Cubs more interested in arms than sluggers
BY GORDON WITTENMYER firstname.lastname@example.org November 1, 2011 10:02PM
2011 World Series Game 6 - Texas Rangers v St Louis Cardinals
Updated: December 3, 2011 8:24AM
Cubs fans with slugging first basemen on their free-agent wish lists this holiday season might want to start thinking more in terms of arms than bats.
As the Cubs introduced new general manager Jed Hoyer, his comments regarding Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols were no more suggestive of a splashy move than Theo Epstein’s a week earlier.
‘‘It’s too early to say, but I think it’s fair to say we have to spend time rebuilding the pitching staff,’’ Hoyer said Tuesday during a news conference that spotlighted the Theo Trio, including Hoyer’s former San Diego Padres colleague Jason McLeod, the Cubs’ scouting and player development boss.
‘‘I look at what happened last year from the outside,’’ Hoyer said, ‘‘losing two starting pitchers [Andrew Cashner, Randy Wells] the first week of the season — it’s very difficult for any team to survive that. But certainly the Cubs didn’t have the depth to do that. . . . Even though we have confidence in a lot of the starters that are here, we have to have more.’’
Updates on other orders of business as the new top execs settle in:
Epstein acknowledged a ‘‘6-to-7-hour’’ meeting Thursday involving him, Quade and Hoyer that he called ‘‘productive’’ and ‘‘thorough.’’ Epstein and Hoyer say they’re still talking about the issue and plan to meet with Quade, who has a year left on his contract, again this week. ‘‘We hope to have a resolution on this matter certainly within a week,’’ Epstein said.
The enigmatic one-time ace who packed his locker and quit on the team in August still is not expected back for the final year ($18 million) of his contract, but don’t expect Epstein or Hoyer to actually say that and obliterate whatever sliver of a market there might be to trade Z. Best quotes of the day on the subject involved Epstein commandeering the mike and describing an ‘‘enlightening’’ conversation with Zambrano’s agent, Barry Praver, and other ‘‘enlightening’’ conversations with incumbent Cubs staff. Maybe he can share a Pepsi with Ozzie Guillen and enlighten his load on the Miami Marlins.
Hoyer said Bush will be retained in the assistant general manager role he served with predecessor Jim Hendry. For now, much of the front office remains intact, with additions expected. ‘‘He’s a great baseball guy. He knows the organization incredibly well,’’ Hoyer said of Bush. ‘‘He’s well respected, and he’s going to be a big part of the inner circle here.’’
Hoyer calls Sandberg’s managerial candidacy ‘‘a bridge we’ll cross at some point potentially. But at this point,’’ he added, ‘‘we’re focused on the meeting we had with Mike on Thursday. . . . We’re not going to focus on [Sandberg] until we make a decision.’’ As for whether Sandberg could be invited back to the Cubs as a big-league coach, ‘‘That’s an issue I haven’t really spent a lot of time getting to the bottom of,’’ Hoyer said.
Tuesday’s deadline to resolve player compensation with the Boston Red Sox over Epstein was extended to the end of next week — a reflection of the parties’ heavy recent schedules during front-office transitions than any hitches in the process. … Hoyer exchanged texts with former GM Hendry and plans to meet with him over dinner and ‘‘hope to learn a lot.’’ . . . McLeod stressed the value of scouting director Tim Wilken and farm director Oneri Fleita as ‘‘part of the solution here’’ and suggested their staffs could be increased. . . . Epstein has reached out to special assistant Greg Maddux in hopes of securing his return next season, but that has yet to be resolved.