In the frantic two week period that saw the Chicago Cubs – amazingly – land Theo Epstein as their new President of Baseball Operations and Jed Hoyer as their new General Manager, a great number of details about that process were necessarily obscured. Because Epstein’s role with the Cubs was held up by compensation talks with the Red Sox, nothing about the Cubs’ move with respect to Hoyer could get much of the “official” treatment from the organization. Sure, there were plenty of rumors and a handful of leaks, but nothing concrete.
It was easy to let the “how” of the process go at the time because (1) there was so much else to discuss, and (2) there was so much excitement, that the “how” seemed largely unimportant.
But, stepping back, think for a moment about what really happened with respect to Jed Hoyer, specifically: the Chicago Cubs somehow procured the transfer of one of the most attractive up-and-coming sitting GMs in all of baseball – and one of his top assistants – to a position that was not only not a promotion, it was arguable a demotion. Sure, Jed is “GM,” but it’s hard to argue that he’s ceded some control coming to the Cubs under Theo Epstein. And the Cubs did all this without giving up a metric ton in compensation.
Seriously. Think about that. How the hell did that happen?
Hoyer recently shed some light on the process and the “how” in an interview with the San Diego Union-Tribune. The interview provides interesting context, not only for the process, itself, but also for Hoyer’s role both with the Padres and now with the Cubs.
Hoyer spoke first about his reasons for leaving San Diego in favor of Chicago.
“I was not looking to leave,” Hoyer said . “I loved living in San Diego. I loved what we were doing with the Padres. The organization is in good shape. This was not an easy decision. I don’t have a single negative thing to say about the Padres.
“[Joining the Cubs] is an amazing opportunity. It’s one of those baseball dream jobs. If you can bring a championship to the Cubs … we wouldn’t be here if they had been operating at their most efficient.”
According to the Union-Tribune, even though Hoyer advanced the idea of a contract extension with Padres’ CEO Jeff Moorad when the Cubs asked for permission to speak with him, Hoyer may still have accepted the Cubs’ offer anyway. Hoyer called the Cubs’ job the “perfect storm of opportunities.”
There are all things we knew or anticipated. But then Hoyer dropped some surprisingly candid knowledge about how he first came to the Padres, and, then, how he came to leave the Padres.
“The only reason why I became the general manager of the Padres in 2009 was that the Diamondbacks wouldn’t give Jeff permission to talk to Byrnes,” said Hoyer. “Moorad wanted Josh as the Padres’ general manager.
“I got the job because Josh then gave Jeff my name. Byrnes and Moorad are incredibly close. When Josh knew he wasn’t coming to San Diego, he backed me to Moorad and that’s how it happened.
“In the end, I think how it worked out [with the Cubs and Padres] is a great thing for all parties. It’s good for the Padres, who have a great relationship between the owner and the general manager. There are no injured parties here.
“I agree with Jeff when he said none of this would have happened if he didn’t have Josh ‘waiting in the wings’ already working for the Padres.”
Those statements are subtle, but revelatory. Not only was Moorad satisfied to have Byrnes take over from Hoyer, Moorad affirmatively wanted Byrnes as his organization’s general manager. Indeed, Moorad wanted to hire Byrnes instead of Hoyer in the first place back in 2009. By the time Byrnes was free, Hoyer had already been in the job, successfully, for a year. Moorad hired Byrnes, but couldn’t rightly replace Hoyer at the time.
But then the Cubs came a-calling, and Moorad had his opportunity to re-align the front office the way he preferred.
The statements also are consistent with the reports that Josh Byrnes – and not Hoyer – was Theo Epstein’s first choice for GM in Chicago. But, because Byrnes was also San Diego’s first choice, the Cubs got Hoyer. And the Padres got what they wanted.
So, as for that “how”? How do you snag a top-line, up-and-coming general manager (and his top assistant) for almost nothing? Just make sure his current team kind-of-sort-of doesn’t want him in that role anymore, but doesn’t have a good reason to dump him. Then, have your owner visit with their CEO on the last day of the season, and flush all this out. Then, when your new President wants to grab a great GM, you already know whom you can get – even though no one else believes it to be possible.
Given that background, one could place Hoyer in the role of a cast-off, whom the Cubs picked up on the cheap as a back-up option. The Padres didn’t really want him, preferring Byrnes (whom the Cubs also preferred), so the Cubs got stuck with Hoyer. Fine, but it’s no longer quite the feather in Tom Ricketts’ and Theo Epstein’s caps we once thought it was. Or so the argument would go.
Ultimately, it’s hard to allow the process by which San Diego got the guy they really wanted to diminish the Cubs’ acquisition of Hoyer. Perhaps Jeff Moorad preferred Josh Byrnes to be his man in charge, and perhaps he saw the Cubs’ request as an opportunity to move Byrnes up. But I think it would be impossible to get Moorad to admit he wasn’t thrilled with the job Hoyer was doing. Indeed, the fact that the Padres might be happy with the way things shook out doesn’t diminish the two very successful years Hoyer had leading the Padres. And, of course, all credit to Ricketts and Epstein for identifying the situation, and making the move happen.
Sometimes, it’s possible for everyone to get what they want, and I’m certainly not going to allow the process to dictate how I feel about the Cubs’ front office: it’s full of brilliant, innovative, hard-working baseball executives, and the future is bright. Jed Hoyer is the Cubs’ GM now, however he got here. And I’m happy about it.