Theo Epstein acknowledges Chicago Cubs face risks this off-season


Chicago Cubs president Theo Epstein is aware of the risks that are facing the team as they look for improvements for the 2016 season.

Along with the pressure of making moves in order to ensure that the Chicago Cubs return to the post-season in 2016, Cubs’ president Theo Epstein is aware that there are risks that come with every decision that the team makes this off-season.

Epstein told Jason Goff and Matt Spiegel of 670 The Score on Wednesday morning that there are risks involved with every move that the team makes to improve the roster.

“You always worry about too big a percentage of your payroll tied up in any one or two players,” Epstein said. “And obviously with pitching, there’s more attrition with pitching than there is in any one area. So it’s obviously a concern. But every possible move has risk and has reward, and there’s no button that you can press that makes you better in a really impactful way without some meaningful downside. Sometimes the downside is paralyzing your payroll in future years in a way that’s really hard for you to come to terms with or hard for you to fathom or a way that might be unacceptable in the end and you walk away from it. Or it might come from giving up a huge chunk of your young player inventory or your farm system or you’re ruining all that depth and then you’re in a position where you don’t have that talent you want coming in future years or it might take away from your big league club in order to add a different piece.”

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The Cubs are facing an important decision as they look for starting pitching this winter. The Cubs must decide whether they want to sacrifice dollars this off-season and sign a top flight starting pitcher like David Price or Zack Greinke, or the team could sacrifice a player from their core such as outfielder Jorge Soler in a trade for a cost-controlled starting pitcher.

There are positives and negatives to each method of improvement.

Signing Price or Greinke would mean that the Cubs have two starting pitchers once you factor in Jon Lester that are over the age of 30 and making at least $20 million per season. That could prove to be bothersome for the Cubs towards the latter ends of those deals. Though, a World Series title or two may prove to be worth it.

Trading a player like Soler could be upsetting considering the high ceiling that the outfielder has as a hitter. Though, that could prove worth it as the Cubs would be getting a pitcher like Tyson Ross of the San Diego Padres or Carlos Carrasco of the Cleveland Indians. Both Ross and Carrasco are capable of being top of the rotation starters for the Cubs.

Epstein admits that the Cubs need to choose the risk that provides the team with the most comfort.

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“There’s a cost to every addition, and you have to come to terms with that and you just have to pick and choose the risk you’re comfortable with and know that you’re going to have sleepless nights no matter what. You’re going to have sleepless nights in April after you sign that free agent and he goes out and debuts and you want to make sure he’s healthy and good and adjusts well. But you also have sleepless nights when you give up really good players and watch them (play well) for another organization. That’s just the cost of doing business. You have to just accept that and focus on what it means for your club and your organization going forward.”

It’s entirely too early to speculate on what risk the Cubs will choose but there seems to be a strong belief that the Cubs will pursue a top flight free agent starting pitcher. From there, the Cubs would need to decide what starting pitcher–Price or Greinke–provides the most value for the long-term deal that they will sign. Indications in recent weeks have suggested that the Cubs may prefer Greinke’s long-term outlook over Price.

In any event, Epstein’s goal this off-season is to add wins to the 2016 Cubs.

“We do want to add every single possible win that we can to the 2016 Cubs,” Epstein said. “That’s going to be extremely important.”

Epstein and the Cubs’ front office are expected to meet with the agents of Price, Greinke, Jordan Zimmerman, and Jeff Samardzija over the course of the next day or two.