Cubs: Theo sticking to the plan amid Hot Stove madness

Cubs: Theo sticking to the plan amid Hot Stove madness
December 7, 2013, 7:45 pm
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Tony Andracki

The Cubs won’t be looking to make a big splash as they head into Orlando for the winter meetings.

Robinson Cano is a Seattle Mariner. Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran are New York Yankees. Masahiro Tanaka's future is still up in the air.

[RELATED: Theo looks for next Ellsbury as Cubs wait to enter Tanaka sweepstakes]

Theo Epstein is confident in the plan. As new manager Rick Renteria was introduced on Thursday at Wrigley Field, the Cubs president stood away from the mob of Chicago reporters, casually checking e-mails on his phone.

As Major League Baseball went through an insane week of Hot Stove action -- "I don't think I've ever seen it this crazy," Epstein said -- the Cubs have remained quiet, picking up backup catcher George Kottaras and left-handed reliever Wesley Wright.

[MORE: Renteria expects the Cubs to show some fight]

Reinforcements will come from within the organization, like flamethrower Arodys Vizcaino, the main piece in the Paul Maholm deal with the Atlanta Braves at the 2012 trade deadline.

Vizcaino, 23, was ranked among Baseball America's Top 100 prospects for four straight years, but has missed the last two seasons recovering from Tommy John surgery.

Vizcaino is healthy now -- Epstein said he was throwing 98 mph in the Dominican instructional league -- and the Cubs will put him in the bullpen in 2014.

[RELATED: Cubs looking at Axford as possible closer]

"Knock on wood, but he looked really healthy, like he could step into a game in spring training right now," Epstein said. "He made half-a-dozen appearances and then we shut him down so he could rest up. He'll ramp up for spring training like any other pitcher, but the stuff was electric coming out of his hand."

The Cubs are in the market for another starting pitcher, but if they go through another mid-summer sell-off where 40 percent of the rotation is traded, Kyle Hendricks could emerge as a nice option in Chicago.

Hendricks, the organization’s minor league pitcher of the year in 2013, dominated in 27 starts between Double-A Tennessee and Triple-A Iowa last season (13-4, 2.00 ERA, 1.06 WHIP). But he won't break camp with the big-league club. The 6-foot-3 right-hander turned 24 on Saturday and came out of the deal that sent Ryan Dempster to the Rangers in July 2012.

"Kyle has made tremendous strides the last couple years and put himself in a great position," Epstein said. "I really believe in him. I think he's going to be a very good big-league starter.

"But I still think there are things for him to work on in Triple-A. We talked to him about some of those and his player-development plan still has a few boxes to check."

[MORE: Daytona Cubs named Minor League Team of the Year]

The same can be said for Kris Bryant, who along with Javier Baez has energized the fanbase after an eye-popping 2013 campaign.

Bryant won the Golden Spikes Award, which is given to the best amateur player in the country, was named MVP of the Arizona Fall League and helped advanced Class-A Daytona win a championship.

Bryant, the No. 2 overall pick in last June's draft, hit 46 homers combined in 118 games between the AFL, college and three levels in the Cubs organization. But the Cubs have no intentions of rushing him to Chicago.

[RELATED -- Epstein: 'We can't make time move faster']

"That creates a lot of momentum and we're really enthused about him," Epstein said. "But we have to remember that he's really new as a professional player and there's a high bar for him to reach his ceiling because he has a chance to be a really special player.

"He's going to come to spring training and continue his development. There are things he's going to continue to work on and there are adjustments professional pitchers are going to make to him. He's going to have to adjust back. We're really excited about the talent and the character that he brings to the table.

"But getting that first full season under your belt is important. It will be in the minor leagues."

It may only be a matter of time until Bryant finds his name on Renteria's lineup card each night. But the first-year manager is focused on the guys at the big-league level, including franchise cornerstones Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo.

[MORE: Cubs looking to the future with Starlin Castro and Javier Baez]

"I'm excited about the guys we have right now," Renteria said. "I look at the players that are coming and we have some talent in the organization. I think they've done a wonderful job drafting and selecting some of these players.

"Right now, my focus, quite frankly, is on the guys that are here. They're extremely talented and they have to move forward between the lines. We have to maintain a consistent, positive message that we'll be able to have some of these players do what they're capable of doing.

"Obviously, there's peaks and valleys, but as a manager and a coaching staff, we have to remain even-keeled. It gives them an opportunity to keep moving forward."