CHICAGO - Kris Bryant's shoulder is perfectly healed. Yu Darvish's rehab plan is on track. But, the most pressing question at the 34th Annual Cubs Convention is something Theo Epstein had to deal with right off the bat.
Why no major moves this offseason?
"I'm not blind to that. I get it," smiled Epstein, the Cubs President of Baseball Operations. "It's passion. It's expectations. It's raised standards. It's wanting to continue to be a part of something special. We have fans who waited the better part of a century to be on top and love the way it feels up there and don't want to leave. We have that in common.
"I understand the way things look from the outside, especially in the winter. We can't go out and win games in the winter. We can't go out and play hard in the winter. All we can do for our fans in the winter, in terms of being public facing, is adding players. We haven't added as many players as we normally have. But, behind the scenes, there's an awful lot we do. I promise you and I promise our fans this is as hard as I've ever worked in an offseason."
Bryant laid any lasting hopes of Epstein signing Bryce Harper to rest, saying his longtime friend would not be signing with the Cubs. But, KB is OK with the team returning to Wrigley this year.
"I understand some of the fan frustration, but as a player, that feels pretty good knowing that your owner, your president and GM all trust the team that you have. That means something to us, knowing that, 'hey, we don't really need another addition because we know the talent that we have is pretty dang good.'"
In addition to a honeymooning Anthony Rizzo, one of the missing faces at Cubs Con is Addison Russell, who is not allowed to attend due to team rules.
Some fans have questioned the Cubs' decision to bring Russell back at all, but Epstein insists a lot of thought went into giving him a conditional second chance.
"Our initial reaction was just to move on. That's not something we want to be connected with. Separate ourselves from it and sort of solve it by creating as much distance as possible. The more we considered all perspectives and all factors, and the more we dug in once we were able to do our own research and investigation after MLB issued its discipline we started to consider some other arguments as well.
"Per the major league domestic violence joint agreement, he will be in spring training, as long as he continues to meet these standards. He will be a full participant in spring training, including games ,as long as he continues to the put the work in necessary. When we break for camp, he will serve the rest of his suspension. Then, we are going to take it one day at a time."