Chicago Sun-Times
with sports reporters Chris De Luca and Gordon Wittenmyer

2013 Cubs? You might be looking at them

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Cole Hamels? Zack Greinke? A big free agent hitter?

Even with more than $38 million coming off the books in three expiring contracts alone after this year, don't count on the Cubs bolstering its fledgling core with free agents to try to compete again by next year - no matter what manager Dale Sveum, or fans paying some of the highest ticket prices in baseball might want.

``Sometimes that works out for you; more often than not it doesn't,'' team president Theo Epstein said Wednesday. ``If you get tempted and you get impatient and you try to solve your problems in free agency, there's always a price to pay. And usually it happens pretty soon thereafter toward the end of those deals.

``Free agency's definitely a nice way to add talent to the organization without giving up talent,'' he added. ``But you cannot make an organization that way. We have a lot of steps ahead of us that we need to take care of before we're in a position to add a finishing piece or two through free agency.''

The organization-building mantra preached since last fall by Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer has always suggested a long-term process to get to a ``foundation of sustained success'' through a farm-system focus.

Since then they've repeatedly made it clear they consider the farm system they inherited worse off than perceived going in.

Despite their status as one of the game's high-revenue teams, along with the fact they get massive payroll relief through no longer paying for Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster and Marlon Byrd next year, they're not ready to spend that money on 2013.

``We hope we're very competitive very soon, but just sitting here wanting it to be so doesn't make it so,'' Epstein said. ``You have to build an organization. You get sick of me saying this, but there are no shortcuts.''

That doesn't mean they won't kick tires again in the free agent market. Just think more Paul Maholm than Cole Hamels, more David DeJesus than Josh Hamilton.

``We'll always look to free agency,'' Epstein said. ``We'll always be on every free agent, for the right player or the right value. But if we sat around and drew up a plan and had free agency as the answer to most of our problems, we'd be on a fool's errand there. We need to build a foundation. We need to have scouting we believe in, player development we believe in, a steady flow of prospects and developing young players. Then you can look to free agency.

``If the right deal's there ahead of schedule, great. But we're not going to count on it.''

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This page contains a single entry by Gordon Wittenmyer published on July 18, 2012 8:45 PM.

``Cubs Going in the Right Direction'': Ozzie Guillen was the previous entry in this blog.

Key moment for Cubs' Samardzija is the next entry in this blog.

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