It’s almost impossible to pry myself away from the rumors long enough for this post, but the Cubs General Manager, Jed Hoyer, addressed the media on a range of topics last night, and it’s really good stuff.
Below, you’ll find Hoyer’s comments – as shared by Carrie Muskat (Cubs.com x2), Jesse Rogers (ESPN Chicago x2), and Gordon Wittenmyer (Chicago Sun Times), among others – alongside some thoughts of my own. Let’s go before another signing comes down the pipe.
- Asked whether new reliever Brandon Morrow is going to be the Cubs closer next season, Hoyer gave a two-part answer. First, he said that, yes, if the season started right now, Morrow would probably be the guy. That’s more or less what we figured, given his skill-set, so no surprises there. But Hoyer did immediately follow that up with a “we’ll see what the rest of the offseason brings.” Given how often we’ve heard Joe Maddon, baseball pundits, and now Hoyer suggest the Cubs will be in on new relievers, that response was also expected. The Cubs reportedly remain in on their outgoing closer, Wade Davis.
- But don’t let me brush past that too quickly, because Hoyer does seem really excited about Morrow: “He did an awesome job last year in the eighth inning for the Dodgers. We’re excited to have him, and he’ll pitch super high-leverage innings.” Sounds good.
- On the addition of free agent starter (and former top prospect) Drew Smyly, Hoyer confirmed that the move was more about 2019 than 2018, adding that anything they get out of him next year will be “gravy.” And in terms of what you can optimistically expect out of him next year, look for some second-half innings out of the bullpen at best. But make no mistake, this move was a low-risk, high-upside rotation play for 2019: “He’s a really good, high-quality starting pitcher, and we’re excited to get him on this deal and rehab him and hopefully get him back to where he was.”
- Speaking of the Cubs current/future rotation plans, Hoyer was a bit surprised by Mike Montgomery’s comments about starting yesterday: “That kind of caught me by surprise, to be honest. We view him as a starting pitcher. I know he views himself as a starting pitcher, but he’s a good teammate and has been willing to do both, and I think he’s done that very well.”
- Hoyer seems to be OK with the idea of leading Kyle Schwarber off again next season (which Brett discussed based on Maddon’s comments yesterday), primarily because he’s not convinced that’s the reason he struggled in the first place. “There’s zero way to prove why he struggled last year. It could have been batting leadoff. It could have been something that was going to happen if he was batting fifth.” I tend to agree with Hoyer, even if I can see how batting leadoff may have changed his mentality a bit. With that said, Schwarber was a *completely* different hitter in the second half, and has my full confidence for 2018:
Just so it's on the record, here's where I stand: Kyle Schwarber is going to be an absolute beast next season and you'll all regret even thinking about trading him. https://t.co/qsbdLsxhVf
— Michael Cerami (@Michael_Cerami) December 6, 2017
- That’s true regardless of Schwarber’s physicality, which Hoyer says is lookin’ good:
Hoyer on Schwarber showing up to winter meetings to flaunt new physique:
"I love the fact that he drove over here in some ways to show it off. I don't blame him. I probably would too. … He's proud of himself. He's not hiding. He's bummed it's not a little warmer."
— Tony Andracki (@TonyAndracki23) December 12, 2017
- On Jason Heyward’s progress with hitting coach Chili Davis, Hoyer said that they’re trying to get back to some of things he was doing in … You know what, never mind. You know the story already, because it’s the same as last season. Hopefully, after some progress in 2017, a new hitting coach, and another offseason full of hard work, things pay off for Heyward/the Cubs. I’m cautiously optimistic (mostly oh so hopeful), but we have to remain guarded for now. We’ll discuss this more if something “new” comes up.
- Hoyer explained why the Cubs included the “Cy Young votes” escalator (as opposed to more traditional bonus structures) in Tyler Chatwood’s deal. Basically, an All-Star nod only accounts for half a season, certain statistical measures are not allowed, and innings pitched are not always fair for starters in a current bullpen-heavy baseball environment. With all that said, obviously postseason awards are flawed, too (and this has been a specific problem for the BBWAA), but Hoyer isn’t really sure where else to turn. “I hope that if they tell us we can’t do this … I hope there is a solution. Can we find some other way in contracts to have some kind of qualitative performance measures?”
- And finally, here’s Hoyer discussing why the biggest moves haven’t happened yet (Chatwood’s deal is still the biggest in baseball!) and why/how players still want to play for the Cubs: