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Thursday, June 6, 2013
Cubs opt for best available talent, not need

By Bruce Levine

CHICAGO -- Many will ask why a Chicago Cubs system void of pitching would take a position player with the second overall pick in the draft.

Kris Bryant
The Cubs will start Kris Bryant at third base but his future might be in the outfield.
The answer is easy: Cubs president Theo Epstein and Co. will take the best player available rather than draft for a need. That is why they chose University of San Diego third baseman Kris Bryant over hard-throwing right-handed pitcher Jonathan Gray on Thursday night.

With pitcher Mark Appel off the board after the Houston Astros selected him first overall, the Cubs were going to draft Bryant because they viewed him as the second-best player in the draft, according to a source familiar with the situation.

That's an approach that should be applauded. When former scouting director Tim Wilken was running the draft under former GM Jim Hendry, the Cubs did the same thing. For that reason they drafted a high school kid named Javier Baez out of Florida when many clubs had him as a second- or third-round pick.

The Cubs are not stockpiling position players. They are moving along on a five- to seven-year program. As much as the need for pitching is there, it is obvious Epstein's regime knows that getting a couple of pitchers and then throwing a bunch of money at a few free agents will not solve a long-term problem.

The angst that Cubs loyalists have gone through for the past six decades has nothing to do with building a base for the future. The Cubs were on the right track when GM Dallas Green and his group took over the operation in 1981. Five years after Green took over, a crop of talented young players began to flow through the system for the next 10 seasons.

Epstein, general manager Jed Hoyer and senior vice president of scouting and player development Jason McLeod will not tell you that it will take five seasons or more to build their club, but it will. Let them try to make their magic over a reasonable period of time.

No one will be complaining when Bryant and Anthony Rizzo are bashing back-to-back home runs for the next 10 years.