Cubs General Manager Jed Hoyer was recently on MLBN Radio, and, although we previously touched on his specific comments on talks with the Rays and making smaller acquisitions before the season starts, there’s so much else to get into.
CCO has a transcript of Hoyer’s full interview here. Among his many interesting thoughts, Hoyer addresses remaining offseason moves, the plan for the outfield, the hold up on a trade for a starting pitcher and more. You can read some about some of those topics below, along with my own thoughts, or take in the entire conversation here.
- Asked whether or not the Cubs were done with big moves this offseason, Hoyer indicates that, yeah, the team you see is probably the team you’ll get. There are, of course, minor moves left to be made – like all 30 teams – but that might be the extent of the movement. However, he did mention something I had openly wondered about before: Because free agency has taken so long to develop and budgets have yet to be set, trade talks are still more active than they usually are at this time of the year. There have been lingering Cubs-Rays rumors, but I’m not anticipating anything in the short term.
- We’ve recently found out that the Cubs have been long interested in Jason Heyward (he was even a part of the sales pitch to Jon Lester!), but it might go back further than that even. Apparently, the Cubs were in trade talks with the Braves to acquire Heyward before the Cardinals, but were reluctant to part with any of their young positional/hitting prospects. Given how the following season played out (for both the Cardinals and the Cubs) that no deal was made is likely the best possible outcome for the Cubs.
- The plan for the outfield is to play Kyle Schwarber in left field, Jayson Heyward in center and Jorge Soler in right field. The Cubs are happy with their starters and even more thrilled with their outfield depth. Depth that includes – according to Hoyer – Chris Coghlan, Javier Baez, Matt Sczcur, Kris Bryant and Ben Zobrist, who all figure to spend some time in the outfield in 2016.
- On a trade for a starting pitcher and the Cubs’ reluctance to part with any young talent this offseason, Hoyer clarifies [what we might have always known about] their strategy. During the offseason, teams are focused on improving their major league roster, because, well, of course they are. In January, everyone has 0 wins and 0 loses, so anything can happen (ask the 2015 Chicago Cubs). So, a trade for an impact starting pitcher now almost necessarily involves players at the major league level, whom the Cubs are unwilling to part with. In season, though, that changes. Teams fall out of contention, and are more willing to move players for minor league assets; which, even with future potential, won’t impact the Cubs’ chances as much in 2016.
- Although the Cubs have spoken with Rays about a possible matchup, Hoyer references the old, persistent Cubs/Mets rumors. While a fit might make sense fundamentally, that doesn’t necessarily indicate anything is forthcoming. And, while I believe there could be a match with either the Rays or the Mets sometime in the future, I am standing by my claim that, after the end of this week, these talks will shut down (entirely) until the season. It shouldn’t be that bold of a claim, but the rumors have stuck around for quite some time.
- On a possible extension for Jake Arrieta, Hoyer keeps it expectedly vague and close to vest. “Suffice it to say,” Hoyer commented, “he’s a guy that we love having here.” For now, the focus is getting a deal squared away for 2016. The sides have exchanged arbitration figures.
- An Arrieta extension remains very difficult to wrap your head around. The Cubs already have Arrieta under (relatively cheap) control for two more seasons – ages 30 and 31. For an extension to make sense, the Cubs will likely have to pay him handsomely for those two years, and then buyout at least 4 more (ages 32-36) seasons at ace-level costs. Does there exist a contract that properly incentivizes the Cubs to pay more the next two years and ace-level money for his ages 32-36 seasons, AS WELL AS, one that Arrieta couldn’t otherwise beat handsomely in this market? Looking at what Zack Grienke just got from the Diamondbacks, I’m not so sure that there is.
- Hoyer feels really good about the Cubs’ bullpen and thinks the Super Utility Pitchers (My words, not his. Sorry, Brett) are going to go a long way towards that success. Specifically, Hoyer is excited about Adam Warren and thinks he’ll rotate between the bullpen and the rotation as needed in 2016. So that means Warren is probably the “sixth man” for the starting staff right now. After 2016, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him permanently in the starting five.
- On the prospect of a NL Designated hitter, Hoyer remains diplomatic, but perhaps tips his hand just a bit when referencing the offensive drought. “I think if velocity continues to go up and pitching continues to be as good as it is and we continue to specialize with our relievers the way we are … run scoring is important. I think … that other sports are certainly willing to make some adjustments to get those inline.” The NL designated hitter is as hot of topic right now as I can ever remember. Whether or not something actually changes (2017 would be the earliest it could, as that’s the first year of the upcoming new CBA), there’s no doubting the momentum it’s carrying. For fun, Luis did an interesting run down on what the Cubs designated hitter situation might look like.
- There’s plenty more in the transcript including thoughts on Javier Baez’s versatility and defense in the outfield, Dexter Fowler’s continued free agency and Joe Maddon’s coaching style, experience and first year success with the Cubs. So give the transcript a read and catch up on the latest from the Cubs GM.