The last word was barely out of emcee Mike Gillispie’s mouth Sunday when autograph-seekers stormed the stage from all corners of the packed ballroom on the final day of the Cubs Convention.
More than Theo Epstein, Tom Ricketts or convention superstar Joe Maddon, it was a handful of Cubs prospects who drew the most imposing stampede of fans.
Perhaps the only people in the room for the “Down on the Farm” panel happier to see Kyle Schwarber, C.J. Edwards, Addison Russell and Pierce Johnson in Cubs jerseys were player-development executives Jason McLeod and Jaron Madison.
“You’re holding your breath a little bit,” Madison said of his mindset in October as Epstein’s front office opened the club’s most aggressive offseason in years.
That the Cubs were able to satisfy most of their wish list without tapping their ranking prospects for trades might be one of the most significant achievements of the winter.
“That was pretty special what they were able to pull off, and we’re excited,” said Madison, who braced for the front office to make good on its promise to consider all avenues for acquiring big-league players. “Obviously you want to strengthen the big-league club, but those are the guys we’re kind of counting on for the future. So it’s good to be able to hold on to those pieces.”
Not that Madison is under any illusion that all of them are going to hit it big.
“You definitely build relationships with them, but you have to be honest and step away from that and start to poke holes in the weaknesses of the players,” Madison said. “Try to identify those who will take off and reach their potential and those who have a chance to, but maybe you see some things makeup-wise or just with their overall development that might prohibit them from reaching their ceiling.
“Those are the guys you hope to maybe be able to include in a package if you have to lose someone.”