The Rundown: Epstein Coy on Further Moves…Until He Wasn’t, Montgomery’s Grimm Future, Quintana Good as Gold

“Ask Wetbutt,” Theo Epstein said when questioned about further moves in the lead-up to Friday’s second half opener.

He was speaking, of course, about half of the now-infamous duo that broke the news of the Jose Quintana trade on reddit Wednesday night. There was some only half-joking speculation that perhaps this was a ruse on the part of Epstein and Jed Hoyer to have a little fun with what was otherwise a clandestine deal, and that’s a neat little conspiracy theory to foster for a second or two.

KatyPerrysBootyHole is, after all, an anagram for “Theo, pesky bro royalty.” But my understanding is that both redditors in question have a long history of posts that includes some rather unsavory content. So I guess we can put that rumor to bed.

There’s plenty of gossip that is still wide awake, though, and that includes the Cubs’ continued search for pitching. Jon Morosi tweeted Friday that the Cubs were still in on the Athletics’ Sonny Gray, a notion CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney chalked up to Epstein helping to drive up the price for the oft-injured righty. It makes sense for the Cubs, whether it’s a gesture of goodwill or a way to force the Brewers into maybe upping the ante.

“I think right now we’re taking a breath, taking a step back, trying to understand our roster and payroll dynamic, looking forward now that we have Quintana in the fold,” Epstein said. “We’ll certainly still be active with phone calls, at least, this month. Anything that we might want to try to accomplish this winter, it’s good to take a look if you might be able to get a head start and do that now.

“We’ll be active, and we’re going to see how we play, too. I think it’s an important two weeks. If we can get hot and start to play the way that we know that we’re capable of, that probably puts us in a little more aggressive posture trying to maximize all 25 spots on the roster, maybe try to do some things just for this year.

“But if we don’t get hot, obviously you have a little longer-term perspective.”

The idea of going after another of the high-priced (at least in terms of reported prospect cost) available arms doesn’t seem to make much sense at this point, but it certainly sounds as though anything’s possible. As Epstein said, it all comes down to how the Cubs play here over the next couple weeks and what their immediate outlook is heading into the deadline.

If they’re looking for a possible buy-low reclamation project, I think Kevin Gausman could be had for a song.

Monty’s future in rotation

The horse I’d been riding for a long time died last night and I’m tired from beating the hell out of it since, so this section won’t be too long. Mike Montgomery’s line from Friday’s game didn’t look all that bad, but his start was very Butlerian in nature. Which is to say that he got away with a lot of hard contact and didn’t miss many bats. The only thing missing was a high walk total, though he did have a even ration of K/BB (2:2).

Montgomery was succeeded by Justin Grimm, who just looked bad. Possessed of a mid-90’s heater and a freakish curveball, the lanky right-hander is capable of making hitters look silly. But that’s when he’s staying within himself and actually pitching. When he’s out there humping up and trying to hurl the ball through his catcher like he was last night, well, he’s…I don’t know, he’s what we saw Friday.

We learned prior to the game that Eddie Butler had been moved to the pen to work long relief, which is fine except that he doesn’t generate whiffs and he walks too many batters. So now we’re to the part I was too tired to type, which is that I think Monty needs to move back to the pen. I’m not even going to link to prior posts because it feels like overkill at this point.

That could mean Butler being optioned to AAA, but it could also mean sending Grimm down again. As much as you might feel for the guy shuttling back and forth like he has over the past couple seasons, it’s impossible to deny how well he performs after coming back up. But like many other treatments, it’s as though he’s building up a tolerance to the cure.

As much as I’m not high on Butler out there, you know what you’re going to get when he’s in the game and it’s easier to gauge his limitations. With Grimm, you’ve got an all-or-nothing performer who you can’t really count on from outing to outing. The Cubs don’t really need to make a call on anything until Kyle Hendricks comes back or until they swing another trade, whichever comes first.

Quintana is a safe investment

By now you’ve surely been hit over the head too many times with Quintana info and takes, but I wanted to share a thought that occurred to me as I was lying around this morning. It’s not necessarily new, per se, more a twist on what’s been said when it comes to the acquisition and why the Cubs made such a big move.

When you’re investing money, your risk tolerance is largely determined by your age and the timeline for the maturation of said investment. Someone in their 30’s setting aside funds for retirement can be comfortable with having them tied up in more volatile small caps and various other high-risk, high-reward spots. Older individuals, on the other hand, are going to want to shift their money into more staid blue chips, precious metals, and cash.

After years of relying on prospect development, the Cubs have reached the goal they set forth for the organization as many of those investments have matured. In Quintana, they had an opportunity to shift some of their higher-risk investments into gold futures. We can try all we want to define the lefty’s precise numerical spot in the rotation, though I think it’s quite clear that he’s one of the best 30 pitchers in baseball. In fact, he’s been in the top 10 over the past four-plus seasons.

But what’s really big here is that Quintana makes every start, throws 200 innings every year, and isn’t expensive. Not a very sexy profile, is it? Of course, I’ve intentionally left out the rest of the stats in order to focus on the overarching theme, which is that the Cubs are adjusting the way they have invested for the window of contention they opened in 2015.

Might they have given up even bigger potential gains from the prospects they traded? Sure, that’s the flip-side of downshifting your risk portfolio. But do you think the Cubs don’t know that or that they aren’t intimately familiar with the young men making their way through the system? Of course they do. And after assessing everything involved, they felt it necessary to make this move. Now they get to sit back and see if their choices will pay off as they planned.

More news and notes

  • After a report that he’d been scratched from his start, Sonny Gray took the mound and threw 6 innings of 2-hit ball in a 5-0 shutout of the Indians.
  • Arodys Vizcaino (remember him?) and Jason Motte are a pair of Braves relievers who could be included in trade talks, though the former has much more upside than the latter.
  • White Sox pitching prospect Zack Burdi has a torn UCL and will undergo Tommy John Surgery.
  • Star-crossed Yankees pitcher Michael Pineda was also diagnosed with a partial UCL tear, with TJS recommended.
  • In case you need a Quintana Cubs jersey
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