Commentary: What in the world is Epstein thinking?


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Jake Roth - USA Today Sports
Jake Roth - USA Today Sports

Lately, I’m seeing more and more people on social media, including some sports writers, who seem to be losing faith that the Cubs will be anything more than a third-place team by the end of next September. While I’m not prepared to go quite that far, the front office has done some things that have me scratching my head.

I’m sure the Cubs have some master plan in place by this time, but while other teams, like the Mets, are chugging away, making deal after deal, the Cubs just seem to be all over the road at this point, kind of like that drunk driver who can’t quite keep it in his lane.

Even though it’s still relatively early in the trade season, it sure feels like there’re guys on the roster who shouldn’t be, and guys that they’ve traded (or otherwise released) who should have stayed.

Jesse Chavez seemed to be a guy that the Cubs could have salvaged, but they let him walk right back into the Rangers organization. Chavez settled with Texas for a two-year, $8M deal, which was something the Cubs could have matched. I hear the nay-sayers claiming that Chavez could never repeat the time he spent with the Cubs next year, much less for two years, but I guess we’ll never know.

Watching his stats next season isn’t a fair measure- different park, different teammates, different team, and different competition. About the only good thing about Chavez going to Texas is the trade relationship between the Rangers and Cubs. If the Cubs are in the hunt, don’t be surprised if Chavez is back next August.

Then there was the Ronald Torreyes situation. The Cubs picked him up from the Yankees on Wednesday, November 28 (for a player to be named), then non-tendered him that same Friday. Torreyes is young and had decent numbers with the Yankees, and Cubs’ fans and reporters alike, thought he was the sign that Russell was either getting non-tendered or traded.

I never thought they’d non-tender Russell, but I was shocked that they did it to Torreyes. I see people making the argument that the Cubs only cut Torreyes loose because Russell was given a contract; if you believe that, I have a bridge I’d like to sell you. Theo Epstein did not suddenly decide sometime between Wednesday and Friday that Russell would be kept, that decision was made weeks ago. So, why pick up Torreyes just to let him walk? I have no clue.

Further raising confusion about why they acquired Torreyes, was the Cubs’ decision to trade La Stella to the Angels on Thursday, again for that elusive player to be named (or cash). It initially looked as though, at the very least, Theo’s plan may have been to use Torreyes as a fill-in with Russell on suspension, then, after the La Stella trade, it looked as though Torreyes would be the new infield utility-man. Again, not so, as Torreyes is now a free-agent, while Tommy is house-hunting in Los Angeles. Net gain from this deal: minus two players and they still need a backup shortstop.

Then there was the Drew Smyly trade on November 2nd. Throughout the 2018 season, all the hype was about Smyly’s return in 2019, perhaps to replace a questionable Yu Darvish, maybe even as a bullpen guy who could start in a pinch. Who did the Cubs get for Smyly? Another player to be named, and as a bonus, the Cubs also owe the Rangers a player to be named.

Getting confused yet? By my count, in the last month, the Cubs have lost a damn good reliever to free-agency, a starter, two infielders, the league’s best pinch hitter, and they still owe a total of two players to be named, all for the fair price of two players to be named later. Oh, wait… they still owe two players: net gain- minus four players.

Maybe eventually we'll see clarity, but for now it sure looks messed up.


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