Cubs General Manager Jed Hoyer spoke with Hanley and Haugh at 670 The Score, which you can listen to here, or check out a transcript here at the CCO, and it was quite the interesting conversation. They discussed bringing back Dexter Fowler, a number of important Cubs players, Spring Training and much more.
Some of the highlights and my thoughts …
- Hoyer said he can’t comment on Dexter Fowler, being that he’s still a free agent, or speak towards the likelihood of bringing him back into the fold. Hoyer did reiterate (as he has countless times) that they legitimately enjoyed their time with Fowler last year, thought he did a great job, and believed he thrived under the pressure of playing on a big market team (especially in the playoffs).
- Although this front office keeps it notoriously close to the vest, these comments didn’t really feel like that type of thing, and it remains very unlikely that Fowler returns to the Cubs. Hoyer does believe we will find out his final decision fairly soon (but that could just have easily have been a guess, with Spring Training officially starting on Friday).
- The arbitration process with Jake Arrieta was fairly difficult because of the relatively large spread between the numbers filed by both sides. Still, Hoyer notes that “nothing acrimonious [or unusual] happened” throughout the entire process, and the two sides continue to have a great relationship.
- The Cubs would obviously love to extend Jake Arrieta beyond the two more years of control, and they have had conversations about doing just that. I’d love to give you more specifics, but that is the extent to which he was pressed on the issue (and he probably wouldn’t have said much more anyway). Hoyer did suggest that because of Arrieta’s success in Chicago, and because he does love the coaching staff, city, fans, etc., those factors could ultimately play a roll in his decision to stay or not.
- Hoyer isn’t surprised, but is encouraged, that Jason Heyward has already shown up in camp and has begun working towards another impressive year in 2016. It’s all too easy for guys to sign a big contract and rest on their former laurels, but it would appear that Heyward is working hard – like the reputation that precedes him – and is ready to have another big season.
- Hoyer believes that they’ve given Joe Maddon the perfect roster for his managerial style, mentioning Javier Baez, Jason Heyward, Ben Zobrist and all four Super Utility Pitchers and the versatility that they ooze.
- The Cubs are going to push Baez to his limits in 2016, which will include time spent in the outfield. Although he’s a great infielder, too, he is increasing his playing time by increasing his versatility. I’d just like to add, don’t forget the immense upside there in one of the fastest swings in the majors. Of course, his bat looks great at shortstop, second base, etc., but there’s a chance it could look good anywhere, so getting opportunities is the focus for now.
- The Cubs considered signing Ben Zobrist without trading Starlin Castro, expecting Zobrist to move all over the diamond, but, obviously, that didn’t come to be. At this point in his career, according to Hoyer, Zobrist is deserving of a dedicated spot on the field and the Cubs gave him just that. He still might move around from time to time, but he’s mostly the second baseman.
- In a way, with Baez in the fold, Zobrist took Castro’s spot at second base and Baez is taking Zobrist’s spot as the super utility man. To be honest, I wonder what Baez’s role would have looked like on this team had they not traded Castro. I prefer the current setup to the alternative.
- It’s great that the Cubs are considered among the best teams in the league – this is what Hoyer always wanted for them – but his job hasn’t changed at all. Namely, he hopes that 2016 isn’t the only season where the Cubs are so well thought of, so they still have work to do to cement them among the top two or three teams year in and year out.
- One way their focus could tangibly/noticeably change, though, is their run up to the trade deadline. I’d definitely expect them to be more aggressive in 2016, if things are going their way, than they have been in the past.
- On Kyle Schwarber catching in the majors, Hoyer mostly says what we’ve heard before, which is some version of: 1. His bat came together so quickly that we couldn’t keep him in the minors, 2. We think he can be a catcher at the MLB level, 3. He thinks he can be a catcher at the MLB level, and 4. He’ll spend most of his time in the outfield in 2016, but he’ll get some work behind the plate. In another year, another season, another team, Kyle Schwarber might still be in AAA working behind the plate, but for the Cubs in 2016, his bat is too valuable not to be in the game on an everyday basis. I don’t believe we’re going to get a concrete answer on this before the season (or even well into it). Only time will tell if Schwarber ever makes the permanent transition behind the plate.
- There is plenty more in there, including Hoyer’s reaction to Kris Bryant swimming with sharks, and the futures of Albert Almora and Willson Contreras, so I encourage you to check it out.