Today, Cubs General Manager Jed Hoyer joined Spiegel and Parkins on 670 the Score to discuss a ton of interesting Cubs bits. Seriously, this was a good one, you should really listen to it.
You can catch the full interview here, but I’ll hit on some of the highlights, alongside some thoughts of my own, below. Let’s do it …
- On that big Jason Heyward-Giants rumor, Hoyer sounded quite taken aback, saying that he had no idea where that rumor started and that there’s no truth to it whatsoever. No real surprise there. And while the rumor could have been completely and totally fabricated by the original reporter and/or his source(s), these rumors often have some basis in reality, even if the the particulars get distorted or the plausibility gets blown WAY out of proportion. And when all three rumored parties (Heyward, Jeff Samardzija, and Mark Melancon) have full or partial no-trade clauses, the denials get even louder. Hoyer did add that this particular rumor, while fake, is just one of many every offseason. He couldn’t pick a percentage, but said it happens a “fair amount” over the winter. [Brett: I’m reminded of an interview I heard a few years ago with Kevin Goldstein, the former BP writer who joined the Astros front office. He was asked, essentially, what percentage of what’s REALLY going on in the rumor market is known by the public via the various rumors out there. His response was so humorously specific that it’s always stuck with me: eight percent.]
- [Brett: Oh, also, while I’m inserting stuff, some META hindsight about that rumor. I wanted us to write it up and share with you because I feel the discussion of the player fits is really interesting, and that is often the case throughout the offseason. But on that rumor, we could have done a better job of underscoring our belief that there were numerous logistical problems with such a deal that would make the rumor pretty implausible. We mentioned all of that, of course, but we hammered “the rumor” more than the “deconstruction.” In the case of that particular rumor, that was backwards. That’s on me, by the way, not Michael, because I was leading the direction on that post from an editorial perspective. Let’s just call this the Spring Training of rumor season for us.]
- As for the reasons behind the coaching shakeups this winter, Hoyer suggests that while everyone did a tremendous job, it was simply time for a change. And when “high-impact” coaches like Chili Davis and Brian Butterfield become available, you need to grab them when you can. I’d also like to point out that Hoyer said many nice things about both Davis and Butterfield, but seemed especially excited about the positive impact Butterfield could make on the Cubs baserunning and defense next season, which was not what they hoped it would be last year.
- When asked why this offseason should be “tough,” Hoyer reminds us that whatever moves a team makes this winter have a ripple effect on the next 1-2 years. In other words, good players usually require multi-year deals and any dollar spent now, is a dollar you can’t necessarily spend later. Sometimes, then, that means you have to sacrifice the best possible Opening Day lineup this year for a better all-around team throughout the competitive window (which isn’t ending after 2018). The implication there is a reminder that this year’s free agent class is nowhere close to as broadly impactful as next year’s class. Calibrate your expectations for aggressiveness accordingly.
- According to Hoyer, a successful 2017-2018 offseason would be one where the Cubs focus largely on pitching, adding arms to both the rotation and bullpen (duh). He added that he’ll be “in touch” with some of the players that left the rotation last year (which, with later comments in mind, sure sounded more like Jake Arrieta than John Lackey), but trades could come into play, too.
- And to that end, the Cubs know they may have to make some of their young players available in trades this winter, but sound somewhat reluctant to do so. According to Hoyer, the Cubs are in a good position, because other teams do like and call about their guys, but the Cubs like them, too. “Stability” was the word Hoyer used to describe his cache of young Major Leaguers, and that doesn’t seem like something he wants to give up. Of course, Hoyer knows that if something “makes sense,” it’s their job to explore it, because the number one priority is delivering a good Cubs *team* to the fans.
- In terms of valuing their players (while balancing ceiling with actual performance), Hoyer says that they try not to let a recency bias sway their opinions too much (in either direction). In other words, every guy has good and bad years, and your evaluation of a player needs to exist above/beyond those oscillations. I gotta say, although it wasn’t ever explicitly stated, this sure felt like a conversation about Kyle Schwarber.
- When asked who the closer would be next season, Hoyer rolled out a mini-speech about why Wade Davis was so awesome. Basically, outside of his consistent excellence on the mound, he was an extremely steadying force in the bullpen and dugout. Hoyer called him a “rock of a person,” and suggested that the Cubs would be in contact with him this winter. In case it’s not clear: Hoyer is a big fan of Wade Davis. As for whether there’s an in-house favorite to succeed Davis as closer, if it comes to that, Hoyer simply said that was an ongoing discussion.
- Piggy-backing off that question, Hoyer was asked how much familiarity matters in terms of free agent deals and he expectedly responded with “a lot.” Of course, that’s a two-way street, because knowing all of the good stuff means you also know all of the bad stuff.
- Hoyer remained especially mum when asked and later pressed on Shohei Otani’s free agency, repeating that he simply couldn’t comment on the situation. He admitted that the Cubs scouted him, like everyone else, but that’s about all he would give up. Interesting. Or maybe not interesting. That’s the point of being mum!
- Although Hoyer understands why people think it would be advantageous for Mike Montgomery to have just one job and stick with it, much of his value comes from the fact that he doesn’t have just one job. Like Javy Baez or Ben Zobrist, Montgomery’s versatility is a part of what makes him a great player and helps the Cubs planning both before and during the season. He’s sticking in that role.
- And finally, Hoyer was happy to hear that John Lackey may be pitching again in 2018 and suggested that he’d be in contact with his camp over the winter. While he did say, “we’ll see” about the possibility of bringing him back, my sense was that Hoyer was not hinting about Lackey coming back.