So much has happened in the interim that it feels like we still haven’t settled into this new reality that Jed Hoyer is the Chicago Cubs’ new baseball boss, and is not Theo Epstein. Worked with him for years? Yes. Thinks about the game similarly? Yes. But here’s the thing: nowadays, most top baseball execs think about the game similarly. Yet you’d still notice the difference in a transition from Epstein to someone from outside the Cubs org, so I’m not so sure we won’t actually notice, in time, a difference between how the Cubs rolled under Epstein and Hoyer, and how they roll under just Hoyer.
Not only that, but as Patrick Mooney explores in his latest, the situation for Hoyer is so dramatically different than what it’s been for Epstein that we might notice the differences even more. That is to say, even more change could be on the way than would’ve been if Epstein were finishing out his final year. And, however it might feel in the moment, it can wind up being, you know, good.
Jed Hoyer knows what he’s gotten into as the new Cubs baseball boss: “Sometimes the best decisions you make are the hardest ones. And sometimes the worst decisions you make are the ones that you’re excited about at that moment or have the most fan appeal.” https://t.co/YbzO9K7Eo4
— Patrick Mooney (@PJ_Mooney) December 5, 2020
There are two bits that really stood out to me from Mooney, which serve not necessarily as a guide for what’s definitely going to happen or definitely should happen this offseason, but instead as a good way of grounding myself after a week of change.
First, a reminder that we can’t have it both ways as fans. As we’ve known – and screamed and pounded the table – for years that this offense needed a fundamental overhaul, we can’t also say literally extend everyone forever and expect that to actually turn out well:
Hoyer will be able to put his imprint on the team. After cutting loose Schwarber and Albert Almora Jr. – the first player drafted by the Epstein administration – the Cubs have only six players remaining from their active 25-man roster during the 2016 World Series.
Now that Jon Lester is a free agent, Kyle Hendricks is the only pitcher left from that 11-man championship staff. Willson Contreras and Kris Bryant will be involved in trade rumors this winter, though reports of the Nationals’ interest in Bryant have been overstated. In theory, the Cubs could afford to sign Javier Báez and Anthony Rizzo to contract extensions – as well as Bryant and Contreras – but that’s not how this works. If this group feels stagnant now, imagine how it would look when they’re all in their 30s.
We get sad about losing individual players for completely understandable reasons, but also … some guys have to depart if you want meaningful change. Like with the decision to non-tender Kyle Schwarber, these will be Hoyer’s burdens to bear. That doesn’t make him the villain, and some of it is happening thanks to circumstances beyond his control. But a lot of it needed to happen anyway, and now it’s up to him to get it right.
And, hey, that can happen! Hoyer and the Cubs can make tough decisions, but get it right in the long-run. As Mooney puts it:
There are opportunities here to let young pitchers sink or swim in the big leagues. Hold onto the next combination of Eloy Jiménez and Dylan Cease, unless you think you can sell high on overhyped prospects. Show us that no player is untouchable instead of telling us at the press conference. Continue to make investments in technology and support the organization’s pitching infrastructure. Hope Ross and his coaches can tweak the offense with different messages and practice habits. There are still valuable elements – like culture and continuity – that the Cubs did not have in place on Opening Day 2012.
But there is no secret sauce.
Hoyer is not Epstein, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t get a little bit of a head start in taking over the Cubs upon Epstein’s departure. There are advantages to the continuity, and for all our focus on the change lately, it’s up to Hoyer to maximize that continuity advantage, too.
Maybe it’s just me, but this stuff made me feel a little better about the state of things, for a few minutes anyway. The situation sucks for a lot of reasons, but I do feel just the tiniest twinge of excitement knowing that Hoyer and the Cubs could really make some positive changes over the coming months and years. It’s needed, even as much of it will be a bummer in the moment.