ESPN’s Jim Bowden spoke with Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein for the latest installment of his video blog, The GM’s Office. Here are some highlights from the interview (although as usual, the entire interview is well worth your time) and some other Cubs-related notes as the trade deadline approaches…
- The Cubs had initially hoped to acquire a “can’t miss” prospect that they could “hang [their] hat on” by trading Jeff Samardzija on his own, but the team couldn’t pass up on the opportunity to acquire Addison Russell once Athletics GM Billy Beane said he would include him if Jason Hammel were in the trade as well.
- If Javier Baez has to move off shortstop due to the presence of Russell or Starlin Castro, the Cubs see him as more of a second baseman than a third baseman. Chicago has played Baez at second base quite a bit following the All-Star break, and Epstein called the transition “seamless.”
- “Having too many shortstops is never a problem,” Epstein said. “They’re the best athletes, the best defenders, and we’ll find spots for all these guys. … We don’t see it as a problem. We have lots of different ways they can all fit on the field together. Kris Bryant, who’s playing third now, also has the option of going out and playing right field.”
- Asked about the possibility of trading a lefty reliever such as James Russell in a more minor move (relative to the Samardzija/Hammel blockbuster), Epstein replied: “I think chances are pretty good we’ll make at least one move. We have a number of players, like James, that are under control and that factor into our plans going forward. The threshold to move those players is certainly higher … you’re probably more likely to see a deal for a player who’s eligible for free agency at the end of the season.”
- Bowden asked it this would be the offseason in which the Cubs delve heavily into the free agent market, to which Epstein replied, “There’s no switch that gets flipped that says now all of a sudden we’re big players in free agency.” As Epstein points out, the Cubs have spent on the free agent market previously, and they made a “very, very significant” offer to Masahiro Tanaka in an effort to bring him to Wrigley Field as well. Epstein emphasized that in free agency, “you have to be willing to walk away,” as it’s too dangerous to be locked in on any player, regardless of the cost.
- The Cubs had five scouts in attendance at Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo’s showcase, GM Jed Hoyer tells Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune (Twitter link). Castillo’s name continues to generate buzz, and some believe he could fetch a contract similar to that of Yoenis Cespedes or Yasiel Puig.
- A second tweet from Gonzales contains a short and sweet quote from Hoyer on the team’s approach at the trade deadline: “We’ll be active.”