Baseball might be fresh again, but the topics addressed by the Cubs’ leadership triumvirate of Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer, and David Ross during a joint press conference Tuesday afternoon were stale as Ryan Dempster’s Harry Caray impersonation. Not that you’d expect anything else from an offseason in which the only players the organization can afford to sign are the retired kind as they stock the Marquee Network lineup with Cubs alums at a staggering pace. That includes Mark Grace, who was just added as an analyst.
When it comes to slump-busters for the active roster, however, the front office is going to have to rely upon a core group that remains largely unchanged from the past few seasons. Chief among them is Kris Bryant, whose service-time grievance has created a media cloud that all manner of reporters and bloggers have salted until it rained trade rumors. Talk about cloudy with a chance of meatballs.
While precipitation remains in the forecast in perpetuity, Epstein said Tuesday that the team was “turning the page” in terms of its focus. That means it’s “time to pull together and focus on winning games” rather than worrying about how to get under the competitive balance tax threshold or what core players to flip for prospects.
Theo says almost certainly will make small (minor league) additions during camp. “Still some (bigger) chatter going on across the industry… We’re turning the page honestly with our focus … Time to pull together and focus on winning games.”
— Gordon Wittenmyer (@GDubCub) February 11, 2020
Epstein also reiterated his confidence in the current group, a belief backed up by PECOTA projections that have the Cubs winning 85 games and earning a Wild Card spot. Playing in a division in which only the Reds — projected to win the Central — made notable improvements over the winter, it’s plausible that a few small tweaks and some good fortune will find the Cubs in contention.
One of those tweaks, something you’re almost certainly tired of hearing from us, is the addition of David Ross as manager. Joe Maddon commented recently that he’d wanted out of Chicago before the end of 2019, primarily because the front office was trying to exert more control and get him to change his ways. Epstein contended Tuesday that the influence being exerted from above on Maddon’s style was the result of a perceived organizational complacency that had set in since the World Series win.
Ross was brought in to change that and it looks like he’ll have his All-Star players around to help him.
Cubs manager David Ross laughed when asked if he wants Theo to keep the core intact: “Duh, don’t trade my All-Stars!” pic.twitter.com/ZbyA7hz9aQ
— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) February 11, 2020
Those players seem excited to play for the new skipper, who has morphed from Grandpa Rossy to Manager David. That includes Bryant, who, despite ongoing inaccuracies in the description of his mindset, harbors no ill will toward the organization. Epstein said he’s communicated frequently with the star third baseman and isn’t worried about Bryant’s attitude or the potential for his nebulous situation to cause a distraction.
Now if we could just get to the point where chatter on the field and in the stands drowns out the trade buzz.