Results tagged ‘ Randy Bush ’

2016 Cubs Convention: Baseball Management

After the highly successful 2015 season, the Baseball Operations department has been hard at work gearing up for the 2016 campaign. Len Kasper interviews President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein, Executive Vice President/General Manager Jed Hoyer, and Assistant General Managers Randy Bush and Shiraz Rehman about the offseason and what lies ahead in 2016.

Theo Epstein opened up the panel, thanking fans for their loud applause during the Opening Ceremony. He discussed the successful offseason, especially with Jason Heyward, where he felt it didn’t feel like signing a free agent, it felt more like adding to our young core. Adam Warren, the return for Starlin Castro, is a guy that could sneak up on people.

Hoyer was reminded of how hard it wins 97 games. He and Epstein looked at each other that last week as the wins kept racking up, and were in some disbelief.

They were asked at what point they may part with members of the elite bench or prospects for top-level players, and they said that with so much talent on the major league front, they may be more willing to dip into the minor league depth.

The front office is extremely excited about Minor League Player of the Year Willson Contreras, and they see him as an incredibly talented catcher. He projects to be a front-line backstop in the big leagues for a long time.

They were asked about some drastic splits with a few of the young Cubs, and how they can be better balanced. Hoyer think Kyle Schwarber will be able to hit lefties if they allow him enough at-bats, which they plan to do. He believes Kris Bryant’s home/road splits are a little more random. They also just hope Jorge Soler will get used to the cold weather.

Hundley discussed the difference of Wrigley Field versus any other stadium in terms of hitting. He says the weather plays a big role and there is an adjustment period involved, especially with young players.

Rehman was asked about the back-to-back transaction of the Ben Zobrist signing turning into a Starlin Castro-for-Adam Warren deal. He said a lot of work is involved.

“Getting access to starting pitching was something we really wanted to do this winter,” Rehman reiterated.

Epstein also brought up that relationships and trust are important when making multi-level moves. He said it took almost two full months of Zobrist’s trust. They also had talked about the Castro-for-Warren deal with the Yankees at the 2015 trade deadline.

Hoyer anticipates the changes of the international market spending policies. There could be an international draft at some point soon.

Epstein said they have so many hitters coming up, that they all would like a designated hitter, but it’s out of their hands.

With regards to adding talent prior to Spring Training, Hoyer talks every day with teams and agents trying to upgrade the team. But they’re not looking for big changes at this point. There is a lot of versatility, both with the position players and the pitchers. He believes the Cardinals are going to be good year after year, but it’s in the Cubs’ best interest to build the best roster for themselves.

Epstein is planning for projected lineups for the next half decade. He made that point to state they won’t abandon the search for young players and hope to keep a deep farm system.

Epstein said there was plenty of talent ready for him in Boston that they were able to win from the beginning. He realized when he got to Chicago, he needed to build from the ground up. He thanked fans for their patience and he hopes the upcoming seasons will be worth it.

Rehman thinks the players enjoy the idea of potentially coming in and playing positions or doing something they maybe haven’t done in previous seasons. It makes it fun for the front office too because manager Joe Maddon is willing to try something new or outside of the box when a transaction is proposed.

Epstein isn’t a fan of the arbitration. He hasn’t had a player go to arbitration in 15 years. They are the biggest Jake Arrieta fans and they want to see him in a Cubs uniform for the foreseeable future.

The Cubs were aggressive this offseason because of how “dry” the upcoming free-agent class is going to be. They don’t want to rely on free agency every year.

When going into a draft, the front office talks about the person drafted just as much as the player. They are going to have to project how a young player gets challenged in a new situation.

2015 Cubs Convention: Meet Cubs Baseball Management

Through a series of trades, free agent signings and the hiring of new manager Joe Maddon, this offseason has been busy for the Baseball Operations department. On Saturday morning, Cubs radio broadcaster Ron Coomer and CBS Radio personality Josh Liss met with President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein, Executive Vice President/General Manager Jed Hoyer, Assistant General Manager Randy Bush and Assistant General Manager Shiraz Rehman to discuss how the offseason unfolded. Here’s what went down with the Baseball Operations department at the 2015 Cubs Convention:

Josh Liss kicks things off thanks to the new CBS partnership. Coomer talks about having total knee replacement surgery in the offseason. He looks pretty good for eight weeks out from surgery. Coomer opens by talking about the excitement of the Cubs this season. “Baseball is a better game when the Cubs are good,” Coomer says.

When asked about the team’s confidence, Epstein mentions that the team is still undefeated in 2015. He’s done tempering expectations. Cubs fans deserve to get excited after the last three years. He thinks the team will be really fun to watch this year.

“When you have players who have won the World Series and been to the top of the mountain, it provides great perspective for everyone else.,” Epstein says of signing Jon Lester. Bush talks about how experienced players can be steadying for the club.

Bush and Rehman talk about working for Epstein and Hoyer.

“It’s a pretty dynamic place to go to work every day,” Bush says. “It’s a pretty exciting group of guys from Theo all the way down. … It’s one of the most exciting places I’ve ever come to work.”

Rehman talks about the strides the team has made rebuilding the farm system. The trades they made were tough, but they were building for the future. Now that’s starting to pay off.

Bush talks about Epstein/Hoyer’s great sense of humor and how smart they are. They’re all about gathering information and accumulating as many resources as possible about players.

Hoyer and Epstein talk about their trip to a Florida RV park to land Maddon. They knew it was a great opportunity and wanted to be aggressive. Maddon was traveling the county in his RV (the Cousin Eddie). They met him in Florida and realized they hadn’t brought anything for Maddon and his wife. They quickly made a stop at Publix to get some wine. They sat and talked baseball for about six hours on plastic chairs in the sand. Epstein talks about how engaging Maddon is and how he can bring out the best in you. Players feel that too. Two days later, they were in Maddon’s agent’s office in Chicago hammering out a contract.

“When things present themselves that are such great opportunities, don’t overthink things. Just pounce,” Epstein says of Maddon’s hiring. Says he’s missed out on other opportunities/players by not being so aggressive. You deal with the ramifications later.

Hoyer talks about the challenges of playing/managing in Chicago, but says Maddon is great at finding creative solutions to bringing teams together. Won with few resources in Tampa.

Maddon understands that players need to have a life away from the ballpark, Hoyer says. You need to keep players fresh and keep things interesting. He has days when players don’t have to show up early for batting practice, themed trips, etc.

Hoyer talks about the new coaches. Calls Dave Martinez a future manager. Talks about Mallee’s work in Houston with guys like Jose Altuve and Cris Carter. Plus, he has had success with right-handed power hitters (which the Cubs have a lot of).

Epstein says Eric Hinske will be a nice complement to Mallee as asst. hitting coach. Very different personalities. Also talks about the guys who are coming back, Borzello, Strode, Jones, Bosio, etc.

Borzello and Bosio work amazingly hard breaking down hitters and going over scouting reports. Epstein says every time he goes into coaching room, those guys are watching video, breaking down opposing hitters. Rehman says he and Borzello had an hour-long conversation last night after midnight about pitch-framing. That’s the kind of passion these guys have for the game, he says.

Now we’re on Jon Lester. Epstein talks about how Lester could have gone a lot of places given his career, character, track-record, but he was up for the challenge of coming to Chicago. At dinner after the initial meeting, Lester kept saying, “They’re going to burn this city down again when we win the World Series.”

They really tailored the pitch to Lester because they knew him. Felt like they were cheating because they knew so much about Lester and his family. But, ultimately, Lester simply wanted to come here.

Epstein talks about Lester’s pitch mix and his experience pitching at Fenway. It has forced him to get creative and be adaptable. He should be able to handle pitching at Wrigley Field. He doesn’t just rely on one thing/pitch to get guys out.

Hoyer talks about the catching situation and what they have in Miguel Montero. He’s a great pitch-framer, great defensive catcher and a guy who really relates well to pitchers. Many people have told Hoyer David Ross is one of the best teammates in the game and an excellent clubhouse leader. These are the kinds of guys who can be mentors to a young team. They still like Welington Castillo a great deal, but Ross was just too good to pass up.

They knew they needed to add leadership this offseason to help build a winning culture. They feel really good about what they’ve added. Coaches can’t do everything. You also need teammates who can pull guys aside and correct bad behaviors or help guys who are struggling.

Young players are mainly thinking about staying in the big leagues/survival. There’s a necessary selfishness there, Bush says. We need guys who can help foster a team concept and make those guys more comfortable. That’s why they liked hearing Rizzo’a comments about wining the NL Central.

Next comes the question-and-answer session with fans:

  • The first question is about the draft and how they choose players. Epstein talks about how the track record for the best college bat is usually very good. They have a predisposition to that type of player with high picks. They tend to return about twice as much value as a pitcher at the top of the draft. You get your pitching through volume. You have to hammer it throughout the course of the draft.
  • How do you determine how young guys get at-bats? Javy Baez got a lot even though he struck out. Olt and Lake had a shorter leash. Hoyer said they wanted Javy to learn through his at-bats. They felt he needed that to get his feet under him in the major leagues. They wanted to bring him up and let him play. Lake and Olt lost time because other guys, like Chris Coghlan and Luis Valbuena, had strong seasons.
  • Here’s a question about when Kris Bryant is going to come up, especially if he hits in Spring Training. Epstein says it’s a balance of factors. It’s not just protecting the service clock. He uses Baez and Soler as an example. They’re trying to do the right thing for Bryant’s development and for the team.
  • The next question is about where the offensive production is going to come from. Epstein says there’s a good chance for improved production behind the plate with Montero/Ross/Castillo. But if the Cubs are going to be really good, it’s because young players are going to take big steps forward. They still really like Luis Valbuena at third, and Bryant will likely be up this year. But guys like Baez and Soler will have to step up. Alcantara can beat you with power and speed. There’s a lot of young talent on this team, but they need to take steps forward.
  • There’s a question about the development of the minor league pitchers like C.J. Edwards and Carson Sands. Rehman says Duane Underwood took some real steps forward last year. Jen-Ho Tseng has a four-pitch mix and throws up to 95. Really just a teenager. Edwards and Hendricks are more known commodities. Pitchers tend to surprise you more than hitters.

That’s it. Maddon and his Staff are next on the schedule. Stay tuned for more. We’ll be blogging all day today and tomorrow.

Inside the search: Sandy Alomar Jr. addresses reporters

Last Friday, the Cubs interviewed former big league catcher Sandy Alomar Jr. for the managerial job, concluding meetings with four candidates that team brass suggested may encompass the set they talk to. If you missed the video over the weekend on Cubs.com, click the image above for another Vine Line look inside the manager search, and subscribe for your insider’s pass to the new era at Wrigley Field.

The field: Sandy Alomar Jr., Pete Mackanin, Dale Sveum and Mike Maddux.

Inside the search: Mike Maddux answers questions from the media

Continuing the intensive interview process to find the next manager, the Cubs talked to current Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux over the last two days. The elder brother of former Cubs pitcher Greg then fielded questions from the media about family, key decisions facing the club and working with the new front office. Click the image above for another Vine Line video inside the manager search, and subscribe for your insider’s pass to the new era at Wrigley Field.

Closing out the Twinkies

Soriano, LF
Fukudome, CF
Bradley, RF
Lee, 1B
Soto, C
Fontenot, 3B
Theriot, SS
Miles, 2B
Lilly, LHP

Right-hander Scott Baker (4-6, 5.59 ERA) takes the hill today for the Twins.

Coaching shakeup

The Cubs today relieved hitting coach Gerald Perry of his duties, after two and a half seasons with the club. He’s replaced by Von Joshua, who was hitting coach for Triple-A Iowa the last four seasons. Joshua was last a big-league hitting coach with the 1998-2001 Chicago White Sox.

Did you know?

Cubs assistant general manager Randy Bush played 12 seasons for the Minnesota Twins and faced right-handed pitchers in 96 percent of his plate appearances (3361-of 3480). As you can guess, he was a left-handed hitter.

His experiences as a player and, now, decision-maker are the subject of my July “Leading Off” column in Vine Line. Get the insider perspective by subscribing today.

— Sean Ahmed

Whatever comes his way

Thumbnail image for FIVE MINUTES LOGOBUFFALO GROVE, IL–While the entire roster of my family has been exposed to some accursed flu, I find myself OK with it. Not in the sense that I’m glad my wife and daughter are coughing and sneezing, but I’m just glad to be home after being in Arizona for all of last week.

Nice weather is nice, but home is home.

That said, with an inch of snow on the ground, I listened to the interviews I was able to do while in Mesa and they brought a warmth to my chest. One with Mike Fontenot was insightful. I like the guy Ron Santo calls “Little Babe Ruth” because for a guy of smaller stature, he’s got some pop. I remember asking Randy Bush a couple of years ago about Fontenot and Ryan Theriot when they were at LSU and Bush was the head coach of the University of New Orleans.

“Those two were a pain,” he recalled. “It was like they were on base all the time.”

A couple of months ago at the Cubs Convention, Vice President of Player Personnel Oneri Fleita responsed to a Cubs fan’s question pertaining to the trade of Mark DeRosa, “who’s to say we don’t have Dustin Pedroia sitting there in Mike Fontenot?”

9E8T1907.jpgWell, Fontenot will get his chance. During our In the Dugout Q&A, Lou Piniella said Miles would be the primary backup for Theriot at shortstop and both he and Fontenot could see as many as 350-400 at bats between second and any other positions they play. It doesn’t matter to Fontenot, however, because his favorite position is…on the field.

Vine Line
: What does the team need to do to get over the hump after two early postseason exits?

Mike Fontenot: I don’t know. We played so well in the regular seasons in the last two years. First things first is to win the division and get to the playoffs. But like everyone says, we just gotta get hot at the right time. The hottest team going into the playoffs usually wins.

VL: Were you guys tired at all by the end of the season? Did the media wear on you at all?

MF: Maybe there was a little bit, but I think going into the playoffs we felt pretty good. But that’s part of being in the big leagues, handling the media and our clubhouse is small. But I like playing at Wrigley and in Chicago, so for guys who’ve been there, it’s not some big burden. I feel relaxed wherever.
 
VL: A lot of people are picking you as possibly being the starter at second base. But Aaron Miles will also need at-bats, too. How do you see that playing out?

MF
: Obviously every one wants to start. But when it comes down to it, as long as I am contributing every day in some way and the team’s winning, I’m happy. It’s a lot of fun to play on a team that’s winning games whether your starting or coming off the bench.

VL:
So bat [No.] 2, leadoff, whatever–it doesn’t matter to you?

MF: Bat 2, leadoff, pinch hit and get a knock, it doesn’t matter. As long as the team wins, I’m cool.

–Mike Huang

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