Theo Epstein defends Cubs ownership

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The Cubs are 273-375 (.421) since the Ricketts family took over as team owners following the 2009 season. They’ve made very little tangible progress on badly-needed renovations to Wrigley Field and have shied away from giving out big free agent deals. But club president Theo Epstein assured fans Saturday at the annual Cubs Convention in Chicago that the Ricketts will be spenders when the time is right.

Via Jesse Rogers of ESPNChicago.com:

“Here’s the best thing about the Ricketts and their commitment to the Cubs,” Epstein said. “They know they’re going to own this club for generations and generations so they are willing to take the hit now and take some of the heat now because they know they are doing the right things to lay the foundation to get this right, to turn this into a franchise that they can be proud of for generations and generations. … I’m more proud of them for their willingness to take that heat and stick to their plan than I would be if they panicked the first time their name was dragged through the mud publicly and said, ‘We can’t do this, we need to put lipstick on this and find some quick fixes just to keep the fans and media at bay.’”

The youth-focused rebuilding strategy has netted the Cubs several of the game’s elite prospects — like Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Jorge Soler, C.J. Edwards, and Albert Almora — but not all highly-touted young players turn into MLB stars and 2014 is looking like another down year at the level where success matters most.

The Cardinals, Pirates, and Reds should continue to rule the National League Central this summer.

Rakuten Golden Eagles sign Jabari Blash

Jabari Blash
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Former Angels outfielder Jabari Blash has signed a one-year deal with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles of Nippon Professional Baseball, the team announced Friday. Per the Japan Times, the deal is said to be worth around $1.06 million. Blash was released from his contract with the Angels at the end of November.

The 29-year-old outfielder has had a rough go of it in the majors, where he failed to duplicate the promising results he delivered in the minors. While he consistently batted above .250 with 20-30 home runs per season at the Double- and Triple-A level, he petered out in back-to-back gigs with the Padres and Angels and slumped toward a .103/.200/.128 finish across 45 PA for Anaheim in 2018.

The hope, of course, is that the environment in NPB will help him get a better handle on his issues at the plate — in a best case scenario, resulting in a full-scale transformation that could make him more marketable to MLB teams in the future. To that end, Blash expects to be utilized as a cleanup batter in the Eagles’ lineup and will focus on assisting the club as they make a run toward the Japan Series.