Dale Sveum: No Prince Fielder for Cubs
CHICAGO -- With a revamped front office and new manager, there is a renewed sense of hope at this year's Chicago Cubs fan convention.
Fans hoping the team would be filling its power void with the addition of Prince Fielder, however, had those wishes shot down on Saturday.
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"There haven't been any discussions with us for Prince, that's just not going to happen," newly installed manager Dale Sveum told a room full of fans at a question and answer session Saturday. "We have our first baseman in Bryan LaHair and [Anthony] Rizzo waiting in the wings as well. We're doing OK with big power left-handed hitters right now. "
Team president Theo Epstein wasn't as adamant when it came to dispelling the notion of Fielder becoming his trademark acquisition this offseason. The Cubs' new front office has been consistent in saying its focus is on acquiring players whose best seasons are ahead of them.
Fielder poses a unique situation as a player heading into free agency right before his expected prime years. While most free agents are on the wrong side of 30, Fielder will be 28 in May.
"[His youth] makes [Fielder] really appealing to any club, no matter where they are in their own development as a ballclub," Epstein said. "There's no doubt that [our] primary objective is to develop a young core, a nucleus of impact talent that we can build around."
A primary part of that core looks to be Rizzo, whom the Cubs acquired for pitcher Andrew Cashner last week. Epstein said they were willing to part with Cashner -- who, at only 25, was also once viewed as part of the Cubs' young group of talent -- because they projected him as a reliever over the long-term.
Both LaHair, 29, and Rizzo, 22, had standout minor league seasons in 2011.
Rizzo batted .331 with 34 doubles, 26 home runs and 101 RBIs in 93 Triple-A games. LaHair, for his part, was named the Pacific Coast League MVP. Still, at age 29, LaHair is considered more of a finished product than a prospect.
Epstein acknowledged that much won't be expected of the Cubs in 2012. However, he felt confident that the team has more talent than its being given credit for.
"Just to be very blunt with you, we don't have enough [assets]," Esptein, who preaches transparency, said. "We don't have enough good players, we don't have enough young players. We don't have enough players whose contributions on the field exceed or match their salary. So we're going to be scratching and clawing to acquire those guys as we field a team that can maximize our competitiveness now and create that foundation for long-term success."
Sahadev Sharma covers baseball for ESPNChicago.com.