Jed Hoyer took some time to speak to Spiegel and Goff on 670 the Score and it’s well worth a listen. Anytime he, Theo Epstein, or Joe Maddon speaks, there’s usually some new, interesting, cool takes. Hoyer addressed the possibility of more moves, the additions of Ben Zobrist and Jason Heyward, the bullpen, and the important role Javier Baez will play on the Major League roster.
You can listen to the original interview here, and check out a rundown of some of the highlights below:
- Theo Epstein has already played down the chances of another significant move this offseason and Jed Hoyer reiterates that sentiment. The team is content with where they are now – which is 95 projected wins, the most in baseball – but if something happens to come along, they’d be happy to entertain it. With budgets settling in to their final 2016 resting places, a big deal is far less likely than at nearly any other time of the year, though.
- Asked whether Javier Baez is *the* center field backup, Hoyer mentions that he looked really good in the small sample size of games in Puerto Rico this winter, but Matt Szczur might be the primary back up at the position. Still, Hoyer mentions that they fully intend to cycle Baez into the outfield mix, and that Heyward will definitely see some time in right field, as well. With all of Ben Zobrist, Jason Heyward, Javier Baez and Matt Szczur able to play three outfield positions, and Jorge Soler, Chris Coghlan and Kyle Schwarber able to play the corners, Joe Maddon will have no shortage of match-ups and options in the outfield.
- With the addition of Zobrist and Heyward, the team was able to increase their contact rate without the loss of overall offense. Hoyer is okay with strikeouts, especially when they come with power, but the team was whiffing all too often in the moments that mattered. Situational hitting – scoring the guy from third – was a problem last year, and they need to be able to get one run across, especially in April and May, when the cold weather is suppressing the offense. The additions of Zobrist and Heyward accomplish that.
- Hoyer is into the versatility in the bullpen thanks, not only to the super utility pitchers that can go multiple innings, but also due to their inherent ability to attack hitters coming from both sides of the plate. In other words, these are guys who don’t have to solely be match-up/situational arms.
- Because the Cubs were competing for a wild card spot – or possibly a home game – deep into September, they didn’t have the benefit of resting the rotation as the regular season drew to an end. In addition to Jake Arrieta admitting a bit of weardown, Hoyer witnessed the same thing happening with Jason Hammel and Kyle Hendricks, as well. This season, they’re going to work with pitching coach Chris Bosio to really improve in this area. One way Hoyer expects to ease off the pitchers is to go easy on them by starting later in Spring Training. This will shave off some less important innings from their overall total.
- Something Hoyer doesn’t mention is that the mere existence of so many super utility pitchers will allow Maddon to have a shorter hook on his starters, preserving their arms without burning the bullpen. Also, if the Cubs are lucky, they’ll have a big enough lead late in the season, so they can rest their pitchers the way the Cardinals did in 2015.
- Now that the Cubs have several impact talents in the everyday lineup, it should be easier for future prospects to come up and contribute, perhaps initially, at the margins. They – and he mentions Willson Contreras, Carl Edwards, Jr., and Albert Almora – can come up and be secondary pieces, helping the team to win without the pressure of having to be the catalyst.
- To my ear, Hoyer finds exceptional value in Javier Baez. His ability to play all across the diamond, with very excellent defense and offensive potential, is a hugely unique component to what he’s worth to the team. It sounds like, whether there’s an injury or not, we might see a good amount of Baez in 2016.
- Kyle Schwarber is working on improving in both left field and catcher for 2016. Still, he was told he is going to be the everyday left fielder, so he’s worked on getting in shape, leaning out and running a lot. Hoyer anticipates that he will get very good in the outfield: “his makeup is off the charts.”
- Hoyer sidesteps a tougher “Can he be a catcher?” question, by reiterating that he wants to do it, he believes he can do it, but finding the time to work on that during the season might be too difficult. You don’t want to send him to Iowa to work on his glove, so this will be an ongoing challenge.
- Hoyer fully expects Hector Rondon to be the “closer” in 2016. Still, Joe Maddon will always ride the hot hand and not be afraid to make changes at any level. According to Hoyer, the bullpen, and Rondon in particular, is familiar with Maddon’s strategy and has come to embrace it.
- The playoff experience gained during the 2015 season will reveal itself throughout the course of 2016. One of the biggest knocks on the 2015 team was it’s lack of experience, but now, they’ve covered their bases, so to speak.