LIVE: Jed Hoyer's 2022 End-of-Season Cubs Press Conference

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LIVE: Jed Hoyer’s 2022 End-of-Season Cubs Press Conference

Chicago Cubs

In an annual tradition, the head of Baseball Operations for the Chicago Cubs will meet with the media for an extended period today to debrief the season that was, and the seasons yet to be. For a long time, it was Theo Epstein at the dais, so to speak, but Hoyer took over as President in November 2020, and has been the guy at the fore ever since. Pretty tumultuous period to be the Cubs baseball president, I would say.

Hoyer’s press conference will be carried live on Marquee at 10:30am CT, and I would expect The Score to pick it up, too, though I haven’t seen an official announcement there.

I’ll be following along here at BN for those who can’t watch or listen, and live updating below with the high points/whatever sticks out to me. Hoyer is usually extraordinarily close-to-the-vest, so I don’t necessarily expect dramatic revelations. Still, I’d like to hear what tenor he is trying to project to the fans right now, coming off a very positive second half, and knowing that there are expectations out there that the team CAN BE competitive in 2023.

I tentatively expect we could get some injury and/or procedural updates, too. Maybe coaching news. I’m ready. Hoyer’s comments today will echo throughout the offseason – it always seems to play out that way from these pressers – so we’ll see what the money quotes wind up being (hopefully literally).

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Hoyer isn’t quite there at 10:30am CT, which was the scheduled start, so I can only assume it’s because he’s talking to Shohei Ohtani. You know, just as friends. Buddies. Nothing untoward here.

I kid of course. Jed starts with his prepared remarks, talking about how much he misses the postseason. And about how it was jarring to see that some of the best teams were done so quickly.

First half was not good. Lacked depth. Played poorly. Was frustrating for all of us. I was incredible impressed and excited by the way we played in the second half. Created momentum. Depth emerged. Players developed.

The players never stopped competing every day. Preparing each day to win that particular game. Ton of credit to the players and the coaching staff, continuing to focus on the right things. That momentum has a chance to really continue into the offseason, and create confidence in a young group.

Ultimately, we have to build on that momentum. That’s the focus of this offseason. We want to compete next year. We want to build something special for the fans. Stable and successful and lasting. We want to make sure what we build creates year after year after year of being in the playoffs.

The goal has to be create a roster that doesn’t have holes that can be exploited, for example in the playoffs.

We’ll do “intelligent spending” again, but we have holes to fill and we’ll be aggressive to fill them. We can definitely compete next year, even as we want to create something lasting and special. A successful offseason includes filling the holes that we saw.

Offensively, we didn’t score enough. At times we were banged up, but that just exposed a lack of depth. A clear area of focus will be making sure run-scoring takes a step forward. Even when we were playing well at the end of the year, the run-scoring lagged.

The journey of building up a group of young players is a process, but it is important. You can’t win in today’s game without it.

We’re not going to do anything that doesn’t make sense for BOTH long-term and short-term.

We put pressure on ourselves every offseason to execute well. We did last offseason, and I feel really good about – for example – Suzuki and Stroman. We had more holes to fill, though, and we missed on some transactions.

We know we project well into the future, so we do have to look further into the future as far as who will become available, what those markets will look like, etc. So you have to keep an eye on the future. You can get caught up in near-term deals that feel good in the moment, but then don’t make a lot of sense.

I think the pitching development is something we take great pride in. You go back to the fall of 2019, when we brought in Craig Breslow and he and Kyle Evans really rethought things, and we made a commitment to remake all of it. The process started then, but got delayed by a year because of the pandemic, but the success we are seeing throughout the system now are the fruits of seeds that were planted years ago. We’re really proud of the pitching infrastructure. But I know there’s no finish line there – you can never have enough.

To me, intelligent spending involves making decisions that make sense for 2023, but also aren’t going to hinder what we’re trying to build in the longer-term. The nature of baseball contracts is challenging in that way. We’ve all seen contracts of certain lengths that can really bog a team down. It’s easy to talk about the player you’re acquiring, but if that contract ends up hindering the ultimate goal, then it wasn’t a successful transaction. (From Brett: this is what I have heard for a long time behind the scenes, and Jed is really emphasizing it: he doesn’t like super long-term deals. The money is one thing, but it’s the length he wants to avoid.)

We want to build a team that has a chance to compete for the playoffs. But we also know where our minor league system is, that some of the prospects are younger. We won’t matriculate all those young players to the big leagues next year. So we have an eye on the future. But we want 2023 to look more like our second half than our first half of 2022.

We’re still going through the exit meetings on the coaching staff, so not ready to make any coaching or staff announcements. Maybe by end of week.

Yes, there can be danger in reading too much into the success in the second half, because it wasn’t a playoff race and it’s a little more free-and-easy. Schedule was easier in the second half. We did beat some good teams. But it’s important to realize that some of what we saw in the first half was schedule and injury-related, still the schedule was indeed easier in the second half, and there was a free-and-easy feeling because they weren’t in a pennant race.

We have to be a quicker-strike offense than we were. I like the idea of having more contact, and grinding at bats. But we lacked the ability to pull away in games (i.e., limited power). So the close games create more randomness, and also tax the bullpen. One-run games are usually a 50/50 proposition (maybe slightly better if you have a great bullpen). But good teams blow other teams out. You need to be able to score runs in bunches.

There are players we would love to keep around for a long time. We’ve taken the first steps in that process. Not going to get into details.

We have total confidence in Nico’s ability to play shortstop, but the game is going to trend more athletic because of the new rules, so we will look at adding more athleticism (was hard to hear the question, I think it was about wanting to add more in the middle infield, regardless of where Nico plays).

We have a lot of versatility in pitching, which is really helpful (starting, multi-inning, etc.). It’s helpful to have the versatility on the positional side, too. Though when it actually plays out in practice, you don’t actually have all these guys available all the time – maybe 5 games a year that you have everyone and can pick and choose on roles perfectly. So you have to have tons of depth. We are getting deeper thanks to the farm system. We’ve made progress. People don’t talk about depth much in the winter. But often times it’s the deepest teams that don’t go through those long ruts.

It’s hard to compare this second half to the second half of 2014, because our best prospects back then were either already in the big leagues or were dominating in Triple-A or Double-A. We were further along as to when those hitters were going to be in the big leagues. But on a pitching standpoint, we’re probably further along than we were back in 2014. So it’s hard to compare. When we went out into the free agent market before 2015, though, it was really only for one significant free agent: Jon Lester. We knew what he would bring (so he was the primary target). Other moves were a little smaller: trades for Montero and Dexter (media jokes about David Ross).

Hard to imagine a young player more focused on “the team” than Nico Hoerner. He wants to talk about the team, the winning, and the culture, so it’s pretty easy to talk to him about whatever additions might impact him.

When you find the right player at the right time, we are going to prepare a lot of documentation about that. We think heavily about those really big transactions. I know that if I present Tom Ricketts with a plan like that, I’ll have his support. I have total confidence that if we seek a significant amount of money to sign one huge player or multiple, we’ll have his support and the resources.

Ian Happ did a great job of stepping forward in his consistency this year. Took on a leadership role. (Effusive praise. Hoyer’s energy picked up a bit when talking about Happ.)

You talk a lot about the transition to the States in the theoretical sense, but then it’s different when you see it every day. This year was a grind for Seiya physically. He learned about how to take care of his body over here, and about how he could change things to better prepare for the physicality of it. Unfortunately he lost a chunk of the middle of the season with the finger injury. Given the injury and the transition, the numbers did end up in a solid place. But there’s room for growth there, as habits change to fit our game a little better and he gets more exposure to pitchers.

I think it’s important that we add quality innings (but Hoyer didn’t want to define “top of the rotation” when asked if the Cubs are going to seek that type. Curious how much he really shut that down; if I were playing armchair psyche I would say he wanted to avoid it because the Cubs are definitely going to be in that market; just had that feel about it, rather than when he talks around something at length because he’s bracing against expectations).

I love working with David Ross. He’s a great partner for me and Carter. All he cares about is how can we get better every day, how do we build things out. He knows what winning looks like through the lens of a player. I haven’t been around many people who create a better culture. Accountability, but also positivity. The job he did in the second half was really special. To have me trade away four relievers at the deadline, and then still have guys play hard night in and out and be eight games over .500, that’s a heckuva job.

Ross hasn’t had a normal spring yet. He’ll get more and more comfortable with how you lay out the season. Like anyone else, he’ll get better and better at game management with more reps, and more time/experience with these players.

Initially when I saw this playoff format, I thought the impact of the bye was going to be really extreme. A massive advantage. We’ll see if I’m right about that. Fatigue, I think, is going to be a real issue.

Matt Mervis had one of the best minor league seasons I’ve been around. The best among those for whom it would be unexpected. Improved his underlying numbers at every level, after having a tough 2021. Just not something I’ve been a part of before. Lotta credit to the scouting department. That was quite a process back at that time in 2020 – he was our top guy in free agency after the draft, full-court press, he was the guy we were on 4 seconds after the period opened.

Excited Brennen Davis is playing right now. He’s not as strong as he usually is because he couldn’t build that strength back up like normal after the back surgery. After the AFL, he can get back to his normal strength and have a normal spring. He did lose a fair amount of reps this year, unfortunately.

We will obviously make Willson Contreras a qualifying offer, and we’ll continue talking to his reps. Admire how he competes. Admire the passion. Had a great conversation with him the other day. I’ve always enjoyed our relationship, and I have enjoyed watching him play and grow.

Still think Miguel Amaya is a really good prospect. The injuries are just unfortunate and he’ll have reps to make up.

There is a level of uncertainty with anyone who misses the second half of the season. But we have confidence Hendricks will do everything he can to get back to the pitcher he has been. He has extensive offseason goals.

At times we were a bit sloppy on the bases. Baserunning is an area we can improve significantly. And it’s probably going to matter a lot more with the rules changes.

The question on superstar players is really about timing. They can make the difference in a season or a playoff series, but you have to make sure you sign them at the right time. (I took this to mean Hoyer was talking about something we’ve hit on a lot before: you have to align the expected most productive years to when that player can make the most impact on your team. That doesn’t JUST mean the first year or two, but obviously we know about aging curves.)

The impact Wade Miley had on our young guys and our culture was awesome. He’s fun, but he’s also very intentional in working with the young guys on how they can get better. I wish he’d pitched more, obviously. He was good when he could pitch. But the caliber of person was really impressive.

I’m sure Drew Smyly wishes he could’ve thrown more innings. But when he did pitch he was excellent. I think we would love to have both guys back, depending on our setup.

With the way our bullpen is set up, there’s a long-term goal of getting to a place where we keep building it internally. We’re not there yet. So there will be a focus on bringing in veteran presence in the bullpen. We will have to bring in some external options. It’s something we’ve had success doing, and we’ll try to do it again.

That’s a wrap. Whew. Lot to digest in there. Mostly as expected, but certainly some nuggets that’ll be worth digging into.



Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.