For the second straight year, Jesse Rogers sat down with Chicago Cubs General Manager Jed Hoyer for a Super Bowl weekend Q&A. Rogers aptly defines the upcoming season as one of the most anticipated years in recent Cubs memory, and addresses a series of interesting topics and bits.
You should definitely give it a read, because I won’t be just regurgitating everything here. I will address some of the highlights, though, and add my own thoughts …
- The Cubs intend on keeping the innings down for the starting rotation this spring, in anticipation of another important late season run. Obviously the Cubs’ rotation felt the pain of a long season by the end of the 2015 playoffs, so they’re looking to address it from the beginning of this year. Still, you have to assume that this is a delicate balancing act. Pitchers need to get warm in the spring to fully prepare for the upcoming season. If underprepared, they might get injured or be ineffective for the beginning of the season.
- To that end, Hoyer isn’t opposed to going with a six-man rotation during a particularly long stretch of baseball (like 21 straight games or a double header) to ease the load on the starting five. Luckily, with the Cubs’ four super utility pitchers, they might be better equipped than most teams. As of right now, I’d expect Adam Warren to be the first pitcher starting out of the pen, unless the Cubs came to some sort of gentleman’s agreement with Trevor Cahill. He did, remember, turn down a two-year starting job with the Pirates to pitch this season with the Cubs.
- The Cubs are going to give Javier Baez plenty of time to play in the outfield this spring to get him ready for the season. Obviously, as the primary back-up at shortstop, you should expect him to get plenty of time on the infield, as well, but it does sound like the focus will be on the outfield. Early reports there have been strong and his role will be fascinating.
- Indeed, in the spring, I expect to see Baez work at shortstop, third base, second base and center field, and then see time in those spots in the upcoming season. If he can handle center, there should be little doubt he could play in either corner, as well, but the Cubs’ roster is uniquely versatile. For example, Chris Coghlan and Ben Zobrist can be the primary back-ups for Jorge Soler and Kyle Schwarber, while Javier Baez can back-up Kris Bryant, Jason Heyward, Addison Russell and Ben Zobrist at second (when he moves to the outfield for a day, for example). In that way, Baez might never actually find himself in the corner (outside of a pinch) and can focus his defense on those other positions.
- The amount of catching appearances for Kyle Schwarber is going to be determined over the next few weeks. Schwarber is reporting with the pitchers and catchers, but his bat is too valuable to come out of the lineup very often. Hoyer was particularly vague, but that might come from a place of honesty. Schwarber’s future is hard to figure out on the fly.
- Directly affected by that decision is Chris Coghlan, who might struggle to find as many at bats as he has the past two seasons. Still, Hoyer knows how well he does against righties and figures that’s his way into the lineup on a consistent basis. Coghlan is not just okay against righties, by the way. He’s actually pretty fantastic. In 2015, the right side of his splits finished with a .355 wOBA in roughly 450 plate appearances. I have to imagine that the Cubs will work him in, possibly at Jorge Soler’s expense, against tough righties.
- Hoyer is aware of the multiple redundancies (for example, Chris Coghlan, Javier Baez and Adam Warren are all capable starters), but doesn’t think the Cubs have a problem. “We feel like our job is to build a team to survive the marathon of the season and hopefully into the postseason.” All of the Cubs’ proclaimed “redundancies,” by the way, are necessarily predicated upon health. The at bats will open up and the innings will be there for the taking. With a manager like Joe Maddon and a roster this versatile and deep, we (and the players) might have to change the way we think of traditional roles. Even without starting, for example, Warren could probably reach 100+ innings, Baez can get 300-400 plate appearances, etc.
In addition to the topics above, Hoyer address Sloan Park’s improved facilities, Matt Szczur’s expected roll in 2016, the twists and turns of a long offseason and much more. The interview is well worth your time.