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Thursday, August 28, 2014
Theo Epstein: Money will be there for Cubs

By Jesse Rogers

Chicago Cubs president Theo Epstein doesn't necessarily believe his plan for a winning team has been "accelerated," but he's confident the franchise will have the wherewithal to add payroll as soon as it's needed.

Theo Epstein, Anthony Rizzo

"Looking at the next 24 or 18 months, I think you'll see us add impact starting pitching from outside the organization," Cubs president Theo Epstein, at right, said Wednesday.

"I think because we have so many young players that are going to be cost-controlled over the next several seasons, we have tremendous flexibility built into our roster as it is," Epstein said on a conference call with reporters on Wednesday. "We'll be able to field a pretty good nucleus with a very low payroll associated with that.

"That in of itself -- and some of the savings that we made over the last offseason, for example -- will allow us the flexibility to be very aggressive if the right player or players present themselves to us."

Players in their first three years in the major leagues come at a good cost for the club. Their salary increases once they get to arbitration in years three through six and then can explode when they hit free agency.

The Cubs are in the midst of debuting a slew of young talent that won't command high salaries for several years. And the savings Epstein is referring to from last winter is related to their pursuit of Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka.

The Cubs lost out on Tanaka but are on the record saying they were able to carry over that savings for upcoming offseason additions. It meant lesser talent on the roster for 2014, but it should mean better players for 2015 and beyond.

So the Cubs have money in the short term to add a pitcher via free agency if they wish. When players start to hit arbitration or agree to longer-term deals, Epstein is confident they'll have the money then, as well.

"As we get closer to a new television deal [in 2019], and as we realize some of the revenues associated with a renovated Wrigley field, I believe that will only enhance our flexibility," Epstein said.

In terms of the upcoming offseason, the Cubs aren't necessarily committed to adding a name pitcher.

"I never look at any one offseason as a time that we have to do something," Epstein said earlier Wednesday during the "Carmen & Jurko Show" on ESPN Chicago 1000. "I look at offseasons and trade deadlines and future offseasons together. Looking at the next 24 or 18 months, I think you'll see us add impact starting pitching from outside the organization. The major league starting pitching free-agent market is pretty good. The free-agent class is more pitching-rich than position player-rich this offseason. And, frankly, the class after that is even more impressive in the 2015-2016 offseason."

After next year, names like Jeff Samardzija, David Price, Doug Fister, Jordan Zimmermann and Hisashi Iwakuma are set to hit the market. At that point, the Cubs will be another year closer to seeing profits they are not capturing now.

"I'm very confident in our business side, and the right television deal will be struck at the right time and we're going to realize revenues from Wrigley," Epstein said. "But that's down the road."

For now, Epstein is enjoying the successes his youthful players are experiencing, both at the major league and minor league levels.

"Nothing is accelerated. It's been a great developmental year," he said. "All of our prospects have moved forward, even the ones that haven’t been as productive."