The 2021 Chicago Cubs season was eventful, even if not competitive. An organizational and roster transformation that started in earnest at this time last year, when Theo Epstein elected to step away, continued apace after Jed Hoyer took over as President. And today is Hoyer’s first opportunity, then, to sum up a season for which he was the boss.
Hoyer is set to address the media today at 10:30am CT, and it’ll be broadcast live on Marquee. I will be watching and updating below on the fly as best I can.
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We’re already a couple minutes late, so clearly Jed Hoyer is not running a tight ship. I kid, I kid.
Jed is ready to tell us everything we want to hear … right? pic.twitter.com/AHCfq2S3Sy
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) October 6, 2021
(Note, some of the “I’s” and “we’s” below are Jed talking.)
Interesting that Hoyer opened with … no opening. Just straight to questions. That’s probably good, actually. Just get to the questions. The first of which was about David Ross, and Hoyer confirmed that there was nothing to announce yet, but the reporting about Ross’s future (i.e., extension talks) was accurate.
Hoyer confirms that Anthony Iapoce is moving on, but also Mike Borzello(!) is not coming back. Wow. He was with the Cubs 10 years as a coach, handling catching, run prevention, strategy, and a lot of other stuff.
Although CBA is coming, it’s still Cubs job to be as prepared as possible for when the offseason starts. Everyone needs to think through the implications of the CBA, which will change the rules on how we do business.
Most of the Cubs’ extension talks take place in the spring, and they don’t really do end-of-season extensions. There are players on the roster the Cubs want to keep “past their years of control,” but he’s not getting into specifics.
It was a lot of fun to watch Frank Schwindel play – the energy, but also the grind, the contact and power, and his situation. “He’s going to be a big part of our team next year,” but Jed wasn’t going to anoint a position yet. Hoyer was asked whether Frank was THE first baseman going into next year.
The offense needs to be more well-rounded. It’s not about giving up power for contact, or contact for power. At least not completely. In the recent past, obviously, we’ve become too reliant on homers – Jed.
Although assistant hitting coach Chris Valaika will be back, Hoyer wouldn’t confirm that he was a candidate for the top hitting coach job (or not).
It’s hard to put timelines on your team’s development (was asked about offense, specifically), because things can change quickly. But you have to change it one player at a time. Stack one good decision on top of another.
You’d be crazy not to pay attention to what the Giants did this year. They made shrewd acquisitions, yes, but also got the most out of the guys they already had. I thought they were the most challenging team we played all year.
No firm commitment on roles for the Adbert/Thompson/Steele group, but again uses the “big part of the team” line.
We need to dramatically improve our pitching. Our starting rotation simply wasn’t good enough to compete. Our bullpen was excellent for a stretch – we traded away three at the deadline – but prior to that the start of the game was a struggle, but the bullpen was really good. The number one priority this offseason is to add starting pitching.
We have flexibility. We have money to spend this offseason. But it’s important we do it in an intelligent way. The Giants didn’t “win the offseason,” the Rays didn’t “win the offseason,” etc. There were teams that made big splashes and were lauded, but now aren’t playing in October just like us. You have to make good decisions to make a roster that can compete, but we’re not looking to win the offseason. That can be a negative for the season ahead, and for the future. The Rays and Giants’ futures are really bright, too, because they didn’t go that route.
Hoyer wouldn’t rule out big-ticket, long-term deals – he won’t get into specifics – because it’s about being opportunistic where you see value. You don’t want to hinder yourself going forward, but you do want to fill holes.
The pitching staff was a little too contact-oriented this year, so we will be looking to miss more bats with our additions.
Hoyer has always been a big fan of developing young pitchers by bringing them up first into the bullpen. It helps them realize they can get out big league bats, and it also helps them push their stuff when they go multi-innings. They realize they can carry their top stuff a little longer than they thought. Sometimes if you’re just a young starter, you think you have to really hold back your stuff to try to go longer. But you put ’em in the pen, and they push hard earlier on (like Alzolay in the bullpen down the stretch, per Hoyer).
Hoyer totally passed on a question about when the baseball budget will get back to 2019 levels. No specifics. Expects to have the resources to be active.
Lotta praise for Robinson Chirinos, especially in soft factors. I think Willson played too much. There was the revolving door at back-up catcher, and couldn’t keep guys healthy. So Willson played too much. It’s hard to be an elite offensive player when your legs are gone. We have to focus on building a roster this offseason that keeps Willson as an elite offensive player.
Just hit your best hitters near the top of the lineup. Jed is stubborn about the idea of a “leadoff hitter” being much other than a good hitter. He’s still bitter about how the Cubs got shit for putting Schwarber at leadoff, when clearly it was a fine decision (it was just randomness that it didn’t work out for the little stretch they tried). Guys who get on base, and guys who give pitchers trouble. Put them up top.
It was looking like a lost season for Ian Happ at an age when that shouldn’t happen, and then he takes off for two months, which should help him this offseason. Cubs still believe he can be an elite offensive player.
Brailyn Marquez is healthy and throwing, and the Cubs are trying to time his pitching up with the spring ramp-up. He’s ready to go now, but they don’t want to ramp him up, and then down again, and then back up again. It was a disappointment not having him available this year. Hoping he can be a shot in the arm next year, unclear if as a starter or reliever – “pitching weapon.” It’s valid to wonder how many innings he can throw next year.
We’ve had conversations with all the injured guys about whether to play winter ball to get innings/at bats. It’s a decision, because you also could be doing other workout/build-up things.
I think you can fill a couple rotation spots with “bullpenning” – i.e., guys who can only go three or four innings at a time. Note, he wasn’t saying Cubs would do this – just answering whether it was possible.
Nico Hoerner is frustrated about how this year played out, especially given the physical condition he came into the season with. Some of the injury stuff was flukey, some of it was soft tissue (was asked whether Nico got too bulked/too built up, and Hoyer could only say it’s a question they’ve asked internally to try to figure it out; deconstructing injuries is really tough, especially as it relates to strength gains). So the focus is to work on getting that into a good place for next year. He knows he might move around next year, he knows he might not. The modern game embraces what he does well. Moving around doesn’t detract from your value. We may not know what his role is going to be, specifically.
Jason Heyward couldn’t really get it going this year, and was constantly nicked and dinged. Unfortunately coming off being fantastic in 2020. He has big plans for the offseason, and I think Jason stayed positive, is a leader, wants what is best for the Cubs. He’ll do everything he can this offseason to address his disappointing year.
You don’t want to make Patrick Wisdom lose the things he’s elite at (power) by improving the other stuff (contact), but you try to chip away at the margins.
It was a horrible feeling at the end of the season with the COVID outbreak. We were unbelievably fortunate that it took that long to happen given the vaccination rates. I hope the whole industry gets to a place where COVID is no longer an issue/not have concerns about vaccination rates and masks, because he hopes the whole sport gets vaccinated.