He’s always going to caveat it – heck, I will, too – but I really like what I’m hearing from Cubs Baseball President Jed Hoyer on the subject of trade season. We’re getting close to the point where the Cubs could actually start making moves, and the longer they keep winning, the greater the chance that they try to pick up – for example – a starting pitcher sooner rather than later.
“I think when it comes to the trade deadline, I guess I look at it from 30,000 feet,” Hoyer said, per The Athletic. “We’ve been really aggressive here to win ever since we’ve been in a winning mode. I think that’s sort of undeniable. Sort of the industry standard that everyone uses — and there’s a couple very rare exceptions to this — if you’re in a pennant race you try to get better and you try to buy. We’ve always done that and I don’t know why this year would be any different.”
Obviously the caveat embedded in there is related to the timing and the “if you’re in a pennant race” hedge.
You know what I could see? I could see Hoyer trying to pick up a low-cost, steady, some-upside-in-the-right-new-system starting pitcher VERY soon so that he can see how the whole package works together before the final week of July. Then, he’s got even more info about how the team projects for the second half, and has more confidence in either getting really aggressive with a buy trade, or – if the team has fallen off – has more confidence that it’s just not going to happen and can sell some rentals.
That approach would certainly square with Hoyer’s general thoughts on what’s to come. If he wants to be a serious buyer in late July, how about being a toe-in-the-water buyer in June.
“There’s still a lot of time between now and [the deadline] and our needs could change over that time,” Hoyer said. “But certainly I think about the position we’re in and obviously I want to be on the buy side. That means you’re winning and this place is lively all summer. I look at our track record and we’ve always done that.”
The front office’s track record has also frequently included moves well in advance of the Trade Deadline, whether on the buy or sell side. So, referencing his own experience with the Cubs, I could see a little more aggression now, so long as it isn’t involving the tip-top prospects. (I would agree you still need a lot more information/game play before you consider dealing from that pool in a season like this.)
I really don’t think Hoyer is rooting for a massive fall-off at this point just so he has a reason to sell off rentals for prospects, by the way. Yes, the Cubs’ farm system still needs infusions of talent to help the team be competitive in 2022 and beyond, but this year is not some lost year. The team is performing, and since the future with this core is far from guaranteed, of course the best outcome is that the Cubs stay on heater and are a couple games up in the division come July 25, and it becomes worthwhile to really try to add an impact starting pitcher. If the Cubs are down several games by that point, well, you cross that bridge when it comes. You certainly don’t root for it in advance.
So again I say, and in particular after seeing so many concerning starting pitching performances over the past few weeks (including yesterday’s Kohl Stewart wildness), I hope the Cubs are already starting discussions on a lower-cost rental starting pitcher (because that’s the type you might actually, realistically be able to get in mid-June). Get that guy in the door to give yourself an even better evaluation period in the run-up to the deadline.