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.”