Cubs' Epstein: Chatwood's a guy we've been after for a while
Chicago Cubs president Theo Epstein was mum on one subject Thursday but was chatty about another.
Epstein met the media at Wrigley Field but did not want to answer questions about the team's pursuit of Japanese pitcher Shohei Ohtani.
He was more than happy to talk about pitcher Tyler Chatwood, whom the Cubs signed to a three-year, $38 million contract.
"I'm here to talk about our signing today, Tyler," Epstein said. "We're really excited to sign him. He's uber-talented, a right-hander moving into his prime. He's got great makeup. We think his best days are ahead of him, getting him into an environment where we think he can gain consistency with all of his pitches and play to his strengths a little bit more.
"We're really excited to slot him into our rotation. He's a guy we've been after for a while."
Chatwood, who turns 28 on Dec. 16, pitched since 2012 with the Colorado Rockies, who play their home games at hitter-friendly Coors Field.
This past season he was 8-15 with a 4.69 ERA and a WHIP of 1.44. For his career, which includes the 2011 season with the Los Angeles Angels, Chatwood is 40-46 with an ERA of 4.31 and a WHIP of 1.49.
The Cubs point out that after Chatwood missed the entire 2015 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery he is tied with Washington's Stephen Strasburg for second in the National League in road ERA the last two seasons (2.57), trailing only Clayton Kershaw and his 2.16 ERA on the road (minimum 10 starts).
Chatwood joined Epstein in meeting the media, and he seemed as happy about going to Wrigley Field as he was about leaving Coors Field.
"It's going to be nice," he said. "To be able to have the same routine and be able to work on stuff and have your ball do the same thing home and away, it's going to be nice.
"You start with the atmosphere as a visiting player coming in here, it's probably one of the best in all of baseball, if not the best. And obviously the team they have, they're young, and they're proven winning teams. It's going to be fun to be part of that."
Chatwood figures to slot into the No. 4 or No. 5 slot in the Cubs' starting rotation behind Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks and Jose Quintana, depending on whether the team signs Ohtani or another pitcher and assuming that erstwhile ace Jake Arrieta signs elsewhere.
Epstein said he believes that Chatwood may be able to use his curveball more now that he's away from the thin air of Denver, where breaking balls don't break as much.
"His curveball's a big pitch for him," Epstein said. "It's a really tough pitch to throw with any consistency in Coors. You try to scout him the best you can and project him into your environment with your ballpark, your defense, your infrastructure. It's all about what we expect to get the next three and perhaps plus years with Tyler, not what he's done in the past.
"We're excited. His stuff is top notch. He's a bright kid who can think his way through a game, as well, and is always looking for ways to improve and get better. There's a lot, and we're excited about his future."
As far as Ohtani goes, Epstein was clearly uncomfortable about discussing the Cubs' pursuit. They are one of seven teams on Ohtani's preferred list.
"I think out of respect for the player and the process, I'll let any information come from the agency," he said. "I think that's the appropriate thing to do."