- Bruce Levine, Chicago baseball beat reporter
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Chicago Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein met with the media on Thursday and discussed a number of subjects as he prepares for the winter meetings which begin Monday in Dallas.
On the winter meetings: "It's one of the few times all 30 clubs are meeting and actually engaged and talking trades which is nice. There's a perception that a general manager or club president are always on the phone talking trade, but it really doesn't happen that often. You have to seize those opportunities at the GM meetings, the winter meetings and the trading deadline. I'll be honest with you, you won't see me a lot in that [hotel] lobby. I just don't like that scene in the lobby."
On potential for trades at winter meeting: "I'd just be guessing. Right now there is a fair amount of chatter. Not necessarily with us but a lot of other clubs. That usually means there will be some moves at the winter meetings. I'd be surprised if there weren't a couple of significant moves out there."
On free agency and the new collective bargaining agreement: "I still believe we are going to build this around young players. Free agency should never be the primary way that you rely upon to build the club. I think if you set out to build a foundation based on free agency you have a tough road ahead of you. Free agency is a complementary resource to round out your big-league club and use at the right time to sign impact players."
On manager Dale Sveum's staff: "We are getting there. We should have some announcements in Dallas or shortly thereafter."
On biggest offseason need: "We need starting pitching. You can't just take your chances of being looked at seriously as a club with just five guys. You have to point to six, seven or eight guys. And you'd better know who your ninth starter would be because you are going to need him. We are going to have to build our starting pitching staff. We don't have a ton of depth and that's a priority."
On the type of players he's looking for: "Adding a left-handed bat would be nice. But under the right circumstances. We are not going to force anything. We'll look for a well-rounded position player to contribute on defense and maybe run the bases. If that happens to be a left-handed bat, yes. David [DeJesus, signed Wednesday to a two-year deal] is a good example of that. He does those things well. And those are things as a club that we don't do well. The most obvious ways to improve is to look at your weaknesses and try to turn them into a strength."
On Carlos Zambrano: "He's healing pretty well, but I just don't want to put a timetable on [when he will pitch again in winter ball in Venezuela after he was hit by a line drive]. There's a reasonable chance once he's healed and throws a couple of pens that he will be out there relatively soon."
On his trip to the Dominican Republic to watch Cuban outfielders Yoennis Cespedes and Jorge Soler: "It was a nice trip. We were scouting some players that might become available. There are still some steps and obstacles to be cleared before they become eligible free agents. I can't comment on these guys specifically, but what I can tell is I did visit our academy and what we heard about it is true. It's a really well-run operation."
On Matt Garza: "He's exactly the kind of guy that we would like to build around."
On the White Sox as possible trade partner: "We are not in any position to exclude any team. That's because we have a long way to go. There's a big gap between where we are now and where we want to be."
On chances of Jeff Samardzija and Andrew Cashner moving to rotation: "We like both guys a lot. There is some flexibility there with their roles. We've had some discussions internally about them. I've communicated with one of those guys but not both. I do see both guys being very valuable pieces to the picture. I was encouraged by Cashner's performance in [the Arizona Fall League]. It was demonstrated by his health. I was very encouraged by Samardzija's performances in the second half. Just by watching him from afar it seemed that the light turned on and that he turned the developmental corner, physically, mentally and fundamentally. The look that he had on the mound was much different."
On the possibility of Sean Marshall starting: "If you have the best left-handed reliever in baseball it's tough to take him out of that role."
On HGH testing in the new CBA: "I don't think it [affects how they look at players]. We have to look at each player on a case-by-case basis. We do our background work as we always have. I don't think we engage in any contract situation with a player, new rules or old rules, without doing it the right way."
Theo Epstein said the Cubs want to add starting pitching and a lefty bat.