Earlier today, Cubs President of Baseball Operations Jed Hoyer hopped on ESPN 1000 to discuss all things Cubs. Here’s some of what he had to say (alongside some thoughts of my own) about sticky stuff, the Cubs needs right now, potential extensions status, vaccines, and more.
The full interview will be available soon in podcast form. In the meantime, while these aren’t direct quotes, I did do my best to capture the spirit of his comments …
⇒ Jed Hoyer is not at all surprised by the Cubs success this year, because that’s what happens when your best players – the star players – perform as expected. In fact, if anything, the overall team performance last season was the surprise. That’s not to say there haven’t been some pleasant surprises in the bullpen and in terms of depth (Patrick Wisdom and Sergio Alcantara both got a shoutout), but those things happen every year. The stars performing is the difference maker this season. That’s why the Cubs are successful, and because Hoyer believes in them, that’s why he’s not surprised.
⇒ Following that conversation, Hoyer was then asked if he still saw this season as a “transition” year, as he’s previously categorized it, and he says yes, but adds some key nuance. In short, by definition, this is a transition year, because so many players are on expiring contracts and the Cubs are almost certainly going to look different next season. However, “transition” years don’t necessarily need to be non-competitive, and that’s where this team is falling right now. He said something along the lines of “We can still be good while transitioning,” and “I don’t think transition needs to imply a negative.” Fair enough.
⇒ Continuing that line of thought, Hoyer believes that when your team is competing – which the Cubs undoubtedly are at the moment – the goal is to win. Perhaps if they hadn’t gotten so hot, sell trades would have been on the table, but right now, it looks like the Cubs will be on the “buy side” if they do anything at all. That all seems self-evident, but it’s certainly good to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth.
⇒ The only part of the interview I didn’t much care for was his response to a question about regretting the Yu Darvish trade. I’m not expecting him to fully admit it was wrong, but to not even pretend to see how bad it was in hindsight given the current needs of the team (a starting pitcher and a backup catcher …) is just silly. You’re not fooling anyone. Yes, the Cubs needed to restock their system and save money and yada yada, but there is little chance you don’t immediately take that trade back right now if you could. Especially because they’re going to have to give up talent to replace those two players over the next six weeks anyway.
⇒ On the topic of extensions, Hoyer was very cagey, conceding that even if he were having discussions with his outgoing free agents, he would lie to the press about it, because he prefers to keep it all in-house. He does want to keep these “iconic” Cubs players, but basically implied that keeping all of them (presumably Anthony Rizzo, Javy Báez, and Kris Bryant) would be financially infeasible – to be clear, he didn’t say it like that, I’m parsing his words. The only other point of substance on this matter was to suggest that, at this point, he’ll be talking to these guys at the end of the year. So if something is going to get done, I wouldn’t expect it to be now.
⇒ Oh, one final thought: Silvy pressed him saying that all three Cubs have said they want to come back and Hoyer has said he’s wanted them back … so why no progress? According to Hoyer, they just haven’t seen eye-to-eye on length of contract and average annual value (oh, is that all?). He added that we have to make “good decisions, not emotional ones.”
⇒ In terms of the trade market, Hoyer says the calls have begun, but we’re still in the evaluative/exploratory phase. That wouldn’t be particularly surprising in a normal year, and it’s especially not this season, given his other comments on the impact of sticky stuff.
⇒ Speaking of the sticky stuff problem, Hoyer thinks enforcing the existing rules is a good thing and could be a better first step to improve the volume of balls in play/help hitters with the ever-increasing velocity and spin before rule CHANGES to the game come.
⇒ David Ross deserves consideration for Manager of the Year and Jed Hoyer thinks he’ll get it if the Cubs stay in the race. He also mentioned Gabe Kapler from San Francisco as a deserving candidate.
⇒ There are two disadvantages to not being 85% vaccinated: First of all, the vaccinated players are significantly less likely to get COVID, which obviously means Cubs’ guys are more at risk to test positive. That’s a risk in itself, but it also weighs on the minds of David Ross and Jed Hoyer. The second thing is contact tracing. Unvaccinated players are subject to contact tracing and are more at risk for that, too, which can turn into a competitive disadvantage if they’re unavailable for some period of time. Hoyer said he worked hard to move the needle, but at some point he knows he doesn’t have the ability to mandate that his players get the vaccine.