The Rundown: Epstoyer Talks Payroll Flexibility, Process Is Fearless, FA Camp Open

Plenty of fog out there this morning so be careful. I think I heard a werewolf howling out on Fullerton Avenue.

Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein spoke with Mully and Hanley of 670 The Score Chicago yesterday and confirmed that Brandon Morrow will be the team’s closer this season.

Epstein also mentioned in the radio interview they had viewed Yu Darvish as the top free agent pitcher available this winter, as well as the team’s top priority, though they initially thought he was unattainable given original market predictions. The front office entered this offseason with a goal to remake the team’s pitching staff. The frozen free agent market helped to bring Darvish into a financial range that was comfortable for the team.

Epstein also talked about how the signing will impact the team’s abilities to make moves in the future, be it at this year’s trade deadline or during next offseason.

“We have some work to do to make sure we’re in a position to pounce if a certain great fit or just the right special player happens to become available,” he said. “Or somebody wants to be in Chicago and something becomes too good to turn down, it’s just too impactful, or too good a deal (and) would mean too much to the team, we just need to be in a position to do that.”

As far as Jake Arrieta, the Cubs president made sure to clarify any perceived notions that he or anyone from the front office actually spoke with the former Cubs ace before signing Darvish.

GM Jed Hoyer also spent some time on the radio yesterday, speaking with David Kaplan of ESPN 1000. One topic that came up was Mike Montgomery’s role with the team going forward. Now that the rotation is full, Montgomery will reclaim his role as swingman and spot starter. Though he had hoped to take the bump every five days as a starter, the veteran reliever understands his role with the team and more than anything is excited to play for the Cubs. Montgomery also praised the Darvish signing. Hoyer was empathetic regarding Montgomery’s wishes but believes it’s a non-issue now.

Like Epstein, Hoyer also mentioned that the Cubs still have the financial flexibility to make moves during the season. That flexibility is extremely important to the Cubs front office because it is nearly impossible to expect any team’s roster to remain unchanged over the course of a season.

Cubs News & Notes

I didn’t catch this the other day, but apparently Joe Maddon wore a t-shirt to the Darvish presser that loosely translates to “Process is Fearless” which may be the team’s 2018 slogan. I’m sure that t-shirt will be a huge seller.

Meanwhile, yesterday’s workout schedule included the phrase “Dominate 1-1” which likely alludes to the fact that the team wants to stress getting ahead in the count in those situations. At least he didn’t choose “Clear the Mechanism,” though that sounds like something Joe would say.

New Cubs catcher Chris Gimenez is understandably stoked that the team signed Darvish, stating that the new Cubs ace is “still evolving as a pitcher and that [baseball] still hasn’t seen the best of Yu just yet.”

Anthony Rizzo addressed the mass shooting that tragically resulted in 17 reported fatalities at his alma mater, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL., urging those impacted to “please stay strong.”

This is what Rizzo tweeted yesterday afternoon.

Wednesday Stove’s Jim Duquette named the Philadelphia Phillies as a possible suitor for Jake Arrieta.

The Brewers would still like to acquire a top-of-the-rotation arm after aggressively revamping their outfield this winter, though the team signed SP Wade Miley to a minor league contract yesterday.

The Indians’ will be challenged to maintain a competitive team in the next few years due to payroll constraints and attendance issues. Last year, the Padres drew more than the Indians. So did the Twins, the Tigers, the Diamondbacks, and 17 other teams.

About 15 players attended the first day of workouts yesterday at the MLBPA camp in Bradenton, Florida. Media members were barred from the IMG Academy, and one Royals’ scout was asked to leave as well.

Red Sox special assistant Tony La Russa chimed in on baseball’s labor issue which currently finds over 100 free agents still unsigned with spring training underway, stating that “It’s strange, unique, makes you scratch your head. The player and their representative, they have an obligation to be reasonable too.”

There’s no love lost between Rays’ staff ace Chris Archer and rookie phenom Brent Honeywell. Both are strong-willed personalities who feel they know the right way to do things, and it’s apparent the teammates are going to have an interesting relationship. Happy Valentine’s Day, guys.

The Padres have resumed talks with free agent 1B Eric Hosmer.

The Red Sox will be watching Chris Sale’s workload carefully this spring in an attempt to preserve the pitcher’s stamina, with a plan geared toward keeping him fresh for September and, hopefully, October.

Former Cubs pitcher Travis Wood nearly lost his right index finger last month when it was sliced open by a string from a crossbow. Hopefully Wood makes a full recovery.

Thursday Walk Up Song

Centerfield by John Fogerty. A spring training ritual for me.

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