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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.

  • die hard

    And how many of our so called top line execs will jump ship at first oppty to be top dog at other team in exchange for proverbial compensation? Here today and gone tomorrow and so enjoy while lasts because will not last forever. Hopefully they will combine to deposit a WS ring in the crapper before they go.

    • Spencer

      are you happy about anything the Cubs do?

    • Wilbur

      I agree with Diehard, people are always going to be moving on. Ricketts is an idiot for hiring anyone. He should have fired everyone in the front office and done it all himself.

      • Spencer

        yup.

      • hansman1982

        But someday the Ricketts family will want to sell the team – FA’s will retire or be traded away so no need to have players – low level FO staff will move on to other jobs so stop hiring them – Prospects will bust, leave in FA or get traded away so no need to draft anyone else – groundskeepers will die eventually so stop hiring them – basically the Cubs should just close up shop and save everyone a lot of trouble…

  • Frat Rat

    My favorite part…….”we wouldn’t be here if they had been operating at their most efficient.”

  • johnbres2

    Great column, Brett.  I would not consider the Cubs’ landing of Hoyer–and not Byrnes–as diminishing in the slightest the coup that Tom Ricketts pulled off.  You can’t get everything you want, and to have gotten the trio he did–all of whom were under contract to other teams–is nothing short of a jaw-dropping achievement.  And while Byrnes may have been Theo’s first choice, one does not get the impression at all that the Cubs were “settling for second best” by taking Hoyer.  Rather, it seems more like the argument of, which band is better, The Rolling Stones or the Beatles?  They are both great.  The fact that Epstein moved immediately to get Hoyer when Byrnes was not available shows that Theo was delighted to get Hoyer, and, as you say, we are too.

  • Deez

    QUESTION: Does anyone knows how many years Hoyer got in his deal?

    Also, with Theo over him as Prez of Ops, it’s hard to see how he gets the last say on most if any baseball decisions.

    As much as we want to call it a “partnership.” Theo is in charge.

    • Fishin Phil

      My understanding was that both Hoyer and Epstein are on 5 year deals.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Five years, just like Theo.

  • PFK

    die hard is just always on a downer. Fact is, the Cubs have arguably the best front office in baseball AND they are still adding to it. I’m not talking about just the brand names they’ve hired but about all the staff that will assist them and all the systems they are putting in place. It is truly remarkable and it wouldn’t be possible without a bright and committed owner who knows how to build an organization. Hire the best and the brightest and give them the resources to do their thing. Ricketts is doing an amazing job building a total organization from the ground up that will compete with the best of them.

  • JulioZuleta

    These guys are not going to be “here today and gone tomorrow”. I can’t imagine a team opening up/ creating the position of President of Baseball Ops for Jed Hoyer. He is the GM right now, he left somewhere else where he was the GM to be the GM here. He won’t leave to be a GM somewhere else. Quit being so damn negative (ignorant?) and enjoy what we have.

    • Dave H

      Amen.  Live in the present.  The Cubs are doing something we have never seen before.  We should be happy they are using their money to the best of their ability.  Their abilities are improving everyday also.  Ricketts will not sell this team for quite some time.  May even take a couple of generations for that to happen.  I think he wants to become the next Steinbrenner.  This front office will be pulled apart because of promotions after a championship and not because of a change in direction.

  • http://www.michigangoat.blogspot.com MichiganGoat

    An aside:  Royals Acquire Jonathan Sanchez For Melky Cabrera is an odd one for me, I’m not sure if the Giants over paid or if the Royals didn’t ask for enough.  Melky had a career year while Sanchez has the opposite of what was expected after his post-season performance in 2010.  Any thoughts?

    • Jeff

      I can only think that KC has had scouts look at Sanchez and they still like what they see. The Royals have bad starting pitching. Sanchez could be a top 3 starter for KC next year, and Cabrera is expendable. Pitching trumps all this offseason, well, all except Fielder, Pujols, and Reyes.

    • Rancelot

      To be honest, and I know this does not preclude the Cubs from acquiring either, but I am relieved that they were not in on either of these players. I have been on record saying that Sanchez to me is Oliver Perez 2.0. Great lefty arm that seems to have all that you want except, can’t throw strikes. I would not be surprised if Bochy went to Sabean and said get him out of here…his outings drive me nuts! Plus, he throws so many pitches he rarely can go beyond 6 innings. As for Cabrera, all I’ll say is that he was the type of player Hendry loved…marginal talent coming off of a career year. Buyer beware!

      • http://www.michigangoat.blogspot.com MichiganGoat

        Completely agreed

  • david

    I don’t think byrnes was the first choice. I think they just thought byrnes would be more likely to be available than jed. I doubt Theo would’ve preferred byrnes over hoyer. Why would he?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Why did Moorad prefer Byrnes over Hoyer when he was first looking for a GM in San Diego in 2009? None of us knows for sure, but there could be a reason. And it’s no slight to Hoyer.

      • David

        Who knows? But as far as Theo is concerned, I doubt he preferred Byrnes over Hoyer. I could be wrong, but I think it’s just more likely that he initially sought out Byrnes because he didn’t think he could get Hoyer to come over for what it would be generous to call a lateral move. I don’t think it’s a slight to either guy either way…just saying.

  • Camiata2

    The force  is strong with Ricketts

  • funkster

    How do Hoyer’s statements show that Theo’s first choice was Byrnes? I don’t see it.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      They don’t show it, they’re consistent with it: namely, (1) some execs prefer Byrnes to Hoyer, and (2) if Epstein preferred Byrnes, he wasn’t getting him. “Lend credence” was probably the wrong phrased. I’ve restated that sentence to be more clear.

  • BetterNews

    Jed Hoyer was an excellent acquisition. At 37 years of age he may lack experience,
    but I think his decision making will do far more good for the Cubs than Hendry
    ever did.

    Hendry’s time with the Cubs was marred by to many ups and downs, and whether
    that was 100% his fault does not matter, he paid with his job.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, I don’t recall Hendry ever really being a baseball “Guru”
    in any sense, he originally wanted to be a journalist and sort of just stumbled
    into fortunate circumstances.( Not that there is anything wrong with journalism)
    My point is Hendry’s passion came not from the love of baseball, but job opportunities

    Anyhow, best of luck Jed Hoyer!

  • BetterNews

    funkster—-I have to agree, I don’t think Epstein did ever say Brynes was
    his fist choice. That just would make no sense coming from upper
    management.

    Brett please elaborate because I don’t see any consistency there.

    All I see is “hearsay”, sorry.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Of course he didn’t “say” it. Like, out loud? In public? “We’d like to welcome Jed, even though he was our second choice, behind Josh Byrnes. Second place isn’t always bad, amirite!?” Come on now. It wouldn’t happen that way.

      Maybe I shouldn’t have assumed the Josh-Byrnes-first-choice rumor was widely known (though it was written about here). Here’s an example from ESPNBoston:

      A source told ESPNBoston.com that Epstein asked Byrnes to join him in Chicago, but Byrnes declined. Epstein then turned to Hoyer, his longtime friend and former assistant.

      • BetterNews

        Well of course, you can’t place two phone calls at the same time! One person
        is going to get the call before the other, but how do we jump from that
        to Byrnes was first choice. As they say, that just does not follow.

        Rumors only, yes I can see that.

        If you have a list of very worthy candidates, someone has to get the first call!

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