We heard some of the platitudes in Monday’s introductory press conference and in the officially official press release, and, while there’s nothing wrong with saying generic nice things about a guy you just hired, I don’t think I’m speaking out of turn when I say that fans mostly just want to know what exactly it is that Carter Hawkins brings to the Cubs organization as the new General Manager.
To be fair, as I’ve said, we’re mostly going to know the answer to that question only over a matter of time. It’ll take a good long while for Hawkins to really become so embedded in the Cubs’ organization that he can make significant impacts across departments, and then it’ll take an even gooder longer while for those impacts to manifest themselves at the big league level in a way we can evaluate. It’s just part of the unsatisfying nature of the process of baseball. It takes time.
However, if I could bring those two long-winded paragraphs together into the point: the hope is that one thing Hawkins will bring to the Cubs organization is an improvement in player development, including players the Cubs just acquired. So, you know, an almost immediate impact.
It won’t come from Hawkins, alone, of course, but here’s how Jed Hoyer spoke about the importance of player development, and the Cleveland Indians’ success while Hawkins was a key figure there (via The Athletic):
“That’ll be the key to this next wave of success. How well can we take these players we’ve traded for, international signings, amateur signings and get them to the big leagues. We have to do a great job with player development over the next three to five years, and obviously that was a huge part of my focus in this hire …. ”
(Cleveland has) developed all areas of players really well, but obviously pitching they’ve been exceptional. Especially recently when you look at guys like (Shane) Bieber, (Zach) Plesac, and (Aaron) Civale that they’ve brought up through (their system). You’re not going to hire a GM based on a couple guys they’ve developed, but certainly their ability to develop pitching has been remarkable.”
No one is saying Hawkins, alone, is responsible for what the Indians did on the pitching development side, and they certainly aren’t saying he could just magically and immediately port that over to the Cubs.
HOWEVER, it’s clear that Hoyer is (rightly) prioritizing player development in this moment, as he did two years ago when he pushed for the organization’s player development overhaul. That’s not to say it wasn’t Theo Epstein’s bag, but it seems like it is more of a focus for Hoyer. That makes sense given where the Cubs are as an organization, and it makes even more sense when you consider that the farm system is as deep in legit prospects (but without much big-league-ready impact talent) as I can remember. This is an unsculpted block of marble. Getting all hands on deck to turn it into David is a great goal, and a great reason to focus on a guy like Hawkins in the GM hiring process.
Scouting will remain critical. Big league free agent signings will remain critical. Finding diamonds in the rough will remain critical. Smart trades will remain critical. It all matters. But fully developing the prospects and players the Cubs already have in the system? That certainly feels like the 1A item on a list that also features 1B through 1E.
More on the GM hire in the latest episode of the podcast I do with Sahadev Sharma and Patrick Mooney for The Athletic:
— Brett Taylor (@Brett_A_Taylor) October 19, 2021