Cubs active in talks with clubs, agents
Epstein says players are interested in joining 'exciting young team' in Chicago
BOCA RATON, Fla. -- Cubs executives have split their time at the General Managers Meetings between talking to teams about possible trades and talking to agents regarding free agents. They've also been doing some "brainstorming" regarding their options.
"Certain agents are looking to move it along pretty quickly and teams seem more prepared on the trade front at this point in the offseason than in other years," Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said Wednesday.
The Cubs were planning to meet with agents representing free-agent starters David Price, Zack Greinke and Jordan Zimmermann. Epstein said he has to do less selling of the organization after the team's 97-win season and postseason berth. The focus is more on whether a player is a good fit with the Cubs, who reached the National League Championship Series this year, only to lose in four games to the Mets.
"When you play in October, a lot of people watch those games and give you credit for the product on the field," Epstein said. "We're not taking anything for granted. We still have a lot of selling points about issues that might not be real easily apparent to players."
That list includes the new home clubhouse, the ongoing renovations at Wrigley Field and the team's family program, which provides activities for players' families beyond babysitting during games. What most players are curious about is the young talent.
"It's an exciting young team," Epstein said of the Cubs. "Players feel they'll have a chance to compete year in and year out, and they want to be part of that. Chicago is a destination city for players. There's a lot of interest. Ultimately it's making the years and dollars fit that's most important."
While the Cubs do intend on adding more quality pitching this offseason, the emphasis will be on starters, and not one of the high-priced free-agent relievers on the market.
"We're not going to be able to accomplish everything we want to do this winter," Epstein said. "We don't have the means to do it all. No club does. We have to prioritize. ... I don't think we'll talk our way into a really reasonable contract for a reliever considering that we prefer to allocate the resources that we have to starting pitching and other areas. By no means will we ignore the 'pen."
Some of the ways the Cubs can add to the bullpen is through the Rule 5 Draft, signing Minor League free agents and smaller trades, he said. Epstein said they did want to invest in a reliever, but added "the reality is we can't do that and preclude a shot at the starter that we need."
• Major League Baseball is considering exhibition games in Cuba. Would the Cubs consider taking part in that? Epstein said they would be interested.
"Obviously, it'd be an enriching experience for the players," Epstein said. "We'd get a feel for the Cuban culture, play the national team and you'd start to get an understanding of Cuban baseball in a way that few of us have since we haven't been down there."
Epstein said if the Cubs were one of the teams to play there, he would talk with Cuban outfielder Jorge Soler to make certain he was comfortable returning to his homeland.
• One of the first trades Epstein did when he arrived in Chicago was to deal reliever Sean Marshall to the Reds for pitcher Travis Wood in December 2011. Could the Cubs make a deal with a team in the NL Central? Epstein said he had no problem with that. However, when he was with the Red Sox, Epstein talked to Yankees GM Brian Cashman once about a possible trade, and that was done half-jokingly.
"We have less dialogue with the Cardinals than probably any other team," Epstein said of the Cubs' division rivals. "In Boston, we had less dialogue with the Yankees than any other team."
"Obviously, the key is to focus on what you're getting back and the fit for your club," Epstein said. "It would do a lot of harm to the organization if the deal backfired on you and hurt your own club and helped your rival beat you on the field at the same time. It would be a double penalty. You have to be pretty fearless to embrace that. Teams tend to find great partners who aren't their direct rivals for that reason. We'd be open to it. Whether we'd actually do it or not I think depends on the deal."
• Cubs bench coach Dave Martinez interviewed Wednesday with the Dodgers for their managerial opening. Martinez, 51, worked with Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman when the two were together with the Rays. Friedman joined the Dodgers in October 2014. Martinez played for Tampa Bay from 1998-2000, and he was named the club's bench coach in October 2007.