Epstein, Bush, and the coaching staff

Theo Epstein talked Cubs a year after his hiring was official.

One year ago, the Cubs had one player who projected as part of the core Epstein and Co. are trying to develop and that was shortstop Starlin Castro. Today, Epstein said there are at least half a dozen in the organization, including pitcher Jeff Samardzija, first baseman Anthony Rizzo, and prospects Javier Baez, Albert Almora and Jorge Soler.

The farm system has certainly improved. It would be nice if some of these guys were in the upper parts of the minor leagues where we can get a better idea, but that's going to take time.

"I also wake up every day and recognize we lost 101 games and understand how painful that was for everybody, including me, and that provides further motivation to get out of this position that we're in," he said. "I think there were a lot of positives. That core, at least in my mind, went from one player to half a dozen, and if we can do that again in 2013, and we look up and we have close to a dozen players in our core, I'll feel great about the overall health of the organization.

"I also want to make the playoffs and I understand that's a big challenge, so I hope we hit on a few guys this winter and get off to a good start and we have one of those unexpected seasons."

It will take an unexpected season to see them contending, but they can get a start on it and it sounds as if they will. This makes me happy. There's no reason to wait until you're a contender to spend money. This team doesn't have to wait to do that so why do it?

"I believe 90 percent of the game revolves around controlling the strike zone when you combine what it means to do so from an offensive standpoint and also from a pitching standpoint," Epstein said. "It's something we weren't really good at. We didn't walk enough, our pitchers walked too many hitters, we didn't manage counts as well as we should've."

It's a big problem for this organization and has been for some time. Hopefully we'll start to see some more patient hitters in the minors over the next few years and obviously a pitcher who throws strikes is obviously nice to have.

The Cubs also extended assistant general manager Randy Bush today. The holdover from the Jim Hendry regime was signed for 3 more years. They also made some other front office changes too.

The Cubs also announced Louie Eljaua has been promoted to special assistant to the general manager and director of international scouting. Paul Weaver, who was the director, will now be an international cross-checker and coordinator for the Pacific Rim. Alex Suarez was promoted to assistant director of player development.

The team also said Mark O'Neal, the Cubs' athletic trainer since 2004, will stay with the organization but in a different role.

The Cubs also hired David Bell to be their 3rd base coach and removed the interim tag from hitting coach Jason Rowson.

Rowson was the Cubs' Minor League hitting coordinator and had taken over the big league team's duties when Rudy Jaramillo was dismissed June 13.

Bell, 40, managed in the Reds' Minor League system the last four seasons, most recently guiding the Triple-A Louisville club in 2012. Prior to Louisville, Bell was the manager for Double-A Carolina from 2009-11. The '09 season was his first as a manager or coach at the professional level after a 12-year Major League career, which ended in 2006.

This feels like a pretty good deal for the Cubs.