Today, the Chicago Cubs introduce – re-introduce – their new President of Baseball Operations Jed Hoyer, who takes the throne from Theo Epstein. Hoyer served as Cubs GM for the last nine years under Epstein, and now he takes the big seat himself.
Thus, it’s a bit of an unconventional “welcome” press conference today for Hoyer, who signed a new five-year deal. It feels less about “getting to know the new guy,” though I’m sure there will be questions about how he’ll be different from Theo and all that stuff. Instead, this is more about an opportunity for Hoyer to lay out his vision for the organization, what comes next, and can and cannot happen this offseason, and so on and so forth. I’m eager to hear him speak.
The press conference will be available live on Marquee, and I’ll also keep updating with tidbits below as it goes on.
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Cubs owner and chairman Tom Ricketts kicked things off by describing his initial conversation with Theo Epstein about how you build an organization nine+ years ago, and the first person Epstein wanted to bring into the organization was Jed Hoyer.
Ricketts says he’s not sure anyone in baseball has turned down more interview requests than Hoyer, whom Ricketts credits primarily with rebuilding the player development and scouting infrastructure over the past couple years.
Cubs just popped up a live stream of their own, so you can follow along:
Jed Hoyer is introduced as the Chicago Cubs next President of Baseball Operations. https://t.co/yLcWkv8HfC
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) November 23, 2020
Hoyer opens with the challenge of summing up 17 years working together with Theo Epstein. There’s a lot of love and respect there, and a lot that Hoyer will miss.
Then the love out to the Ricketts family, as well as his own family. It’s just nice to hear him talk about his wife, his kids, his parents, and grandparents. And how he transitioned to Chicago, which is now home.
Although he had opportunities to leave over the last five years, Hoyer says THIS was the goal. This is what he wanted and what his family wanted. There is no greener grass than Chicago, the Cubs, and Wrigley Field.
Hoyer digs the continuity, but that doesn’t mean status quo. “I promise you that with me in this role, we will continue to push, we will continue to evolve.”
Hoyer cites the challenges that lie ahead, and specifically calls out “player service time” and financial realities as among them, so you can read between those lines.
Paraphrase: We have a great team, obviously the playoffs haven’t gone as we hoped, but we won the division and the goal is to give yourself a chance. Given service time realities, I might be more focused toward the future than usual.
When asked about future GM, Hoyer says internal promotion announcement is coming soon (unclear if he meant GM or just other promotions). He says bringing in outside perspectives is also important. Wait, there he goes: I will be doing a search for a GM, not sure when that will be. Little tougher than normal right now.
This was Hoyer, among other comments about the focus this offseason. Lots of little breadcrumbs being dropped about that whole heavy restart idea. https://t.co/AluWUhB3J4
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) November 23, 2020
We have a lot of great players on this roster, we have some guys who had great years and some guys who had down years. We have guys we would like to have around long-term, but right now no extension talks ongoing.
Hoyer says Cubs may try to get a sense of the landscape before being too active, so it’s probably going to be slower than usual.
Asked about threading the needle: we have had a great run, but without extensions in place, there are some realities. There’s a lot of talent on the roster and won the division despite under performance, so the goal still has to be to win the division in 2021. The pipeline is strong, but we need to continue to build it for the next few years.
It’s challenging to budget this year (not just Cubs but all), wondering about fans in the stands, number of games, what life is going to look like in the summer. There’s a range of a budget we’ve discussed, but we can’t yet nail it down specifically. There’s too much uncertainty to have a final number yet.
Ricketts asked about the historic tax credits: no impact on baseball budget, because it was all tied into the stadium renovation budget. Planned long in advance.
Ricketts says budget planning is just really fluid, and have to keep taking information as we get it and adjust on the fly.
Hoyer says the non-tender deadline (December 2) isn’t going to move, so even as they look to get information on the fly re budgeting, it just might make things a challenge. When asked explicitly about non-tenders, Hoyer just says they aren’t going to comment on payroll stuff.
Jed Hoyer announces that Chris Valaika will take over as assistant hitting coach. Valaika was the team's minor league hitting coordinator. They'll continue to conduct a search to replace Will Venalble as third base coach. Venable was named bench coach in Boston.
— Sahadev Sharma (@sahadevsharma) November 23, 2020
Hoyer wouldn’t put a time frame on the GM search, but the expectation is that the job will be filled externally.
Hoyer says there’s no doubt Cubs have not developed pitching effectively enough, and the criticism is right. We beat ourselves up about it even more than we’re criticized for it. That said, we are near the top of the league in performance consistently. So we’ve been able to find good pitching, and aid it with our pitching infrastructure. Is it sustainable? Efficient? We have to do better. Our player development has to be better on pitching, because we can just keep counting on big league moves every year to make it work.
On the hitting side, we’ve drafted and developed hitting well – a surplus to trade – but we never really had the offensive juggernaut. Most of the offseason so far has been talking about how we can improve the offense, including practice and messaging. The performance of big league hitting has been a point of frustration.
On the offensive said, we want to look/feel/perform differently. I can’t say whether that means “significant” change, but yes, we need to be different offensively. Yes, I think the offense will look differently next year.
Asked about rules stuff – DH, pitcher limits, size of roster, etc. – Hoyer just says we don’t know. Have to a little comfortable with uncertainty, even as we have to make decisions.
Ricketts says combination of vaccines and distancing and at-home testing, etc., as those things come along, he believes people will come back to Wrigley Field.
Ricketts would always defer to Hoyer’s plan what he wants to do with the team, but he thinks the team can be very competitive next year. Approximately: “I don’t think anyone is tearing anything down.”