Cubs’ president Theo Epstein sees opportunity with the additional wild card

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MLB made expanded playoffs official yesterday, a decision which will undoubtedly have a major impact on how general managers will approach things leading up to the trade deadline this year. We are likely to have more buyers than ever before while players on the handful of sellers could come at a premium cost.

New Cubs’ team president Theo Epstein talked about the new dynamic with Patrick Mooney of CSNChicago.com yesterday:

“We still set out with the same goal of winning the division, but clearly it makes the bar of qualifying for postseason play lower and more attainable for teams that are kind of in that building phase. It’s a good thing.”

The Cubs plan to discuss a contract extension with Matt Garza during spring training, but he could be a major trade chip if the two sides fail to make progress. The 28-year-old is under team control through the 2013 season. However, Epstein is hopeful that the Cubs could be position to be buyers at the deadline.

“Hopefully, we’re in a position at the trade deadline where we’re looking to add that final piece to get us in a better position for postseason play,” Epstein said. “If things don’t go our way, and we’re not, then the landscape is always defined by how many teams are looking to add and how many teams are willing to move a piece.

“Does an additional playoff team change that? Sure, sure it does. It changes that dynamic. But I’m not going to go into it expecting the club to be sellers. I think we’re trying to play our best possible baseball we can to put ourselves in a position to be in contention at the deadline. But if you’re selling at the deadline, by definition it’s been a failed year.”

Head over to CSNChicago.com for more of Mooney’s exclusive interview with Epstein.

Mets sign Jose Bautista to a major league deal

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Update (5:55 PM ET): It’s official. The Mets have optioned Phillip Evans to Triple-A Las Vegas to make room for Bautista on the 25-man roster. Bautista will be available for Tuesday’s game against the Marlins.

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SNY’s Andy Martino reports that the Mets are close to a deal with free agent Jose Bautista. This doesn’t come as a surprise, as the Mets were rumored to be interested in him on Monday, a day after the Braves released him.

Bautista, 37, struggled to a .593 OPS in 40 plate appearances with the Braves. He’s coming off of his worst season as a regular, as he hit .203 in 157 games last year with the Blue Jays.

Bautista mostly played in the outfield for the Jays, but played third base for the Braves. The Mets need depth at both third base and in the outfield due to injuries to Todd Frazier, Yoenis Cespedes, and Juan Lagares.

It will be interesting to see who loses their roster spot to accomodate Bautista. I suggested earlier it should be Jose Reyes.