By Bruce Levine-
(CBS) — Although Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein didn’t confirm a possible promotion for Jorge Soler to the major leagues in September, he didn’t rule it out either.
Soler was promoted from Double-A Tennessee to Triple-A Iowa on Wednesday. His promotion was based on lighting up Southern League pitching the last three weeks, hitting .420 in that stretch.
Soler was signed to a nine-year $30 million contract in early 2012. He was the first significant signing by Epstein, who took over the baseball operations of the Cubs in October 2011.
Epstein talked about players being on the 40-man roster as a key to late-season promotions, and because the major league clock has already started for the 22-year-old Cuban outfielder, he can be considered for a move up if he does well in Iowa.
“Kyle Hendricks had to be added to the 40-man roster this fall,” Epstein said. “That made it easier to call him up now. (Arismendy) Alcantara was on the 40-man roster. That made it easier to promote him as well. You also balance out what a player will get fundamentally (as well as service time issues) and weigh that out as well. We will wait until the end of August and make our decisions.”
The decisions on adding fellow top prospects Javier Baez and Kris Bryant will be the main focus of the fan base the last two months of the 2014 campaign. Although the Cubs have been named the top minor league system in baseball, Epstein isn’t jumping up and down or taking bows.
“We were ranked the top system in baseball,” he said. “That is nice to the extent it reflects a lot of hard work by scouts and player development people as well as the players themselves. It really doesn’t mean anything. We are in last place, so almost by definition our work lies ahead of us. What do we have to do? We have everything to do. We need to continue to build an organization. We need to improve the major league team. The generation you referenced are going to break in at some point. The process of them adjusting to the big leagues starts.”
The warning that is being described by Epstein is that great minor league talent doesn’t always make it in the big leagues.
“We can add veterans in certain places and add divergence in certain situations,” Epstein said. “It gets to a point when talented players just have to go play. That means they at times have to struggle and fail just like (Starlin) Castro and (Anthony) Rizzo did. Those are great examples, and we all have to be prepared for that. The foundation for that is still being laid in the minor leagues.”
Epstein was asked if he is happy about the fan base appearing to buy into his young group of the future.
“True baseball fans like young player,” he said. “They like following players around the whole journey, players who are homegrown and they get to know. If all goes according to plan, we will be able to provide them with that experience, maybe a whole group of players they can get to know for a decade. Right now we don’t deserve to be on the cover of magazines. We don’t deserve to be lauded right now because we have not done anything yet. At best what we have done is put ourselves in a position to make a lot of interesting decisions going forward. Hopefully we will have two of the most important parts of the game, have attractive young players and available payroll dollars — then go make some hay.”
So far the attractive young players appear on the way, but the money to complete the job isn’t available for Epstein and the baseball department yet.
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.