Chicago Cubs GM Jed Hoyer was on ESPN1000 this afternoon, speaking with Dave Kaplan and Co., and, as always, it was an interesting listen.
Some of the things Hoyer discussed, together with my own thoughts:
- With respect to prices in free agency, Hoyer mentioned that you have to prepare in advance for sticker shock. Keep in mind: almost every time, free agents go to the highest bidder, which means you’re often seeing the very highest bid. That doesn’t mean the Cubs won’t move aggressively on guys, even if the price looks high – but they have to do things that are smart in the long-term for the team. Hoyer really didn’t show the Cubs’ hand on this one, in terms of big ticket items or mid-tier items – which makes sense, not only from a negotiations standpoint, but also from a practical standpoint. Sometimes, the big ticket, pricey item is the right fit. Sometimes, spreading the money around is the right fit.
- Hoyer was very, very big on the idea of quality depth and peripheral moves. He mentioned that everyone seems to look at a team’s projected lineup in the offseason, but that misses a huge component of how seasons actually play out. You can’t rely on no injuries, and, thus, over the course of a long season, moves on the bench and in the bullpen can make the difference.
- Although the Cubs are looking for pitching, Hoyer was quick to point out how good the rotation was in the first few months of the season, when it carried the team. He singled out Jason Hammel and Kyle Hendricks for praise, even if they may have worn down later in the year.
- On the question of defense, Hoyer turned his thoughts to the outfield, where he conceded the team was sacrificing some at the end of the year to try and cram as much offense into the lineup as they could. Outfield defense is a big part of run prevention (each year, I wonder if we’re underestimating it), and Hoyer says it’s something they have to think about as they build the team. With a hole in center field and projected corner outfielders – Kyle Schwarber and Jorge Soler – who don’t project to be plus defenders, it’s fair to wonder how the Cubs will realistically address the defense out there. (Again, I say: that’s why it’s not entirely surprising to see the Cubs connected in rumors to guys like Alex Gordon and Jason Heyward.)
- Speaking of which, Hoyer said that although Kyle Schwarber is still interested in catching and the Cubs still believe he can do it, the team is in a bit of a tricky spot where they are in a competitive window, and they know Schwarber’s bat can help them win. Thus, you can’t really justify sending Schwarber to AAA to work on his catching right now. So, my sense is that you can expect to see Schwarber getting the vast majority of his starts in left field, while still occasionally getting starts behind the plate and/or working on the side as a catcher.
- And further speaking of the outfield, Hoyer said that he expects Kris Bryant’s role to look like it did last year: he’s the third baseman, but he might move to the outfield for a game or two if needed in a pinch. Bryant wants to play third base, and improved there, according to Hoyer. But his skill set is such that he’ll probably always be versatile.
- On that, Hoyer added something about Joe Maddon that I loved hearing: part of the reason the Cubs’ manager moves guys around so much is because it can help remind the players what it’s like to just be playing baseball. That’s beautiful.
- As for when the moves come, Hoyer said that he did feel like the market was picking up, even if the Cubs aren’t close to anything right now, either in trade or in free agency. You can safely expect to see things accelerate – with the market, and, thus, presumably the Cubs – this and next week. But the Cubs aren’t yet locked into any kind of particular approach for picking up arms, for example, because you have to stay nimble, Hoyer said. Things can come up quickly that you weren’t expecting, and you need to be prepared at all times to make the best decision you can. If you’re too locked into a precise plan, you can miss out on some things.