Recently, Chicago Cubs General Manager Jed Hoyer spoke with members of the media at the Winter Meetings.
Below, I’ve collected some of his comments and added some thoughts of my own.
- Although the Cubs still have plenty of moves to make this offseason, particularly in the bullpen, Hoyer cautions against high expectations and suggests that the Cubs will not be the ones making headlines this winter.
- To be fair, the Cubs have stolen more than their fair share of headlines over the past two offseasons (Jon Lester, Jason Heyward, Ben Zobrist, Dexter Fowler, John Lackey, to name a handful), and have long suggested that they were doing two offseasons worth of work last winter.
- On the other hand, I would be surprised if the Cubs didn’t make at least one relatively exciting addition to the bullpen (perhaps a big signing like Kenley Jansen or a big trade like Wade Davis) and another addition to the back end of the rotation. What qualifies as headline grabbing, I suspect, depends on your audience. [Brett: Around here, it all grabs the headlines, baby!]
- In addition to Davis, Jesse Rogers lists Alex Colome (Rays) and Greg Holland (free agent) as potential targets for the back end of the Cubs bullpen. All of which are names previously tied to Chicago.
- The Cubs will also be looking for some more starting pitching depth, whom they can stash in the upper minors until a trip through the Major League rotation is necessary. As Brett discussed earlier today, the Cubs didn’t have much in the way of upper minors rotation depth last season, so it is certainly an area ripe for improvement.
- On the possibility of taking on a rehabbing starting pitcher with some upside (namely, Tyson Ross), Hoyer suggests that although the Cubs haven’t done that a lot over the past few years, it can have an added benefit. Hoyer didn’t comment on Ross, specifically, but I don’t think the Cubs’ involvement is much of a question.
- The Cubs will be looking to turn their positional depth into pitching depth – “that’s really our goal.” And, as we know, those rumors most usually manifest themselves in the form of Jorge Soler. To that end, Hoyer implies that the Cubs don’t have to make a deal to make the roster, but that he isn’t blind to the stockpile of talent in the outfield. “We have a number of guys that rightfully want to get at-bats. We don’t have to make a move, but we can do something to help us get depth in other areas.” Jorge Soler was mentioned in some specific rumors yesterday, with both the Royals and the Rangers, and again this morning in the context of the Rangers and Matt Szczur.
- In case you missed it in the shuffle of the World Series celebrations, Miguel Montero wasn’t too pleased with how he was treated during the playoffs. He was, in his opinion, frustratingly unaware of his role on the team. Hoyer, however, does not believe this will be an issue for very long or into next season. In fact, he expects Montero and manager Joe Maddon to get together soon to discuss the plan for the upcoming season, which will most likely feature Willson Contreras as the primary backstop, with Miguel Montero backing him up. Of course, from there, Kyle Schwarber could steal a start or two, but that has yet to be decided.
- Hoyer seems to believe that each of Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon can return to their former level of performance, but admits that they were nowhere near where they needed to be by the time the playoffs rolled around. The Cubs simply didn’t have the time to get them back up to speed and suggests that their lack of usage in the postseason reflected that. “From Joe’s perspective, the playoffs aren’t a time to put a guy out there, see what they have, gain confidence, allow them to get comfortable on the mound,” Hoyer said. “Every inning in the playoffs is high leverage. I don’t think either of those guys was able to get back to their performance level.”
- The Cubs will reassess what they have in Carl Edwards Jr., because he might yet become a closer in the future for the Cubs. As long as he keeps the walks under control, there’s obviously so much to like about Edwards.
- Similarly, Mike Montgomery has a shot at the rotation, but if the Cubs add there externally he’ll be thrust right back into the thick of the bullpen. For my part, I love the potential (and increased value) of Montgomery becoming a full-time starter, BUT I can’t get over how successful he was in the bullpen, and how Maddon can use his ability to throw multiple innings in a more creative way. I think the best/most-impactful version of Montgomery in 2017 might be one in which he throws 90-110 innings, most of which come out of the pen.
- Kyle Schwarber will not be playing winter ball this offseason, as was originally the plan, because, as Hoyer puts it, the Cubs “felt he proved he could hit Major League pitching.” Indeed, in the biggest of spots against the toughest of competition in the World Series, Kyle Schwarber did what kinda should have been impossible. Whether or not he catches, as we discussed yesterday, is still up in the air. “There’s no question he’s going to want to do it and think he can do it,” Hoyer said. “We’ll have to have discussions about how heavy a workload we put on him.”
- As we discussed yesterday, Jason Heyward has bought a house in Arizona, in order to work with the Cubs hitting coach John Mallee and assistant hitting coach Eric Hinske at the Cubs’ complex in Mesa. Instead of re-inventing his swing, however, Hoyer suggests that the Cubs will simply try to get him back to a place he was successful with before. According to Hoyer, Heyward has totally bought in and is excited to get started.