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Epstein: Always A Line To Draw In Free Agent Bidding

(CBS) Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein isn't straying from the plan as he readies to head to San Diego for next week's winter meetings.

Free agent left-hander Jon Lester's is still Chicago's primary target, and others are on his mind, but Epstein confirmed there's always a line to be drawn in the sand when talking such big money.

"Free agency's important," Epstein said Friday, speaking generally and not about any player. "You have to be aggressive if you hope to get something done in this current landscape where a lot of teams have money and good players are at a premium. There's more demand than there is supply for elite players. There's no doubt about that.

"But you also have to maintain some sense of discipline and limits and long-term perspective. If you go into free agency thinking you're one player away and you need any one player at all costs, you're probably going to end up getting burned. You're probably going to end up with an organization that's not as healthy as it can be years down the line."

The Cubs are still waiting for Lester to make his decision, but that doesn't appear imminent. Lester's also considering offers from the Red Sox and Giants, and the Dodgers have shown interest as well. The Cubs have offered a six-year, $138-million deal, according to reports, the highest offer known to date. But some in the industry believe it will take $150 million to nab Lester and/or that the Dodgers could push the bidding to an outrageous amount.

Asked if he's waiting on one domino to fall before moving forward, Epstein said, "We're not on hold -- we're working on a lot of fronts."

"Obviously, when there's a potential impact player involved, it does shape a little bit of your short-term thinking," Epstein admitted.

As Epstein has reiterated time and again, the Lester sweepstakes and this offseason aren't make-or-break or even a reason to feel down if it doesn't go the Cubs' way.

"There's some nice pitching available this winter," Epstein said. "There's lots of nice pitching available next winter. And the trade deadline is always an opportunity."

"Now that said, there are players who are important, and there's a time to be very aggressive and a time to know what you want and do everything within reason to get it. And you just have to balance those interests."

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