(CBS) Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein has left the door opened to sending any given struggling young Cubs player down to Triple-A Iowa.
“No one is immune to needing to sit or needing to go down at the right time, and you want to give guys a chance,” Epstein said on the Spiegel and Parkins Show on 670 The Score on Thursday afternoon. “It’s just something we’ll continue to monitor with all our guys, and as I said the other day, it’s really rewarding when they can work themselves out of it up here — for them, not for us, for them and what it means long term. The next time they go in a slump, they can lean on what they did up here to get out of it.
“But it’s not always possible, and there is a long line of guys who have gone down and fixed things. If that happens to one or two of our guys, I know they’ll respond the right way. But we’re not there, we’re not there yet. There’s no rules. There’s no blanket statements. There’s no ultimatums. We want our guys to work out of it here if they can, but it may or may not happen for everybody.”
A couple weeks back, Epstein had recoiled initially at a question about whether the Cubs would consider sending the struggling Kyle Schwarber to Triple-A. Since that time, Schwarber’s struggles have continued, as he’s hitting .165 with a .286 on-base percentage and .627 OPS.
Elsewhere, rookie infielder/outfielder Ian Happ is 2-for-28 in his last nine games after a hot start. An All-Star a year ago, shortstop Addison Russell is batting .216 with a .649 OPS.
Epstein didn’t address any player individually but did shed more light on the idea of sending a struggling young player to the minor leagues.
“If it gets to a point where they need it, just because it might be a disappointment doesn’t mean you steer away from it,” Epstein said. “It’s a break. It can be a mental break and a chance to work on things.
“You just make the right baseball decision. You don’t necessarily worry about somebody’s feelings or anything like that. You make the right baseball decision for the team first and then for the player’s development as importantly.”
Speaking generally, Epstein reminded that “peaks and valleys” are “typical” in young players’ first few years in the big leagues and that the sudden success of young Cubs players in 2015 and 2016 perhaps caused many to forget that development is often non-linear.
“The fact that guys adjusted really quickly to the big leagues, developed really quickly, faced adversity under the brightest spotlights, played great baseball, overcame so much, overcame centuries worth of issues and won a World Series, I guess it doesn’t necessarily mean we’re still not just prone to the laws of nature and reality and baseball. That’s what we’re in right now. The only freakish thing about it is that it’s fairly across the board and we have a number of guys going through and that just means we have to work that much harder to dig out of it.
“I believe in our players. That’s why they’re here. I also know slumping is part of baseball. What’s surprising is sometimes when it lasts awhile, for really good players when it lasts awhile. But I think you have to remember that part of maturing is understanding your foundation and therefore understanding how to make adjustments and therefore limiting slumps.”
The Cubs are 25-27 through Wednesday, riding a six-game losing streak and sitting in third place in the NL Central, 2.5 games behind the division-leading Brewers.
“We’ve kind of earned where we are,” Epstein said. “We haven’t played well. Most of our guys are underperforming. We’ve made our bed and now we are where we are a third of the way into the season. The only good news is no one in the division is running away from us, and we have two-thirds of the season left. But we have to make some pretty fundamental adjustments and start playing some better baseball.”
Listen to Epstein’s full interview below.