Epstein looks to build Cubs through scouting
Theo Epstein has worked furiously the last five weeks to put his management team in place as the new president of baseball operations with the Chicago Cubs.
He's running down his list of players to call and chat up. He flew to Florida to fire manager Mike Quade and has hired a new skipper in Dale Sveum. Epstein also has visited the team's academy in the Dominican Republic.
With speculation swirling that the Cubs could be in the market for either Prince Fielder or Albert Pujols, Epstein on Thursday reiterated his pledge since leaving the Boston Red Sox to take the job in Chicago: The Cubs need to build for the future.
"If there is a move that makes us much better in the short term but is at the expense of doing it the right way and building it for the long haul through a core of young players, we're not going to make that type of move," Epstein said Thursday at Wrigley Field.
That doesn't mean the Cubs won't sign free agents. They already tabbed outfielder David DeJesus with a two-year, $10 million US deal this week and an option for a third year.
DeJesus, who had an off-year in his only season with Oakland, could be the starting right fielder and is the type of player Epstein likes because he is well-rounded, can hit right-handed pitching, runs the bases well and is a strong defensive player.
Epstein did not directly address reports that the Cubs have entered the sweepstakes for Fielder and Pujols.
"I don't think you pay too much attention to the rumours," he said, adding that what the Cubs do is always of interest to a lot of people. It's a large-market team with a nationwide fan base.
But even if the Cubs top priority is building for the future while also trying to field a winning team in 2012, who knows what will transpire during the winter meetings next week in Dallas.
"I'm not saying we're not going to make a move that might be unanticipated or catch people by surprise or might not on its face fit perfectly into that little box," Epstein said.
Epstein and his staff have been studying the new rules for drafting and signing of players under baseball's new collective bargaining agreement.
Importance of scouting
The CBA, approved Thursday by the players, has new luxury taxes on both the June draft and international signings, which could cut down on big bonuses to high school and college players, as well as prospects from the Dominican Republic and Venezuela.
Epstein said the new rules will make scouting more important than ever, but won't necessarily change his approach to rebuilding the Cubs.
"You have to get the evaluations right," Epstein said. "You have to answer the ultimate question: Which player is going to have the best career?"
He said teams will have to get all the information correct -- the player's makeup, the medical history and the statistical side right -- and that analysis will have to be even more refined because the margin for error has been reduced with spending limitations.
"Be more accurate," he said.
Heading into the winter meetings, the Cubs — like most teams — are seeking depth for their pitching staff. Epstein did say that lefty reliever Sean Marshall would likely stay in the bullpen because he is so valuable in that role.
DeJesus, whose wife is from the Chicago area, has been living in the suburbs and keeping track of all the hype surrounding the arrival of Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer.
He didn't know quite as much about Sveum, but took a familiar path to educate himself.
"I went on Wikipedia and looked him up," DeJesus said. "I saw that he had a lot of experience with managers who have won a lot of games."
DeJesus, bothered by a thumb injury in 2010, pronounced himself healthy and is expected to be the Cubs' leadoff hitter. He batted only .240 with the A's last season.
"It was a tough year but I learned a lot," he said. "That's not the player I am. I know that."