Chicago Cubs president Theo Epstein doesn't see the trade of Alfonso Soriano to the New York Yankees on Friday as anything more than just another step in the rebuilding process despite the club now being in total of control of its players for the first time in years.
No one on the roster can veto a trade or dictate where they want to go now that Soriano has been moved.
“I don’t look at this as a watershed moment or transformative moment at all,” Epstein said in a conference call with reporters. “This is just the right time for Sori to move on and open up some at-bats for Junior Lake.”
It may be just another step but it’s undoubtedly a big one. The Cubs received just a Single-A player, pitcher Corey Black, for Soriano so it’ll be years before we know if they got anything in return. But it advances the notion of “out with the old and in with the new” as the Cubs slowly start to bring their prospects up from the minors.
And the Cubs aren’t done yet -- not if Epstein has his way.
“We set out to be pro-active, especially with starting pitching,” he said about trade season. “We wanted to jump the market, before more starting pitchers became available and flooded the market. That part of the strategy felt great.
“There are some players we only control for the rest of this season that might make more sense to get a piece back that has longer control.”
TThat means outfielders like David DeJesus and Nate Schierholtz, along with pitchers Kevin Gregg and James Russell, could be moved before next Wednesday’s major league trade deadline. Epstein is still in buying mode, as in buying young talent. Between the draft, international signings and trades he noted the Cubs have acquired a lot lately.
“If you look at the really big picture and just how much young talent this organization has brought in over the last couple of months. ... We’ve brought in a couple dozen really interesting prospects,” Epstein said. “A lot of hard work has gone into it. The next step is we have to develop the players."
The plan is as transparent as any a team will admit to. At some point acquiring young talent will end and looking to add via free agency might begin. The Cubs signed Edwin Jackson for four years last offseason so they aren’t adverse to it even now. But there’s no timetable for the next Soriano-type of contract -- though Epstein didn’t rule one out.
“We will acquire impact players through free agency,” he said. “We’re just not going to build our plans around that. ... I’m never of the belief you’re one player away. If you think you’re one player away you’re getting desperate and you’re asking for trouble. The single biggest factor in whether or not you have a legitimate chance to contend is in the overall health of the organization.”
Epstein used the word “health” several times more than inferring the Cubs organization wasn’t so healthy before he arrived 18 months ago. They think they’re getting there.
“We’re focused on building a healthy productive organization with a robust farm system,” Epstein said.
Winning isn’t a focus because they’re not ready to make it one so this is the next best thing. The plan isn’t wrong, it just needs to pay off someday soon.