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With Renteria in fold, don’t expect Theo to gamble on free agents

DivisiSeries - TampBay Rays v BostRed Sox - Game Two

Division Series - Tampa Bay Rays v Boston Red Sox - Game Two

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Updated: November 10, 2013 10:05PM



ORLANDO, Fla. — The Cubs need pitching, but don’t count on a trade for David Price or a serious run at Japanese free agent Masa Tanaka. They need catching, but don’t expect free agent Brian McCann.

And forget about a high-priced leadoff man such as Jacoby Ellsbury or Shin-Soo Choo.

“We’re realistic about where we are and the need to get better,” team president Theo Epstein said as he prepared for this week’s general managers meetings, the traditional opening of the hot-stove league. “But we’re also realistic about where we are and about where the market is likely to go.”

In other words, with the managerial hiring complete and coaching interviews on the front burner, the Cubs might not be making any exciting acquisitions this winter. Until the club sees significant revenue increases from planned stadium changes and what they expect will be a better local TV deal, the competitive focus remains on the top prospects and a vision for a return to big-market-spending status at some point in the future.

“Our business plan and our facilities plan and our baseball plan are all a couple years away from reaching fruition, and we’re going to be as aggressive as we can given our situation,” Epstein said.

“We clearly need to get better, but we’re not going to do anything at the expense of an increasingly exciting future. So we’re going to look for moves that make sense for now and for the future.”

For now that means 2012 Cy Young Award winner David Price is not in the picture even as the Tampa Bay Rays make him available in trade. He would cost too much both in the young talent it would take to get him and the cost in future salary to keep him.

When asked about such a scenario, Epstein wouldn’t rule out anything, in keeping with his philosophy of exploring every potential opportunity, no matter how far-fetched.

“In our situation, where we have to make every asset count and every dollar count and we don’t want to get in our own way with our development plan …,” he said. “The possibility of trading significant assets so you can then acquire someone and then reward him with a nine-figure contract is not as appealing as keeping your core prospects if they’re guys you really believe in, and then at the right time adding that impact piece from outside the organization. …

“Now that said, we’re going to pursue trades. We’re going to look at trades for some of the very best players in the game. You never know what you might be able to come up with.”

Dollars versus sense.

“We wish there were a free-agent market for young players, but there’s not,” Epstein said.
Every now and then a situation pops up and you can kind of harbor all your resources for that one guy and it might make sense.

“But we’re playing against the big boys, too. And there’s a lot of money out there.”

Of course, the Cubs used to be among the big boys once.

Email: gwittenmyer@suntimes.com

Twitter: @GDubCub



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