Andrew Marchand) that the club views its new acquisition as "a really solid, consistent number three starter." Cashman noted that, though the club scouted Tanaka extensively, uncertainty remains as to how he will transition to the big leagues. "If we get more than that," Cashman said, "all the better. He's got a great deal of ability."
- Two arbitration hearings took place today, after none occurred last year. Andrew Cashner of the Padres and Vinnie Pestano of the Indians both made their cases to their respective panels. Cashner and the Padres are quite close in filing numbers ($2.4MM against $2.275MM), while Pestano ($1.45MM) and the Indians ($975K) left a larger absolute and relative sum to chance.
- Glancing in at MLBTR's Arbitration Tracker, 16 cases remain unsettled as hearings begin to take place. By my count, just over $23MM remains at stake between the player filings ($79.325MM total) and team counters ($56.15MM). Only the Indians, with Justin Masterson, Michael Brantley, and Josh Tomlin (in addition to Pestano), have more than one outstanding arbitration case.
“that the club views its new acquisition as “a really solid, consistent number three starter.”
Lot of money for a #3 starter.
Cashman never really says much. I would have been more surprised if he said he views him as an ace.
They sure paid him like one though.
NY salaries are different though. Where other teams may be only willing to shell out $5M for a WAR, Yankees can afford to go above that if it’s a real upgrade. Maybe he is only a 3 WAR pitcher, so like $8M a WAR, but that makes sense in the game for NY. It would be an awful deal for a smaller market team to shell out, but NY can afford the risk, if they see the upgrade. The biggest gain though is that there shouldn’t be any decline years if he is as good as expected. Whereas with CC they got some stellar years, but now have to pay for some of the decline seasons.
Tanaka is the Yankees #3 starter.
That doesn’t mean his talent level or upside is of a #3. Cash is smart, he’s setting the bar low because Tanaka’s floor is a #3 but his upside is much higher.
Also, is it just me or do Theo Epstein’s comments come across as very bitter?
If he was smart he wouldn’t make what is, IMO, such a silly comment.
I don’t think Epstein’s comments sound bitter at all. I disagree with him though that, unless Tanaka is a bust, that the $175 million will cost him them more in real terms. I didn’t hear the interview, and maybe he mentioned this in it, but they are very likely to benefit with increased revenue from advertising, corporate sponsorship, and Japanese tourists (unless, as I mentioned, Tanaka is a bust).
Fifth largest contract for a pitcher ever, if he remains a #3 then I don’t see how you can view this signing in a positive light. So much risk involved.
Just because they’re trying to temper the expectations early on doesn’t mean they think he’s going to max out at a #3. Cashman’s being smart about it. Don’t put too much pressure on him early. And trust me, if he outpitches Kuroda and Sabathia, he won’t be the #3 in the playoffs should the Yankees make it. People are making too much out of words like always. Tanaka has enough to worry about, Cashman’s just trying to lighten the burden. That’s it.
Agreed. If Tanaka flops even to the level of a number 3 its a failure. Yankees should be expecting 1-2 type numbers right from the start. Anything else is risky and shows poor judgement by Yankees Ownership.
Dave Dombrowski just said the same thing about the upside potential of Robbie Ray (the prospect acquired in the Doug Fister trade).
GMs new MO:
He’s quieting the expectations. Nothing more, nothing less. They obviously view him as more than a #3 by paying him what they did. But as they’ve seen first hand in the past, putting too much pressure on a guy, especially coming from another country, is never a good thing.
Epstein should do more to improve the Major League product in Chicago.
That’s what he is saying; there isn’t anyone to “buy” to improve the product.
Cubs will be like a thief in the night. When league realizes how great the call ups become it will be to late and nobody will catch them. There is only one champ each year. No amount of free agents would achieve that for cubs. I can wait 2-3 years until we are competing every year. 3 bad seasons bring 3 top 5 draft picks. Cardinals doing it the right way. What’s wacha and miller cost vs kershaw and tanaka? They were in World Series this year other 2 were not. Theo bashed in Boston for long contracts, now he passes and gets bashed? It’s one or the other. He is just stating facts that yanks and dodgers can spend money like water. It is whAt it is. Cub fans support their team win or lose we don’t have to over spend so our fans don’t cry and jump ship
20+ million a year for a solid number 3. Everything really is more expensive in NY.
Way to set expectations low Cashman.
Cespedes is talented but his production last year. Pretty ugly numbers – 240/292/442.
As a Cubs fan I hate to admit this, but it sounds as if even Epstein is questioning his own strategy, given the restrictions and new rules. However, another trend that is hurting even the teams willing to spend on high-priced free agents is the trend toward signing guys early to huge extensions, thus taking them off the market in future years. Still, it comes down to drafting & developing your talent and using is wisely in trades to fill the gaps.
Cashman is really lowering the expectations of Yankee fans. If he, and management, viewed Tanaka as a solid #3 they would never have committed the $$ they did to the contract. Far better to sign two guys from the group of Garza, Santana, Jimenez, Arroyo, etc. because one of them likely would have pitched to a #3 level. I think the Yanks expect much more. If Tanaka becomes a guy who wins an average of 14-15 wins a year with an ERA in the high 3’s (about what I would expect from a #3 guy) it won’t be a disaster but I don’t think it will be worth the investment New York made.