(CBS) A day after his first baseman predicted the Cubs will win the NL Central in 2015, team president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said that's exactly the attitude he's looking for.
"That's the mindset you want with your players," Epstein said in an interview on the Spiegel and Mannelly Show on Friday morning. "You want guys excited, optimistic, and I think having swagger on the field is a good thing. It's important. If that starts with a little bit of swagger off the field, that's fine. You want guys in that frame of mind."
On Thursday, Anthony Rizzo set out the expectations for the Cubs this season and stirred up baseball talk in the city in the dead of the offseason.
"It's going to happen this year," Rizzo said. "It's what we're going to do. We're going to play, we're going to win the NL Central. Quote me on that. We should be the team, with all due respect to every other team, they're just as good talent wise, but we're going to do some things this year. That's what we're expecting. That's what we're putting our sights on. We're not going to accept anything else."
As for more news rather than predictions, Epstein said he was content if Arismendy Alcantara's role is that of a versatile, do-it-all utility player. Alcantara will get a chance to play center field, but it's not clear if he'll be the everyday guy there.
The Cubs are still keeping their eyes and ears open in monitoring the free agent market for outfielders.
Alcantara has plenty of experience at second base too, and he has also played shortstop and third base at previous minor league stops.
"It's acceptable," Epstein said. "That's something you grow into. It's a little bit easier for veteran players who know themselves better and have a foundation, to show up every day and look at the lineup card and figure out what position they're playing on that given day. But I think it can be good for young players too. Joe (Maddon) has made the point that it takes a little pressure off their bat, if they just have to focus on contributing defensively and being versatile. It can take the heat off their bat a little bit. I think he's the rare player that might be able to pull that off.
"Right now, he's a really exciting athlete who might end up playing a lot of center field for us. He might end up moving around. This was a kid who was 20/20 last year and had 69 extra-base hits between Triple-A and the big leagues at age 22. It's hard to find that, and we're excited about his future."
Click here for Epstein's full interview. He talks about shortstop/second baseman Javy Baez, saying his short stint in the majors in 2014 didn't change the team's opinion on him. Toward the end of the conversation, Epstein also addresses the Cubs' recent TV deals and what awaits -- including when Chicago could become a high-payroll team.
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