The Chicago Cubs’ front office has repeatedly discussed the importance of having veteran players in place as the team develops, and increasingly relies upon, young players to carry the weight of performance. Done right, those veterans not only provide production to take some of the pressure off of the youngsters, but also provide mentorship and modeling on how to succeed in the big leagues.
Patrick Mooney recently wrote about about the integration of the Cubs’ youngsters, and the wild swings of excitement and frustration we’re likely to see. It’s a wide-ranging read, but I’d like to cherry pick a Jed Hoyer quote for discussion.
After talking about the desire to bring in veteran position players for leadership and production next year, Hoyer noted that the free agent pool is weak and there are also relatively few spots where the Cubs could sign someone and give them regular starts, given all the youth. We’ve heard, and discussed, that stuff before, but then Hoyer added something very interesting: “Some of the guys [here with] a little bit more service time [are] kind of fighting to keep a job. As a result, it’s hard to ask them to mentor when their focus is on themselves. It’s certainly something we want to find. It’s hard to find right now. But I do think it will help all those young guys to have that.”
That issue never even crossed my mind, but it makes total sense. Most of the Cubs’ current veteran players are in a position where they are trying to ensure themselves a job for next year, and who could begrudge them that? Especially on a team that isn’t going to make the playoffs. They don’t know if they’ll be around next year to lead some of these younger guys, and, with a baseball career being an extremely brief thing, the close of the 2014 season is time to really push for 2015.
This adds another layer to the offseason pursuit of positional players. How it manifests is a matter of debate, but it’s something to think on. Maybe you want to get someone for a couple years so there isn’t that same immediate pressure to succeed, personally, for your own financial security? Maybe you focus on guys who, for one reason or another, are less likely to be in a position to “play for another year”? As I said, this is something to think on, and I haven’t fully sussed out in my own mind how this really impacts the offseason strategy.
Indeed, it might not affect too much, given the scarcity of jobs and space for the players the Cubs might target. But it’s interesting, even if just for considering the month of September this year, and the relationships of the players. I expect that there’s still a ton of informal mentorship going on, by the way, even if it hasn’t explicitly been requested by the organization.