There’s a lot going on in baseball right now, with the CBA being finalized and the Winter Meetings just around the corner.
Cubs General Manager Jed Hoyer recently addressed a number of pressing issues, collected by various publications, and we’ve collected all of those comments (alongside some thoughts of my own) down below.
Feel encouraged to peruse those various links for additional comments and detail. We’ll be right here.
- Hoyer is happy about the Cubs’ lineup heading into 2017, even if the Cubs ultimately lose Dexter Fowler, thanks to the addition of Jon Jay (who will platoon in center field with Albert Almora Jr.) and a full season of Kyle Schwarber. From where I stand, I can even envision a net gain over 2016, with the potential lurking in Kyle Schwarber and Javy Baez. Ben Zobrist might take a step backwards, but Jason Heyward will probably take a step forwards, etc.
- But to that end, Hoyer recognizes the hitter-heavy construction of the Cubs roster. “We do have an imbalance in our organization, hitting versus pitching, (so we’re) trying to make sure we can accumulate as much pitching depth as possible,” Hoyer said. He then went on to say that although the pitching in 2016 was obviously phenomenal, they can’t count on the level of healthy they experienced. As a matter of fact, the Cubs have been unusually healthy in their rotation for a few years now. Part of that can be a credit towards the team (both in terms of identifying the right types of pitchers and keeping them healthy once they are actually on the team), but part of that is undoubtedly a bunch of good luck.
- In addition to their ongoing quest to uncover and obtain that elusive cost-controlled starting pitcher, the Cubs will likely make moves in the bullpen. Whether that is Kenley Jansen (or another big free agent) remains to be seen, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Cubs spend in the bullpen this winter. And, for what it’s worth, Hoyer doesn’t believe that the Cardinals’ $30.5 million deal for left-hander Brett Cecil moved the market too dramatically in one way or another, which is a good thing.
- Hoyer considers Almora the Cubs’ “center fielder of the future,” even with the addition of Jay. In fact, as Hoyer sees it, Jay should help Almora develop better, given the ability to optimize match-ups as Almora continues to adjust to Major League pitching. That said, the everyday playing time will be up to manager Joe Maddon’s discretion. And, once again, Hoyer suggests that a Dexter Fowler return, while not out of the question, is increasingly unlikely. “We would never close the door on Dexter. But we are aware that it’s something that may not happen for us.” I wouldn’t expect the crazy Spring surprise again this time, friends.
- On finding a replacement for professional scouting director Jared Porter, who joined the Arizona Diamondbacks organization as a senior vice president and assistant GM, the Cubs are taking things slowly. They wanted to remain focused on building the roster for next season during this busy time, and then they can address the need in the front office when things slow back down. Porter was, like many recent Cubs non-player personnel, an extremely sought after target. Losing him certainly hurts, but the Cubs front office has been adept at targeting up-and-comers for about five years now, so taking their time is fine by me.
- The Cubs aren’t saying just yet whether Kyle Schwarber will play winter ball in an effort to tune up for next season. More information may be available on that front next week.
- And finally, let’s go back to Jay for a moment. Although the pursuit and eventual signing of the left-handed center fielder felt quick (and without any notable lead-up), the Cubs identified him as a target before the offseason began and not just for his on-field skills. “He seemed like an excellent fit for us from a makeup and leadership standpoint. He’s got an off-the-charts reputation.” The loss of David Ross, from this perspective, may be slightly lessened, if Jay can be that kind of veteran leader.
- Of course, there’s also the on-field stuff, which figures to be pretty exciting as well, as Hoyer noted Jay’s lefty bat and outfield defense. The Cubs believe he’s an excellent complement to Albert Almora. I agree and have many more thoughts, but also have a full post on Jay (the baseball player) coming soon.
- Earlier, we mentioned Hoyer’s comments on trading with the White Sox, if you missed it.