Theo Epstein and the Cubs generally have operated under the premise that no one on their roster is untouchable, and there already have been trade rumors involving one of their young All-Star position players, catcher Willson Contreras.
Epstein, Chicago’s president of baseball operations, attempted to downplay those reports in his initial media address Monday at the MLB GM Meetings in Scottsdale.
“The nature of any offseason, there are going to be rumors about your major-league players and even your best players and that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re true,” Epstein said, according to NBC Sports Chicago. “No one knows how this winter’s going to evolve. Even us.
“We have no idea who will be available for us, so I think taking any name that comes up in a trade rumor with a mouthful of salt is appropriate — not just a grain, because I think they’re usually untrue.”
Epstein, who built the Cubs team that ended the franchise’s 108-year World Series drought in 2016 after snapping an 86-year drought with the Red Sox in 2004, similarly said no players were untouchable last year, including three-time All-Star third baseman Kris Bryant.
The Cubs, coming off a disappointing 84-win season, have two years of control remaining on young stars such as Bryant, Javier Baez, Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber.
The 27-year-old Contreras, a two-time All-Star behind the plate, isn’t eligible for free agency until 2022, but ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported last week that multiple teams believe he’ll be made available this winter.
“Not that [trade rumors] come from a malicious place, but sometimes they can have real-world negative consequences for a player and his family,” Epstein said. “So we’re gonna do everything we can to operate respectfully and these guys whose names keep coming up in trade rumors have done a ton for our franchise and are among the very best players in the world. I don’t want to do anything to make their lives more difficult.
“Most trade rumors out there are not true. We have no idea how this winter’s gonna go down, we have a ton of respect for our big-league team and the policy of having no untouchables is something we’ve had here for eight years. So we’ll just see how the winter evolves, what’s available to us and take it day-by-day, but we’ll try to operate with a lot of respect for our players.”