Jed Hoyer Speaks: Contreras Extension, Trade Deadline, Timeline for Contention, Davis, Morel, Killian, More

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Jed Hoyer Speaks: Contreras Extension, Trade Deadline, Timeline for Contention, Davis, Morel, Killian, More

Chicago Cubs

Cubs President of Baseball Operations Jed Hoyer wants us to be realistic: “It’s important to always be tethered to reality,” Hoyer said via 670 The Score. “I think one of the things in this game that’s super important is understanding where you are competitively, where you project. Hope isn’t a business model. You have to be tethered to numbers and know, ‘OK, this is the quality of our team right now. If we spend money on these players, this is where we’ll be.’

OK. I hear you, and I can appreciate the sentiment. But as a fan of the Cubs (and of Jed Hoyer, the executive), that’s not really landing with me.

Of course you want a leader capable of making tough or even unpopular decisions if they’re necessary. And of course you want that person utilizing data, numbers, his scouts, etc. to ensure the best overall outcome. Head over heart, and whatnot. But being too tethered to reality and the numbers, feels like a potential problem. Or, at least, it feels like it’s missing half of the equation. I like my baseball with a little bit of hope. I like thinking we always have a chance to experience something great. I want my executives to think big and out of the box. I mean, damn … I’m a Cubs fan. That’s like the whole thing.

Even on a practical level, I think being too tethered to numbers can prevent you from taking the sort of swings that get us excited about this team in the first place. Sometimes, that’ll be a disaster. Other times, it won’t. So while I’m sure Hoyer didn’t mean that all quite as robotically as it sounds, I do hope he leaves a little room for hope to creep in.

Here’s a bunch of other stuff he said this week – via Cubs.com (Jordan Bastian), The Chicago Tribune (Paul Sullivan), NBC Sports Chicago (Tim Stebbins), NBC Sports Chicago (Gordon Wittenmyer), Marquee (Tony Andracki), and the Chicago Sun Times (Maddie Lee).

•   Asked whether the impressive early season performance from Willson Contreras has changed the calculus on an extension, Hoyer sort of surprised me (in a good way for those of us who want to see Contreras stick around beyond this season). To sum up his response, Hoyer said that he and the Cubs were curious to see what Contreras could do at the plate with (1) a capable backup and (2) greater use of the DH. And since it’s been a clear and wild success so far (150 wRC+), Hoyer says he’s answering the question “indirectly.” And in case it was a concern, Hoyer said “Willson and I get along great …. I talk to him almost every day. There’s no tension there.” He continued “To me, the biggest thing is our relationship is good.”

•   As a reminder, Contreras is likely trying to land somewhere between the deal Yasmani Grandal got from the White Sox (four years, $73M) and the deal J.T. Realmuto got from the Phillies (5 years, $115M), though that’s probably the extreme high end. I doubt even his camp is seriously expecting a number that high.

•   On his plans for the trade deadline, Hoyer was pretty vague, but seemed to imply that the players with expiring contracts (“rentals”) are more likely to be dealt than anyone with more than a few months of team control. That might not seem important, but it probably does matter for at least Ian Happ, Kyle Hendricks, and Marcus Stroman, three guys who would still be very important pieces of the puzzle in 2023.

•   In terms of fielding calls about trades: “People are getting a sense of what they might need or what they might do,” he said. “We’re not getting anything specific. Just the normal inbound calls.” We’re not quite at the point where those calls will get foundation-laying just yet (think mid-June at the earliest), but evidently the conversations are starting.

•   On his timeline for contention, Hoyer understands why the trades the Cubs made before and during last season would make us believe the Cubs are much further away from contention than we’d like. But he also said he doesn’t “think you can tie a team’s competitiveness to a group of guys in the low minors. Certainly, I think a lot of those guys are going to play a big role here, but I don’t want to just think about their timeline as being our timeline.” It’s a stock response we’ve heard before, but I do think there’s probably some truth to it. Next year isn’t guaranteed, but neither is it guaranteed that the Cubs are just waiting for 2025 or whatever.

•   And frankly, I think that question is impossible to answer until you know more about, for example(s): Contreras (if he’s staying), Seiya Suzuki, Nico Hoerner, Nick Madrigal, Justin Steele, Keegan Thompson, Ian Happ (can he keep it up?), and even guys like Caleb Killian and Brennen Davis. If those guys have strong seasons when all is said and done, you might feel a LOT more comfortable getting aggressive in free agency this offseason and even trading some of those awesome prospects for impact in the near term. Frankly, I hope the Cubs do use their suddenly impressive and DEEP cache of prospects on at least one impactful trade. You can’t get it all done in free agency even when there is a loaded class, which this year’s may not be anyway.

“You can never have enough depth or get to the point where you feel our system is good enough, but I feel like we’re on the right track, so hopefully fans know that by how well (we’re) playing.

“Ultimately, those trades are not going to be evaluated in the middle of May 2022. They’re probably going to be evaluated in 2027 for real, and that’s the way it should be. I don’t think anyone should be looking at it as a passing grade at this point. They should be looking at it as what does that net down the road. But on the basis of those trades and some good drafts and good international classes, I feel we’re definitely moving in the right direction in the minor leagues for sure.”

•   Top prospect Brennen Davis struggled early at Triple-A Iowa, and then landed on the Injured List with a back issue that has persisted for a while. Hoyer is not only confident Davis will come back fine, but he sees this as an opportunity the Cubs didn’t always have in past years:

“I also think part of our game is struggling and learning how to get out of those slumps while still playing …. Sometimes you’re gonna look up at the scoreboard and your batting average is gonna be bad and you’re gonna have to realize you can’t get it back in three swings; you have to grind through it for a couple of weeks ….

“With the last group that we brought up here, one of the challenges is those guys never did struggle in the minors. They kinda breezed their way through the minor leagues.

“No one ever really does that in the big leagues. You’re gonna face some real challenges up here and I personally think that it’s better to face some of that adversity in the minors than dealing with it up here with all [the media] around.”

•   Hoyer seems to be plenty high on Christopher Morel, who’s physically “stronger now, and that makes a huge difference at the upper levels.” He also complimented his personality and magnetism in the dugout, even from the veterans: “That’s pretty rare for a young guy.”

•   Hoyer wouldn’t provide a hint on a timeline for pitching prospect Caleb Killian, but did say “He’s been getting better and better with each start. And we’re really excited about him. I can’t speak to timetables, but we’re well aware of the success he’s having.” He also “wouldn’t speculate” on if Killian could be the answer in the rotation for the Cubs two double-headers at the end of the month (though I think that will likely be the way they go).

Brett Taylor contributed to this post.



Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami