Jed Hoyer Speaks: GM Meetings, Time Line for Moves, and the Best Use of Payroll

Today marks the beginning of the GM Meetings in California, which will be attended not only by Cubs GM Jed Hoyer, but also by President Theo Epstein, Scouting and Player Development Chief Jason McLeod, and Assistant GMs Randy Bush and Shiraz Rehman.

Hoyer spoke recently to the media about those meetings, and about a variety of other topics (the full quotes from which were graciously published by Bruce Miles). Among Hoyer’s thoughts between the two sessions:

  • On the nature of the GM Meetings: “I think the face-to-face at the GM Meetings, it just gives us a chance to further those discussions that you have already started. It’s always easier to deal with somebody in person and have a conversation in person rather than on the phone. But for the most part we have already started those dialogues and I think this is kind of a continuation of that …. You lay your groundwork and even things that are close to getting done there don’t get announced there just because of red tape or medicals. It’s pretty unusual to be able to announce something at the GM meetings. It almost has to be in the works before you get there.”
  • On how the earlier deadlines for qualifying offers to free agents (the former equivalent – arbitration offers – used to not come until the first week of December) will impact the GM Meetings and the offseason plan: “I would probably go in with the expectation that it’s groundwork with the possibility that things move a little faster [this year]. That would be pretty early. It’s a little earlier GM Meetings even by GM Meetings standards …. [The early qualifying offer deadline] speeds things up a little bit that people will have that information earlier. Dec. 7 was always that date and people would wait to see what would happen. But we don’t know if one player in a particular market will hold out and everybody waits for that guy to fall. That could happen as well.” In other words, on the one hand, the GM Meetings are happening a little earlier than in the past, which means not much might happen (in terms of announced stuff) this week … but, on the other hand, the moved up qualifying offer deadline could speed things up. So, I guess that means we don’t know what to expect. Anything could happen at any time! Chaos reigns!
  • On what the Cubs have done so far this offseason: “We’ve had a lot of dialogue with teams already. I think we always try to check in with every team in advance of the meetings. Obviously we’ve checked in with agents of free agents that we will target.” Well, we know they’ve dialoged with the Angels, at a minimum …
  • On the way the Cubs are viewing the role of their theoretical payroll advantage over other teams in the NL Central: “We talk a lot about payroll efficiency. A lot of that is getting to that point where you feel like it’s a payroll you’ve created based on contract lengths that you like. One of the things we’re very wary of is sort of jumping back in and muddying those waters because we know there’s a time in the future where it really becomes a lot more efficient. We’re not dealing with some of the contract issues we’ve been dealing with the last couple of years. I think our ability to have an efficient payroll is really important. You look at the amount of money we have to spend. I always use the bad analogy of the basketball center. If he keeps the ball over his head, it’s really hard to steal the ball. If he holds it down on his waist, it’s a lot easier. If you take a $120 million payroll and you put a bunch of bad contracts on it, the next thing you know, you’re not any different than a $70- or $80-million payroll team. It’s important for use to use our financial advantages correctly. I think a lot of that is by signing good contracts, being aware of contract length and being aware of the decisions we make going forward because we do have the opportunity to make that payroll more efficient in the future, and we don’t want to muddy that in the meantime.”
  • (That’s as good of an explanation as you’ll get for why the Cubs are reticent to splurge on big contracts before the young core is ready to go. And I’ll assume that he mentioned $120 million as a mere off-hand remark (and an undersell), because, long-term, that’s simply not going to be good enough. With the infusion of money from TV deals, and the transfer of dollars from the amateur side to the big league side, I wouldn’t expect $120 million to offer much of a payroll advantage over the rest of the NL Central by, say, 2015. Talk to me about $140 to $150 million. But we’ll get there when we get there.)
  • Hoyer then made his point about when/how to spend on big-time contracts a little more explicit: “We’re not against long-term deals. We’re not opposed to spending a lot on players. Given where we are, we want to make sure that when we have our young talent at the major-league level, when we’re ready to go on what we think is going to be an extended run, we don’t want to have a bunch of guys that are past prime that we signed in the past that are sort of hindering what we want to do. We’re not against committing to a player. We committed a lot to Starlin Castro. We committed a lot of years to Jorge Soler. We just want to be really smart with the contract length because so many times, you see these players, they reach free agency, and they’re 32 and 33 years old and buying ages 35 and 36. If you’re about to win a title or you’re one or two players away after the first couple years of that deal, that makes a lot of sense. But if you think your window may be more like those back two years, it does give you a little bit of pause.”

Brett Taylor is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation, and can also be found as Bleacher Nation on Twitter and on Facebook.

49 responses to “Jed Hoyer Speaks: GM Meetings, Time Line for Moves, and the Best Use of Payroll”

  1. Sandberg

    Nice to have people that get it.

  2. EvenBetterNewsV2.0

    People will disagree, but it makes a lot of common sense what they are doing with the available money.

    1. MichiganGoat

      but but but rabble rabble rabble 104 years rabble rabble rabble… you mean something like that?

    2. Kyle

      I have a massive distrust of common sense. It’s most often invoked when people really want to believe something that is contradicted by evidence.

      1. jt

        Common sense leads to the question: “What am I missing?”.
        Sometmes the evidence is not complete.
        There was Newton and now there is Einstein.

  3. cubchymyst

    Hoyer is right, that it is a bad analogy

  4. Believe in 2015

    What do you guys think of the Cubs trying to pursue Jacoby Ellsbury?

    1. MightyBear

      I would be ecstatic if the Cubs pursued Ellsbury. I’m not sure it will happen but it would make me very happy (assuming he’s healthy and playing like he normally does.)

  5. Kyle

    Long story short: We’re going to field a medium-sized payroll for several years in order to avoid risking having an effective medium-sized payroll for a several years. Fate avoided, nice job guys!

    Also notice the subtle reshifting of definitions and expectations. $60 million and $30 million now count as major commitments.

    1. fearbobafett

      I took the Castro and Soler contract as he was referring to number of years vs. dollar amounts. Meaning they are not afraid of the long term contract if it makes sense.

    2. Chris

      I hear what you’re saying Kyle. As a team with capacity for a large payroll, I fully expect them to spend that money accordingly. You and I disagree on when, and maybe who, they should spend it, but they should spend it and soon. Resigning Castro to a team-friendly deal or signing an international free agent to a larger than normal deal during a weird period where they were trying to beat the July date when the rules would change doesn’t count. While I wouldn’t advocate signing Greinke specifically, using him as the example, the Cubs should be competing for the best free agents every season. That means going long-term and with big dollars to get deals done. I understand fiscal restraint for the immediate term, but there has to be a point where payroll is escalated to get the team into contention. Maybe that point is when a higher percentage of the best prospects are at AA and AAA, but there has to be a defining time when the moves shift so that they act like a big market team. Given the free agent crop and understanding the state of the minor league system, I’m ok with not overspending in 2013. But that should not be confused with spending nothing and going with what they have. My expectations are they approach .500, or better, by 2014. They’ll have had 2 seasons to acquire talent. Starting year 3 has to be the beginning of the sustained success. Spending money at the ML level has to be a major part of that.

    3. When the Music's Over

      The context could change its meaning, but that’s how I read it.

      If you do take context into account, $30M to a very young, unestablished player from Cuba and $60M to a 22 year old can be considered major investments. Then again, if these are the same types of investments someone like Oakland or Tampa can afford, one could say that a major market team like the Cubs shouldn’t be able to consider them as “major”.

      1. terencemann

        I don’t think Oakland or Tampa could afford those commitments. Oakland made the investment in Cespedes because he could help them now and they were willing to make the contract friendly for both sides by making it a short term deal that allows Cespedes to skip arbitration and hit free agency soon. Longoria has the largest extension this Rays’ front office has ever awarded and he didn’t make over 5 MM until his 5th season in the majors.

        1. When the Music's Over

          I still think both of those teams could afford those contracts, but your missing my point in that contracts that average $3M per year (Soler) or $8.5M per year (Castro) shouldn’t technically be considered “major” investments for a major market team, especially one that has the capacity to be in the top 5-6 spending right now, even in spite of not having a lucrative TV deal.

          I’m not saying the Cubs aren’t trying to position themselves to spend large in a few years (or whenever they deem the team ready to compete—could be 2016 for all we know), but I’m also not convinced that Ricketts isn’t completely ecstatic to save $~150-175M+ over the course of 2012-2014 or beyond.

          Also, I don’t think Kyle is saying that he wants to have the Cubs fill up with bloated BS contracts right now, which COULD negatively impact them when they are “ready” to compete, but rather that it wouldn’t kill the team to spend some money now to at least field a moderately competitive team in the near term that could possibly sneak into the playoffs.

          Also, I’m not sure having a ton of money to blow in one offseason is an ideal scenario. What happens if the free agent classes in 2015 or 2016 are weak? You might find yourself grossly overpaying for sub-standard “stars” at that point or waiting it out yet another year. Both of those scenarios could be just as destructive as signing someone now who isn’t quite at their peak when the Cubs are “ready” to compete.

    4. hansman1982

      Ya, in effect – rather than field a mediocre mid-level payroll now and a decent mid-level payroll later – field an effective small payroll now and an effective big-time payroll later.

      Basically Jed just said what I have been trying to say for the past 9 months about the rebuild.

      1. Kyle

        So you lock in the downside and push the possible upside so far into the future as to be the most murky it can be. Good plan.

  6. The Dude Abides

    Paralysis by analysis is how I define this FO until I see them actually make a move that clearly defines that they are trying to improve the team with players they plan on keeping instead of trying to outsmart the room by flipping signed players at mid-season.

  7. Me

    HIs comments to me reflect that they are not going after Zack Grienke or Josh Hamilton or even Michael Bourn because they are beyond two years away.

    THey are looking at the next few free agent classes when they will be more ready to spend money and closer to completing.

    YOu are going to see them get young guys that are before or during arbitration eligiable and also a lot of 1-3 year deals with average salary this offseason. Guys like Ichiro or Torii Hunter. Maybe a Youkilis or Polanco for short. Through trades you could see a Lonnie Chisenhall or Randal Delagado. Players like that.

    This is the right thing to do. And adding some of these players may even net the Cubs as a surprise team in the NL next season.

    For example they add Youkilis, Hunter, Liriano, and Feldman.

    1. David DeJesus RF
    2. Kevin Youkilis 3rd
    3. Anthony Rizzo 1st
    4. Torii Hunter CF
    5. Starlin Castro SS
    6. Alfonso Soriano LF
    7. Welington Castillo C
    8. Darwin Barney 2b

    1. Matt Garza
    2. Jeff Smardizja
    3. Francisco Liriano
    4. Scott Feldman
    5. Travis Wood

    Not a bad lineup and rotation for “not competing” and not spending a whole lot of cash with good trade chips at the deadline.

    1. terencemann

      I disagree with your choice of players but I think they will probably field a team at least as good as the one you created. Liriano is a pretty bad idea. He’s only had serviceable command in one full season. It was magical when he did it but he’s walked at least 5 batters per 9 in every season since. If the Cubs sign Marcum and McCarthy, for example, that’s a decent rotation (possibly as good or better than where they started last season) and it wouldn’t break the bank or break with their plan to sign players on short-term deals.

      1. Me

        To me Marcum and McCarthy look too expensive compared to Feldman and Liriano. Of course they are better but I watch what Paul Maholm did in Chicago last season and was amazed this is the same pitcher that pitched for Pittsburgh. I see the same happening with Liriano and Feldman is pretty solid as well and you can get both for a fraction of the cost of Marcum and McCarthy.

      2. Kyle

        And that’s all I’m asking for from them. They don’t want to mortgage the future. Fine. There was a time that was defined by trading your top prospects for MLB players. I’m not asking them to do that.

        But somewhere along the way in the very recent Cubs past, devoting proper resources to the future got twisted to mean devoting every possible resource to the future. Every spare roster spot must be used on either reclamation prospects, developing prospects or showcasing players to trade for prospects.

        They don’t need to trade Baez and Almora for 35-year-olds and they don’t even need to go nuts on Hamilton or Grienke.

        But they have 4/5ths of at least an average infield, 2/3rds of an adequate OF, and a couple of interesting starters. They need 2 starting pitchers, a CF, a 3b and the good half of a bullpen. That is not too much to ask in a single offseason for a team with their resources.

        1. fortyonenorth

          But somewhere along the way in the very recent Cubs past, devoting proper resources to the future got twisted to mean devoting every possible resource to the future.

          Well said, Kyle.

  8. Me

    I want to be clear I do not think the team I feilded above is great by any means but I also do not consider them bad like this year’s Cubs team. In a bounce back year from Youkilis and full year of Rizzo could make this team a surprise in the NL.

    But then again I am an optomistic person.

    1. Bill

      I wouldn’t touch Liriano. He’s bad, maybe worse than bad. He had one good season and h hasn’t been good since. If Don Cooper can’t straighten the guy out I wouldn’t expect Bosio would fare any better. I’d rather spend more money and sign guys like Marcum and McCarthy who are MUCH better pitchers. The Cubs have plenty of money and you aren’t going to have to offer these guys long term deals.

      1. jt

        Liriano s worse than bad!

    2. Mick

      The players you chose make sense to me in that we need a lot of flippable assets for the 2013 deadline, although if our projected payroll is $90 million you would’ve far exceeded that. I live in Minneapolis so I’ve seen Liriano’s entire career and even though his control can be at times unbearable, I’d take him all day long on a 1-year low dollar salary which is what he’s going to go for this Winter. The guy has the pitches to be a #1 starter and is a perfect bounce back candidate to take over the #4 spot in the rotation. That would leave us plenty of money to go out and address our other needs. The Cubs current payroll is around $64 million and their projected payroll is between $90m-$100m, that leaves us with about $30 million to spend on free agents.

      This is who we could get for $30 million:
      Liriano-$4 million
      McCarthy-$8 million
      Feldman-$4 million
      Gomes-$6 million
      Keppinger-$5 million
      Frasor-$3 million

      1. CubFan Paul

        I’ve been looking for a Liriano scouting report all day. Thanks, he’s definitely on my wish list this winter

      2. bbmoney

        I think Liriano and McCarthy will get more $ per year than that. Granted both will likely sign short term deals.

  9. notcubbiewubbie

    the part about 120 million payroll is actually 70-80 million payroll when you have bad contracts in the 120million; exactly what we always had during the jim hendry era. nice to see these guys really get it.

  10. GoCubs

    For the most part I like how the Cubs front office is building this team for the long haul. It is a refreshing change from the Hendry years. However, if the Cubs want to fully utilize their payroll flexibility they will sign one top free agent this offseason to a 5 or 6 year deal in the $90M range. They would then use their 2013 payroll flexibility by front loading that contract. For example, use $30M in 2013 on that one free agent player and then spend another $25M on guys that fill immediate needs with the potential to flip. That would put 2013 payroll around $120M, not overly large for a big market team. By doing this you then have that top player for $12M per season in 2014 to 2018. If the Cubs keep payroll around $90M the business’s bottom line is more important than creating payroll flexibility.