“We’re not trying to hide the ball,” Epstein said in the final days of the season. “We’re trying to be honest with [the fans]. There might be some tough things we have to tell them along the way. There might be another trade deadline in our future where we trade away about 40 percent of a really good rotation.’’
The idea, he has said repeatedly, is to build a strong and steady pipeline of homegrown players that will assure that “sustained success,” supplemented only then by flexing the big-market muscle to add any lacking piece or two needed to get over the top in a given year.
For the customer being asked to pay an average of $46.30 for a ticket — especially those who bought in the afterglow of Epstein’s hiring last fall — it’s a risky proposition.
Epstein, general manager Jed Hoyer, scouting boss Jason McLeod and the rest of the front office knew amateur-signing restrictions were coming when they took their jobs, but it wasn’t until they settled into their new offices that they learned how draconian the draft and international free-agent spending limits would be.
By their own accounts, the Cubs expected to spend more than $20 million on over-slot talent deep in the draft — as Epstein and Hoyer had in Boston and San Diego before. But MLB capped the Cubs’ draft allotment at less than $9 million — under penalty of lost future picks. And limits on international signings went into effect in July, just after they inked Jorge Soler to that nine-year, $30 million deal.