Earlier today, we discussed General Manager Jed Hoyer’s comments on the Cubs desire, ability and likelihood of acquiring a starting pitcher via trade at some point during the 2016 season.
That wasn’t all Hoyer discussed about his organization.
In multiple reports at ESPN, CSN Chicago, and the Chicago Tribune, the Cubs GM made several comments about the current catching situation, the slumping team, the upcoming free agent market, Shane Victorino, contract extensions, and more. Below, you’ll find a a brief recap of his comments alongside some thoughts of my own.
- When Miguel Montero went on the 15-day disabled list with a sore back, the Cubs were forced to make a decision. They could have either called up top prospect Willson Contreras (who’s not quite ready, but is nearly there) sacrificing some important development time, or utilize the depth they created for themselves in the form of Tim Federowicz. Of course, the team went with Federowicz, and that seemed like the right move. But when Montero returned from the DL, the Cubs surprised some people by keeping Federowicz on the roster while designating Neil Ramirez for assignment. The Cubs now have three catchers on the roster, and some are asking, “What’s up?”
- Hoyer responded rather loosely to that question (ESPN), though, without putting too fine of a point on it. “That spot will be fluid for much of the year …. I do think it’s important to have that spot flexible.” Essentially, Hoyer confirmed that the team may not carry three catchers forever, but right now it seems to make sense (due to David Ross’ age and Montero’s recent injury). In fact, Hoyer said even if the Cubs do go back down to two catchers at some point, a third will likely work his way back later in the year. Of course, once rosters expand in September to include the full 40-man, most teams go up to three catchers.
- Although carrying a third catcher (especially a light-hitting one like Federowicz) does artificially shorten your bench, Joe Maddon may simply prefer the flexibility and freedom to pinch hit more frequently for his backstop. Combined with the added versatility of the roster and maybe it does make sense for now. (To say nothing of the risk in losing Federowicz if the Cubs had to try and pass him through waivers and then outright him.)
- On the slump the Cubs seem to have stumbled into, Hoyer is aware, but not worried.”We’re in a small slump right now, [but] we’re going to score runs,” Hoyer said (CSN). He later added that if the Cubs keep pitching the way they have, they’ll be in a position to win every night, presumably regardless of the offensive woes (and does anyone really expect this offense to keep struggling?). As Brett mentioned earlier, the Cubs “slump” has involved a series of really close games. Although they’ll never get those wins back, it does indicate that things were close to being very different.
- Also in that CSN article, Hoyer mentions the upcoming free agent class and how it’s expected to be devoid of much talent (especially now that Stephen Strasburg signed an unexpected, large extension with the Nationals). That fact, Hoyer surmises, might make a very big impact on “people’s behavior” at the trade deadline.
- The Cubs released veteran outfielder (on a minor league deal) Shane Victorino on Monday, but did so with some particularly kind words. “I think he’s ready to help a team win,” Hoyer said (ESPN). “We didn’t have a spot for him.” Hoyer later added that the Cubs really did like having Victorino, but preferred (and prefer) to use the younger, higher upside (at this point) Matt Szczur in essentially the same role. In the end, Victorino just didn’t fit into the Cubs’ picture, but Hoyer is confident that Victorino will find a job.
- Lastly, how about yet another non-update-update on contract extensions for key front office personnel? “We’re all happy, we’re in the right place … and we’re confident things will get done fairly soon,” Hoyer said (Tribune). That’s about as much as we’ve ever gotten on this story, so we’ll just have to take them at their word for it. A contract extension for Hoyer or Theo Epstein probably won’t be something we hear specifics about until well after it’s executed. It’s just the nature of this front office (and that goes double in a closed circuit like internal negotiations).