Chicago Cubs General Manager Jed Hoyer joined David Kaplan (and company) on ESPN 1000 to discuss a variety of Cubs-related topics.
You can catch the full interview right here (about 15 minutes), and check out the highlights alongside some thoughts of my own, below:
- Jed Hoyer was pretty disappointed by the Cubs’ inability to score in the bottom of the ninth inning on Sunday, and called it an “ugly win” overall. To be fair, Hoyer knows they all count as wins in the end, but if the Cubs are going to make another deep playoff run this year, they’ll have to tighten up and be better in those scoring spots.
- Hoyer believes that the “reckless abandon” style of play from guys like Javy Baez and Willson Contreras is a good thing, and really important for the team at this point in the year (the “dog days” of summer). Hoyer believes these guys energize their teammates, and we saw just that when we recapped Baez’s weekend. In addition to that, Hoyer is still in the “take the good with the bad” mood on Baez, because he’s shown – time and time again – an ability to make big plays when they matter most. Are there still costly errors and bad strikeouts? Absolutely. Do they also come alongside some monster home runs, incredible defensive maneuvers, and an overall flair for the dramatic? You betcha.
- On where Kyle Schwarber is right now, Jed Hoyer is pleased, but still expecting more. Obviously, Schwarber’s numbers have looked really great here in the second half (135 wRC+), but he’s still striking out upwards of 38% since the All-Star break, and Hoyer is waiting for him to get back to the guy he and the front office know he can be. I really love the way Hoyer put it: “I don’t think he’s played at the level we’ve seen in the past, where you just felt like he was stalking the pitcher and you felt like every at-bat was going to be a quality at-bat … I think he’s going to get back to that point.”
- Schwarber sure has proven that he can still be quite valuable while striking out a ton – I mean, let’s be honest, he’s managed to hit for average, get on-base, and show a ton of power, despite the strikeouts – but I agree with Hoyer that the best is yet to come. Fortunately, Hoyer believes that Schwarber can be the type of guy to completely change the pennant race over the next couple of months.
- Jed Hoyer is pleased with the Cubs depth and points to guys like Tommy La Stella and Jon Jay as people who would probably play a lot more for most other teams. More specifically, he loves their contact skills and the balance that brings to a strikeout prone lineup like the 2017 Cubs (1,057 Ks – 9th most in MLB). When Hoyer builds a team, he added, he looks to find players – like La Stella and Jay – whose skill sets differ and complement the core roster. It makes sense when you hear it out loud, but it’s easy to get caught up in finding guys with – what we consider to be – the approach at the plate.
- The Cubs have been much less consistent and much sloppier this season (than years past), but Hoyer still sees a team similar to the one that dominated in the second half of 2015 and for almost all of 2016. Yes, he was aware of Theo Epstein’s comments about considering selling at the deadline had the Cubs done poorly out of the gate, but he adds that they wouldn’t be doing their job if they didn’t consider every possibility. At the end of the day, he has confidence in this team to make another deep postseason run.
- The Cubs don’t have much of an update on Jon Lester, but they remain pleased with the original diagnosis of “fatigue.” Lester tossed 407.2 regular season innings with the Cubs in his first two years on the north side and that’s before including two more deep playoff runs (with almost exclusively high-stress innings). After another 148.1 innings this season, it’s not ridiculous for a 33-year old pitcher to show some wear and tear (even one as work-horsey as Lester). Hoyer goes on to suggest that the team (including himself) probably should’ve considered giving Lester a rest (or lighter workload) earlier in the year to avoid these sort of DL stints.
- Willson Contreras is starting to do some workouts on the field, but the Cubs plan on taking the slow road in terms of his recovery. Not only is Contreras’ bat, glove, energy, and leadership going to be crucial on the field for the rest of this season, but hamstring injuries are easy to re-injure. The Cubs hope that when Contreras comes back, it’s for good. And just when you were feeling optimistic, Hoyer drops, “But that’s why I went out and got [Rene] Rivera, because you just don’t know ….” In any case, the Cubs catching situation has actually been pretty great in Contreras’ absence, which is an unusually fortunate series of events (losing a catcher can be “traumatic,” as Hoyer put it).
- It’s “obvious” that Justin Wilson is struggling, but Hoyer believes a couple of bad outings early have just snowballed on him a bit and that he should return to his “totally dominant” early season form. Perhaps now is a good time to remind everyone that in the first half of the season, Wilson had a 2.63 ERA and 2.93 FIP to go along with a 36.6% strikeout rate and 9.7% walk rate. Obviously, with the Cubs, those numbers have taken a nose-dive across the board, but Hoyer believes he’ll get back to that point. “It’s the nature of the game.”
- When asked if Jake Arrieta’s recent stretch of success changed the Cubs’ game plan on him going forward, Hoyer simply said that both sides plan on waiting until the end of the season to make any decisions. It was mostly a non-answer, but Hoyer does lay some compliments on Jake and leaves the door ever-so-slightly-open for a possible extension. Ultimately, I believe with some confidence that this will be Arrieta’s last season as a Cub, but weirder things have happened.