WEEI>On Demand>>Theo Epstein talks about his time in Boston and building World Champion teams

Theo Epstein talks about his time in Boston and building World Champion teams

Feb 6, 2014|

Rob Bradford and Alex Speier talk with former Red Sox GM and current President of Baseball Operations for the Chicago Cubs, Theo Epstein. They talk about Theo's time in Boston, draft philosophies, scouting and talent evaluation and what has changed when it comes to all those things.

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Transcript - Not for consumer use. Robot overlords only. Will not be accurate.

Well joining us on the hot stove -- -- were honored to. He joined by Theo Epstein president of baseball operations for the Chicago Cubs and people around here may know him from his work. It's fine work with a Boston Red Sox well feel welcome. They drop they -- me I got out. They feel so that's I guess system jump into this you know obviously. This has been I imagine a very interesting period of -- of a few months. Very interesting offseason for you guys but and that's kind of start with the end of of the season that was -- to you know the opportunity to watch the Red Sox. Winning the World Series you know a couple years after. After your departure what was that like to watch them from afar and -- You know and see what -- your thoughts about about building the Cubs going forward as you're watching the success of an organization that you were. You know pretty -- that you're in its -- part of for such a long period of time. Well the truck -- is a lot of fun to watch. In contact with a lot of guys from the baseball ops department and here in the -- and it was magical -- right fund you can put on Red Sox. To watch that team. And -- momentum Tuesday's and then. Go on the run they they went on because you know the chemistry -- was incredible. You know is is. Right particularly fun for me you know season is as familiar with a lot of players backgrounds in and you know a lot of guys because this system and it was the news news just in -- you know magical run. Lot of fun options and is really happy for and and Hayes and -- aren't they got the office. You know it. And don't think about this but you know a year before that would mean it did you know that the typical way and the 2012 season when it. People start thinking about their jobs and security in and out of position and things like that it has to. Their fortunes turn around in twelve months like that featured groups that so good at what they do and so deserving and I thought at first and work. Diligently in -- Tremendous life sacrifices for the benefit of the Red Sox over the course of the decade it was really really gratifying to watch back on the and and yet happy for the players to. And Red Sox Nation that you know the people on -- first and foremost the baseball ops work well that's all I care about. They're good mentioned some of the players that you watched and you obviously had a hand in bringing in two to Boston -- do you one or two guys that there. Participated in last year's World Series run. That you took. Great interest to me he said all while you don't that guy became something needs are you thought he was going to be or even it exceeded what he thought it was going to be. They're there. It is certainly fun to watch a lot of big -- mean. When we signed Bogart's. And I don't think any of us the Madden and participating in the 2013 -- serious. And just to see equality and a bat that unit will put together. For a kid his position as it was a remarkable and that the effort to ought to. And he's done that actually goes there two guys that. You know Craig Shipley and the team we're really art design and had had great vision. And Barry and those guys and and and you know it is not a lot. Never really got that shows -- Before when he first came up to the big -- because they'll blow it breaking down. And you you worked extremely hard on the undergone rehab. And came back with the velocity -- zone as an amateur in the industrial league and Japan. And got to get split back. We actually tried to reform at the Cubs volume down. And -- and you know and and put together an incredible. Incredible stress there too and yes they go around the field. You know. All of a homegrown guys that are. They're there it special you know the people and -- -- to see you get to know when there. In some cases six seniors all the other it is. -- cases toy toy line. And you see them turn from from boys and tendencies and though -- players but as people and -- on the World Series on the -- get you know. Well. Well that's obviously be the idea of developing homegrown talent developing young players into. Into future regulars of the championship caliber team has kind of central. Thought to what you're trying to accomplish in Chicago right now. Where do you feel like you guys are in terms of you know in terms of what is -- what would you inherited which was a significant building project. And you know this has been an offseason. Last year was a year in which you're you're identified some building -- sign guys like. Rizzo like Saarland Castro to long term deals. And then of course you have to have the transition to managerial transition. After the season where you guys in terms of building the foundation for what you believe will be sustained success. Well I think yes. Yet but it separated. Each category out as far as. The infrastructure. And where we are required our scouting department and our player development department I really like Korea are. And we brought over. A lot of the prophecies that we have instilled that in Beckett and Boston and some of the game though it changing and we tried to improve upon them. -- -- -- Friday and brought in some people. -- some people and it really hurt again yours your prophecy running. Full speed especially with the draft. And we really try to run out there. Department where. We've focused on the currency the draft which is information. And speaking he's been. Statistical and scouting and medical. Make up information that that something that you know it took years to get up enrolling in Boston and I think you have a real competitive and it would you have. Profit that works and people that -- in -- you go out you quieter years fine if you. A lot of the draft that way it it doesn't happen overnight so it's a bit. To -- you know a year to really transition now. Yeah -- I really feel like -- role in that department fame player development lucky enough to break and Brandon -- -- feel Courtney is the first years EB -- -- director of player development for a couple of years and are actually here bench coach and you -- right and B you know coordinators with them. -- Mattison now farm directors so is really good people. In player development we've got our player plan system. Up and running we wrote the Cubs way Manuel. Offered a little bit from the Red Sox way. He handled it in the National League so -- apartment that I feel really good about there is yet I think we've got a couple good drafts. You know more. Peter Johnson and quality pitchers the first year and the second year. Piloted side by Chris Bryant and -- -- -- pitching. In our system I think is has reflected that in addition to the aggressive international. And signing that we've made we've gone. The system that wasn't very well thought -- to you know one that. I think pretty clear it up but system albeit -- And so on some publications that we have we have some impact position player count coming we need to get a -- the group -- And you know and clearly. The result that in those results and manifested yet the big league level so we're two years into. And that building project that by it and take. Longer time than that but I think there's there's plenty of momentum internally. And plenty of momentum in the farm system and our job is to make sure that that. Transition. With those players -- big league level and goes smoothly and we came away as much sounds possible the big league -- that. Ready to make a run he can sustain it through on. The UST president of baseball operations for the Cubs joining us in the year before we get into something you mention about the the challenges of building a starting rotation. You also talked about oh. The evolution of baseball and how you gonna have to adjust on the fly and a lot and -- years since you've been in Chicago where it's been the biggest challenge for you. Because of the way things have changed. Yet. I think the biggest challenge is just. Yeah. Change is really is -- BA is you can't you can't really choose how much you want them the anymore. You know an -- then we decided. That is going to be fundamental. Q are -- that in order to. In order to win a World Series mean to develop homegrown players -- ball players. You want to ship has been made our resources as we get in the draft though only. Got to resources and our time and our attention but. To a certain extent that the rules permitted dollars and draft -- So we you know we let free agents walk after those four World Series. Pedro. And and and Cabrera walked -- use and use those picks. I'm Albers and -- the world and then. You know you made trick or Victor Martinez knowing that yeah it. Here a production for comment from him and help us get so policies and hopefully it and then in the regular. Let him walk in and we got. Henry Owens and and Matt Garza victors so that was the fundamental part of the approach you -- it was a strategy. Is pretty important. We built the organization. And then we also you know gambled on and later round players and gave them first and second round money it. And that was as significant help to build an organization as well and then we you know we obviously work really. Our scouting process. Or about how that Brady part of that you can't just put resources there. Breakdown and I thought you know frankly I thought we it all that. Well now as far as single most important thing we did that put it in good positions success for a long period of time. Then and now. -- you can't. -- really develop a strategy around in six short you know you might have someone. Any given year you can make off buying property you're. In the -- the Red Sox yankees in -- couple of multiple players in the qualifying offers. And get picked that way but you only get one pick you'll get to anymore. The scope of players to receive competition is much more limited and and most -- market teams below. Rule rule will very rarely if ever. Top compensatory picks her through the creation now so that just something that you can't factor is not you can't you can't -- players and later -- More. That you know if you really go for bargains here your first round picks so that has really changed to gain in the -- you can still. Quote unquote dominate the and make an impact in the draft the -- to -- Q but it done a much smaller scale yeah I think the days of getting. You know like Barnes Swire -- Bradley their first four -- when we to outlet. Does -- have probably gone and then you just have to you have to -- do it you know. Wonder if you pick like that in the years go all out. It with regards to with regards to to the kind of scarcity of you know of possibility of building through the draft it seems like that's had a considerable impact in terms of the market four veteran players from from my vantage point certainly. You guys were were very and you said that you have had struggles in order to build the rotation part of what you have him going forward. You guys were very. Out publicly connected to. Two it's not cut in his son in his posting case were you surprised by where that it's not a market. Ended up in to you what is what's the fact that he ended up signing that contract functionally a seven year 175 million dollar contract. Or at least team commitment to him say to you about about where who -- how teams. How valuable pitching has become how scarce it's become. But it actually probably been about eternity -- contract because if you factor in the impact on the CB he -- that the Yankees to fail or it is indeed tacos a player push over here and therefore higher in subsequent years that. I can't say I'm surprised because stick to answer questions just reflect the dynamic that. There are. Many many teams with a lot of lot of dollars to spend and very few. Places this has been a very few players on -- and you know that represented -- sound investment of dollars so. I think anytime. In this market that you kind of player who will be. In his prime years or or pretty prime years are close to his prime years. And it has been healthy and this. -- recognized. Tools and and the track record in this -- track record in the league for the track record and put out players get. Dropped significant interest and get. Get right more than is expected. Just because the supply and demand dynamic. Dictate sit there -- their lot the team's demanding talented trying to. Players and supply is really trickle of few -- your players of that poker free agency. And you know it it's it's pretty rare that you kind of let me be one player a year like that the opposing system if you want true. You've been creating the for the player who qualified to be outside the international standing rule. And and that's about it so you're gonna see -- He's these prices that people actually had. They don't just decide to opposite larger payroll -- Because the TV deal the -- that out. A lot of money you know a lot of players attract players to spend money. How much pressure does that put on an organization to kind of make long term commitments to young players maybe even young pitchers. Earlier -- might have been the case in the past or is is that decision making process. The same as it was for you know for instance with guys like Castro and Rizzo and and your efforts to to talk to various points long term with some our job. Government is the impetus to do so the same as it was when you went through the kind of slew of thought of early career deals with the likes of Lester and Buchholz. Into and in Pedroia. I think there's a little more. Significance. -- wrapping up your players now all the more urgency. But it's not as. Transform it in the draft does that mean you cannot miss in the draft because you know it's really it's really acquisition and development. Everyday players and hopefully and that impact players that dictate your -- now whether you -- you know player that you develop. Unite here and have the interest sector in most cases six and half with seven years in a month ago. Ortiz you wrap them up. Up and and buy some of their prime years. In in early free agency that way. And extend the window either way. You know that that's what you -- your ability to do that -- consistently over time. We'll pick it -- -- your franchise he did you know it. What do you -- to wrap up the guys here that there are athletic -- here or there that that's you know go to those positions are important. But you know they're beating kind of organizations that kind that can consistently produce young players. International market -- here. And that and that kinda can't -- to the extraordinarily. In professional scouting and extraordinarily good trade an extraordinarily. Good slash lucky. In free agency. In other the that. You know -- Jon Lester was here last week and he talked about oh maybe take even hometown discount and I know that's a relative term. But it in general terms when you're dealing with a player and you're dealing with the player's agent. How much of it in your experience is the player driving the agent or the agent driving -- player or does it just apparent because. Because people in the public to see it as well the player is running there should be running the show and if he wants a hometown discount that he's gonna take it what's the dynamic like junior experience. It is completely dependent on the player and and in some cases and depending on the agent as well. But it just dependent on a lot of factors the players person now. These players. History. And with the team with an agent so you you get -- you get players are very clearly running the show and make the decisions in the agent but it works for the player. And the that the player like by the priority. They get a long term deal done with this team. Or all day -- -- condition on it and say you know if you can get. You can get you know really close to market value really creating value in the long -- of the world that want. The most money. As players we you know long term deal done that we've spoken about great if not all of it in. And and there are other. Who -- players tonight -- is -- is observing it from. Close proximity to other players you kind of don't know so I wanna get. Involved in it and is that you know atmosphere. Out there agents update them when there's something important talk about -- and when those players is a little bit harder they did long term deal done because you end up you know running it. 38 in the present it to an usher certainly. And I think it is definitely to get to get -- long term deal -- Homegrown players definitely have to be bilateral. It's really hard -- just. You lateral negotiation you're entirely change -- Because you know there there's yet security counts and in matter. Those deals get done at Butler free agency. Is really attractive. So so players that is a process that you know he and that is go year by year it takes a player -- in some interest in making it happen. You know it's it's fascinating because you go throw you tenure in Boston and you've really you really seemingly timed out. Approaching guys at the right time I go back to back you know he was dive I think you guys my -- didn't done that in the middle of 2006 when he was down and and and you approached him and you want to get a deal done and you obviously approach last turn -- to these other guys that really really good times. Because you end up getting deal -- deals done. Tom what's that conversation like within the front office is do you look at guys and say. Okay every -- -- as he said but this is a good time to approach them. Because maybe their -- a little bit doubt what's the what's that like because he did have great success in doing that. Yes yes there -- a lot of factors that. Owens it probably that the actual question is is this a court player there is someone that we really want you have part of what what we have going on here for a long period. Can the you know and indicated the players to -- count -- -- we think they're going to be stars they can the -- obvious answer but we we also factor in. Not the talent. But Emeka and you know. Now that is a social level playing field and -- hired -- acquired. They want to make sure that your core players are their team first guy inner. Pretty unselfish manner that are competitive and love the game and there and he made and so that's a pretty big factor in the discussion as well. And then the -- players who are more role players that is it might be appropriate given given the specific situation the contract to wrap -- Just just just to increase their value internally it actually Dexter. And by having a contract that offers more control so. Looked up follow what is this -- viable player this franchise. Monster mile route them out and then the second component really -- -- The ball revolved around timing. So you know and -- all. You know buying -- Oh is it the good thing I think -- that player goes down as a career year. Definitely not the time that you monitor rush out wrap my studio you may wanna make you wait until. Is that he's in this more typical of this performance and then if there's ever an instance where a player. Under performs. Bird Andy -- -- can be randomness in the non chronic injury you can be. You know than it is something going on is life for them at the team's circumstance without underperform if you believe in the players projections. You believe it's better than. His recent performance that's always an attractive time. To try to lock up players while does that does that you know agents -- it wanna talk after career teams usually talk after down here but. Another factors as it is the player's agent signing. You see the arc of their careers you -- infineon. The roster construction of the club going forward so if you look at. -- Pedroia -- deal. Signed after his MVP you're so good job -- -- buying low on. -- that we were you know you you know the example I. But he just won rookie year and then and then it we just won MVP. So we weren't buying low but we felt like. You know want to get that much hardware. At the end of the arbitration prop. We knew you wanted to be here from the day we drafted him we -- all in Jamaica. In Europe and and we become all in on this time. And and we felt like if we get to a long deal. It made sense does it. You know getting a masters second being that they didn't make sentenced to a shorter deal. But it means to a long deal that really bought out copiers to create being in -- the club option that made sense. You know you glut of players that we tied up. Bit later. You know who who we weren't certain the second half of the world's longest career that was you know. You know top three top five and -- theatrical the year zero at its prime. We felt like we did we get to the right window hand and that that timing -- contracts -- -- working out really welcomed we had. -- I had to resign and that free -- Boller -- Jason Werth mine and I regional balance on our. On that and there's not as they'll be paying him huge money now. And now that is the Major League careers teams -- it mediocre he's taken it causes -- to and so. Kind of -- healer now while the potholes than the Bob Hope you -- It was you know really important for us. To. Get a couple of options you know you can ever do that with a pitcher it -- it's been the -- just right in the Dunlap there you know he. -- interest in staying immediate -- -- at all I think you know and it -- to do do that would give them another bite the apple that. We extended his window and got club options so it in set up really well for the club and and for the players and get it. I'm not about -- would get yet another bad bad apple you know he's here maybe sooner so. Is it funny that kind of goes the other by the biggest thing at that time we stressed over. You know. 500000 dollars a year or 250000 dollars there pictures just are -- years get -- extra club options. In the and that's what's important and I thought we did get deals for the most part. But in the end what matters -- that you put the player's position to perform as he performs at the other Burgundy -- you know and then. Importantly he's kind of right you've you've batted many prime years you can get as many tree years makes sense to get a club option. We established that policy that we would not do that deal with. Our -- our player without getting at least one created here without getting at least one club options some. That's the policy it took it to -- It makes sense that we get that kind of security. -- should get the benefit return back in the practice players and of those deals. They don't have regret. They got security. And they're paid well. And they got the player they want to play. And then and there and they. You know were put in the position of perform they work they're held -- -- performed they have to win championships and yet another yeah apples those really where. Well all wrapped up with this given the centrality that we discussed about the acquisition of of top amateur talent in terms of team building. Obviously this is an exciting time for you guys with the Cubs in terms of the group of prospects. That you have coming up and graduating to the upper levels that said. How attentive are used to. What some the -- some of the guys who did bringing to the Red Sox system. Who have yet to really make it to the major leagues Bogart's. You know having just scrape the surface of course but you know for instance with that in same class -- draft class of 2011. Or at least potentially insane. -- class of 2011 with a with the Barnes and you know with the -- by heart. Owens Bradley group as well as -- bats or you know or the guarantee -- of the world in this -- both parts of the world. How how how has that group developed relative to what your expectations were for it and how much do you follow. You know what -- that kind of group of people to whom you were when you were. Fairly closely connected at one point are doing. I followed -- follow really closely and probably with equal parts like admiration pride in jealousy. It'd yeah I mean it and I am really proud you know what we built. As far as you have to go I think out as pretty pretty hands on you know it that we -- -- -- -- -- And -- sound ball players and it is and you know is that that is just a great decade. That's why double on -- -- beginning and then bring in Jason McLeod. In the gate and last. Promoting on the L scouting director he's done a phenomenal job. They damn proud. But those players that laughter I think if that. You know there is enough that. Went wrong in 2011. I think in time. It would be a wonderful thing. For everybody if they hit. Maybe will resent their moment people think of 2011 I think that draft class. I -- but the red -- that would be nice if it mean great things that are outside and they mean that those players went on to have great careers may elect. Various December 2011 away for everybody and for myself that that hasn't happened and operating with -- a lot of those players. Ultimate championship in thirteen. Yeah it is you know it is a great decade. In the draft there and that that was a great -- draft. And the players are are performing really well out of the top prospect rankings so I definitely root for -- am -- a cut it down. There at that time that I wished them well and yeah I think I think. It is -- -- -- there's really well positioned has been done a phenomenal job. But with the club up Nixon. Some of the count that he's brought and there's. They're at their prize fight it deepest system in baseball. On the way it pointed impact on -- should be good career along. Long time and and and -- -- I think there and of -- fifty players on the. The World Series rosters there are some them might. 35 or 38 homegrown players in the Red Sox Cardinals. And those those two franchises -- -- continue to excel and that's really -- the Cubs were. We're starting from you know the bottom of the well aware were getting our. Up and and you know that that's -- that's where we want to view line and the team of young players street crime primate players. Mainly home grown up. Not not that we don't use players and trade mean yeah not that real well. Entry signs and time to time but we still are who we feel great about the roster great about our farm system -- that are better. Salary structure read about. You know that and and your outlook and then you can't. Off seasons like the Cardinals in the red -- factory is operating out of position -- And get the pick and choose what you wanna see it that that redundancy. At a lot of positions in those players you reference surgery date because it may very. Yeah they're great doubts. And great leadership so so they should continue. And continue that dynamic for. The thanks for joining us really appreciated and I know in bill we all expected things from the Cubs this year and look for a -- news here. I don't get get it do.

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