(CBS) A year ago, the Cubs were far and away baseball’s best team, and president of baseball operations Theo Epstein’s mission was to find players who could help them win the World Series. That led them to sending top prospect Gleyber Torres and three others to the Yankees in a move that returned closer Aroldis Chapman.
Winning is of course still paramount for Epstein and the Cubs, but this is a team in a different situation at just 39-37 on the season. Now, Epstein is looking at situation differently as he approaches the trade deadline.
The Cubs will be looking for ways to bolster their roster for 2017 and beyond, with Epstein explaining that his team will look for a Mike Montgomery-type player instead of a Chapman, who left in free agency after the Cubs’ championship.
Epstein detailed the strategy to the Bernstein & Goff Show on Tuesday afternoon.
“As an organization, you never want to get out of that mode,” Epstein said. “You can multi-task and stay in on the big fish. There’s a time and a place to go strong and put a lot of your chips in the middle of the table for somebody who’s obvious value, a buy-high, consistent production to help the team.
“You’re trying to trade for somebody who has potential to impact your team more than what’s obvious at the time. If you’re constantly trading for guys who are already at their peak, then you’re going to acquire their decline as well.
“Those established guys are tough to get at the trade deadline because they usually come at a tremendous premium. We paid a premium last year. It was the right time and place to get reliable, dependable, impact production at the end of the game given everything else that was going on with our club and things we forecasted to happen after July 31st.
“And I think if we do that type of a move this year, it’s probably likely to be for somebody that we can control beyond this year. I’m not sure you’re going to see those type of resources going to any kind of rental player this year.”
The Cubs acquired Chapman last July in the blockbuster deal looking for a dominant arm for the late innings. Manager Joe Maddon has said that the team wouldn’t have won the World Series without the contributions of Chapman.
But Montgomery was just as important, earning the save in Game 7 of the World Series. He projects to be a rotation starter in the long term and is under team control through 2021.
These Cubs could use a steady lead-off hitter and help in the rotation, both for this season and the years to come. Epstein will look to address needs in a thorough manner because the 2017 Cubs haven’t found the success of the 2016 team.
“Last year’s team had earned its way into a position where we were looking to shore up any potential obstacles that could prevent us from winning the World Series,” Epstein said. “This year’s club, we’ve played largely .500 ball and there’s a lot more open-ended questions. We’re still looking to upgrade the club, don’t get me wrong, but there are more areas to address.”
Full audio from Epstein’s interview with Bernstein & Goff Show will be added shortly.