Cubs find sweet spot in Kane County
September, 19, 2012
By Doug Padilla | ESPNChicago.com
Mike Janes/Four Seam Images/AP ImagesJavier Baez was one of the Cubs' prospects who played for Peoria this season.CHICAGO – Minor league affiliations are like business locales when it comes to Cubs president Theo Epstein.
It’s all about “location, location, location.”
So it came as no surprise that the club made official Wednesday what had long been reported: The Cubs are moving their Single-A affiliate in the Midwest League to Kane County.
Instead of Peoria, which is 165 miles away, the Cubs will have their young prospects a short 45 miles away instead in Geneva.
“I'm a big fan of having as many affiliates as possible close by the home city,” Epstein said. “It just creates a lot of efficiencies with rehabs and allows front office and staff to see the team play a little bit more often. It also gives our players a feel for the market before there's too much pressure on them. They get an understanding of how important baseball is and get to know the fans a little bit.”
Epstein had an even closer-knit setup when he was the general manager with the Boston Red Sox. He saw first-hand the benefit of having the Triple-A team at Pawtucket, the Double-A team at Portland and one Single-A team at Lowell.
“Obviously it's good for the affiliate with the link to the hometown team,” Epstein said. “I hope it can be a win-win.”
Of course, on the other side, it also severs a tie with Peoria, who housed the Cubs’ Midwest League team the past eight seasons. They were also partners from 1985-95.
“I want to thank Peoria for everything they did for us,” Epstein said. “That was a great relationship too. I saw they landed the Cardinals so that works out well for everybody.
“It's never easy (to part ways) but just try to handle things professionally. If you look, almost the whole Midwest League turned over and it's par for the course these days.”
The Cubs have a number of lower-level prospects of note, but the decision on who will land in Kane County won’t be finalized until spring training. After Jorge Soler finished the season at Peoria, the assumption is that he will likely move to Daytona in 2013.
But players like Albert Almora and Dan Vogelbach could be headed to the Midwest after solid showings with Boise, which nearly won the Northwest League title.
“(The decision) really happens in spring training but it depends on each player's individual player development plan,” Epstein said. “There's criteria for advancement and when they satisfy that criteria they move up. During spring training we have meetings where we get together and decide, fill out the rosters.
“It's primarily what the right step is for each player's development and then obviously sort of at the end of the roster you fill in other players to balance out the rosters as best you can. We had a pretty good group in Boise and the natural next step for a lot of those players would be the Midwest League.”