It was one of the most consequential decisions for the Chicago Cubs organization in years, and it came as one of the first moves of his tenure as President of Baseball Operations. So, yeah, Jed Hoyer was going to have to talk about the Yu Darvish and Victor Caratini trade.
Marquee is carrying the presser, and I’ll be watching and updating this post live down below.
We will be carrying Jed Hoyer's press conference LIVE at 10 a.m.
— Marquee Sports Network (@WatchMarquee) December 30, 2020
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The broadcast has started, but Hoyer isn’t on just yet. Cole Wright is doing admirably filling time by himself, talking about the trade.
Note: the “we’s” and “I’s” are me paraphrasing Hoyer’s comments.
Hoyer asked about what this trade represents in terms of the direction and the future for the Cubs. What should fans be expecting? Hoyer mentions the farm system going back to 2015, and how it helped them be “as aggressive as possible with prospects, with money.” Hoyer believes the Cubs did accomplish some good things in 2018-20, but given the investment in trading away prospects and financial investment, it was time to have some eye on the future.
Hoyer says as a big market team, we don’t get extra draft picks like the other teams in the division, and as you get near the end of a window, you have to make moves toward the future. I think we’ll have a competitive team in 2021 – praise for Davies – but after six years of every move being present-focused, it was time to have some future-focused moves.
The goal is to build a future as bright as the last six years, and that’ll mean trying to bring in more prospects.
We’re excited about the return – four really talented young players, difficult to acquire that kind of depth in any trade. The future will tell us whether it was a good return or not. Judging now is sort of a fool’s errand, Hoyer says. In my career, the deals where we’ve been universally lauded, those are usually transactions that wind up the worst. Often the deals when the reaction was really negative, those have worked out the best. In the moment, it might not be as popular, and that’s just the job.
As far as the financials, that wasn’t the focus of the trade. In this environment, yes, there’s an eye on the finances – it’s a business, and some of those things are magnified because of 2020. But that wasn’t the focus of the deal. The goal was to move a player in the second half of his contract and acquire a lot of young talent. We haven’t had a chance to do that much at all in the last six years.
Our job is to be honest and transparent, but there are competitive advantages to keeping some of our plans quiet. I thought we were pretty clear, though, that we had to do some moves in this direction. We haven’t been able to extend our guys in this particular window with this particular group of players, and so we’re coming to the end of that. There are a lot of examples of teams taking a small reset – Yankees, Red Sox – and having a lot of success. Tigers, Phillies, Giants examples where they didn’t really do a reset. We think the former group is the group we’d want to be in, in terms of how the post-run-window transition looked.
We got much more talent by going younger in the trade return, and teams have become even more aggressive in holding onto older/more established types. The prospect ages don’t really define a window, by the way, it’s just about getting talent into the system.
Evaluating prospects this year was really difficult. We tried to scout instructional league really heavily, including these four guys (and Caissie in the draft), plus background internationally on the other three. This could lead to more information asymmetry than usual, but that can cut both ways.
Feel great about our catching situation right now, though Miguel Amaya is not an option to open the season. We’ll be on the lookout for someone to replace Caratini.
Padres were pretty insistent on Caratini being in the deal because of how he can help the transition for Darvish. He’s a favorite for us, and I still remember trading Russell and Bonifacio in the deadline deal to get Victor Caratini back in 2014. It might have been the last trade we made in that direction.
Hoyer says people have called about every player on the roster, but the report yesterday – re shopping Contreras aggressively or whatever – is fictional. Contreras is one of the best catchers in baseball, and we’ve got him for two more years.
We’re in the free agent market – it’s been slow – but we know about the holes on our roster. We’re talking to agents, etc., but it’s just slow so far. (Interesting response, because the question was specifically about whether they have new flexibility. It was a more generic answer.)
Asked about layoffs and impact on scouting: Due to changes in scouting, we had to focus on some organizations more than others. Have to be more efficient with fewer employees, but we were able to thoroughly scout the organizations we thought could be transaction oriented.
Our player development and high-performance setup is so strong right now, that I’m really excited about acquiring these types of prospects to get into that system. Value can be derived from them reaching the bigs and contributing, or developing well and being used in other trades. A healthy organization has lots of depth in the farm system so that it can promote for impact and also trade for impact.
It isn’t the case now, like in 2012, that we simply didn’t have the bones of a competitive team. We do have those bones now, so we’re not gonna run the same playbook that we did back then. Besides, that playbook has been copied so many times that it doesn’t work as well right now anymore. (I.e., no strip-down rebuild.)
I believe we’ll compete in this division in 2021 (heh, the division sucks), but we won’t hide the ball that our eye is on the future. There are contractual realities with this group. We haven’t been able to get extensions done that we thought were the right value, so we have to keep that in mind as we move forward.
Cubs have had a lot of success with control-command types of pitchers, so we think Davies will flourish with us. But it’s a fair question that if you have three+ types like that (Davies, Hendricks, Mills), you’re giving teams very similar looks. We have to make sure we’re throwing different looks at guys.
There are still so many unknowns about 2021, and it’s the backdrop for all of these moves and free agent signings and every team is in the same boat. We’re in the middle of a pandemic, so if you have to deal with some uncertainties, that’s just how it is.
GM search: we’ve been very busy right now, and we have a great staff right now, so ultimately I’ve decided to wait to hire a GM. I’m definitely going to hire someone from the outside, but the more I thought about what I need, and the process, and etc., while I can’t replicate the relationship I had with Theo, I do think it’s important for me to spend time with the person we might hire. Multiple meetings, getting together with families, etc. It’s a unique relationship, and it should be. So, because of the timing and because of the pandemic, I’m going to wait until I feel like I have a chance to do the process like I feel like I need to. Plus, good staff around me right now.
I don’t think it would make a lot of sense right now at this point to go out and commit to a huge new contract (a la Darvish size). But there will come a time when we will want to step on the gas again financially. We were over the luxury tax the last two years. We’ll be there again. It’s the nice thing about being in a big market. We will be doing it again. 2021 doesn’t feel like the right time to do it.
I expect a lot of conversations about extensions (or even new deals after the season). There are guys we love and want to keep a long time. I think we’ve been aggressive with the offers we’ve made, but the players decided they wanted to either test free agency or wait for a better offer. I begrudge those guys zero percent for those decisions. It’s a personal decision. But I think they were good offers, not bottom of the market. We’ll continue to try, but the only deals we do are the ones that make sense for the Cubs long-term.
Asked again about flexibility to add in 2021 now: we’re gonna be in free agency, we’re talking to free agents, we know there are holes, and we’ll look to add and address them. If trades make sense to make, we’ll do them. But they’ll be done with an eye on the future – it won’t be about cost cutting. We know we have to add in free agency for 2021.
Winning the division is still a really good thing – proud of it in 2020. But also glad the expectations have changed a bit. Yes, I do want to get back to a place where we get to the playoffs and we know we’re a team that looks like a World Series winner. But, again, you have to evaluate your personnel appropriately, and endlessly trying to push to win a championship each year, comes with tremendous risk. If you watched the Cubs before we got here, you saw that. At some point you have to think about the future a bit. I think we’ll compete this year. But is this a year that you push to spend and max out and take on older players? I don’t think it’s the right time to do it right now. That doesn’t mean I think we can’t compete for a championship.