Theo Epstein would keep shedding vets if deals ‘make sense’
BY GORDON WITTENMYER firstname.lastname@example.org July 26, 2013 11:26PM
Updated: August 28, 2013 6:19AM
SAN FRANCISCO — Alfonso Soriano went back to his pinstriped roots Friday.
And the Cubs left behind — many of whom hooted and cheered when Soriano was shown on the clubhouse TV during the Rays-Yankees game Friday (“Soriano’s up!”) — returned to the reality of roster musical chairs, which promises to organ-grind through the non-waiver trade deadline Wednesday afternoon.
In five trades this month, the Cubs have acquired a third baseman, four pitchers with major-league experience and at least four more minor-league pitchers — including hard-throwing Class A right-hander Corey Black from the Yankees in the Soriano deal.
The Cubs also got $6.8 million in salary relief on the roughly $25 million left on Soriano’s contract, including $5 million of the $18 million he is owed in the final year of the deal in 2014.
Several officials from teams scouting the Cubs in the last week believe oufielder Nate Schierholtz could be next, with closer Kevin Gregg, lefty reliever James Russell, catcher Dioner Navarro and possibly David DeJesus also drawing interest.
“There’s some things we’d like to explore,” team president Theo Epstein said Friday after saying a few days earlier he anticipated more activity closer to the deadline.
“We’ve had a very active July. We set out to be proactive, especially with starting pitching. We wanted to jump the market a little bit and get the [Scott] Feldman deal and the [Matt] Garza deal done before more starting pitchers became available and flooded the market a little bit.
“That part of the strategy, I felt great about how we were able to execute.”
After navigating the potential obstacle of Soriano’s no-trade clause to open playing time for younger players and move the popular outfielder while he was on a power surge, the Cubs could wind up closing out one of their biggest trade-deadline sell-offs in decades.
“There’s some other players that we only control for the rest of this season that it might make more sense for the organization to get a piece back that has longer control,” Epstein said, describing such players as Schierholtz, Gregg and Navarro. “And there are players that we control for longer that other teams are interested in.
“So we’ll just continue to have talks and see where it goes. But we feel like we’ve been productive in adding talented young players to the organization this month, and we wouldn’t mind adding more if those make sense.”
Whether the players acquired this month have an impact on anything significant in the Cubs’ future, Epstein seems to feel his front office has exceeded its efforts in July a year ago — when Ryan Dempster’s no-trade clause and Garza’s elbow injury took deals the Cubs wanted off the board.
“You never want to puff your chest out in this game, because that’s when something goes wrong and you get humbled in a hurry,” Epstein said. “But I guess I’m proud of — if you look at the really big picture and just how much young talent this organization brought in over the last couple of months, if you look at the June draft and look at the [July 2] international signing deadline and look at young players we acquired in trades.
“We brought in a couple dozen really interesting prospects. It’s hard to impact your farm system in a short period of time like that, so I’m proud of all our scouts and the guys in the front office.
“Now the next step is we have to develop these players and make sure they make a positive impact on winning Cubs teams for years to come. But at least as far as giving ourselves a chance of being active and aggressive and getting some deals done, I’m proud of the organization so far for what we’ve accomplished.”