In addition to his season-ending press conference at the start of the week, Chicago Cubs President of Baseball Operations Jed Hoyer also hopped onto 670 The Score with Holmes and Rahimi for a good long chat. I listened and took notes below, and the full interview is also embedded at the bottom of this post.
Some of the high points …
- When he was introduced, Holmes and Rahimi were talking about the temperature of their studio and asked Hoyer about his working conditions. Hoyer joked that the office was about 65 degrees because the Cubs are trying to save money for the offseason. See, it’s top of mind!
- He again says that the Cubs will make Willson Contreras a Qualifying Offer and talk to his agents from there. Sometimes, Hoyer said, the offer, itself, can help frame those discussions. He wasn’t QUITE saying this, but I will say it: the reality is that the QO will make Contreras “more expensive” to sign for every team but the Cubs, since they would not have to affirmatively give anything up to sign him (just the loss of a potentially ADDED pick IF he were to sign elsewhere). That means there could be an inefficiency created by the QO where Contreras can get more by re-signing, and the Cubs would also get him for less than “market price.” To be clear, I do not expect this to happen. But it’s mathematically possible, so that – plus the QO itself – is why you’ll keep seeing Jed and Co. punting on this question until after the QO situation is fully resolved, a couple weeks after the World Series ends.
- When asked how Contreras has changed or improved defensively over the years: Hoyer said that Willson has always been a great thrower and blocker. He’s improved with his receiving. Early in the season, he was losing a lot of calls, but he’s gotten better in that regard. (No discussion of his work with the pitchers or in-game adjustments or anything like that, for what it’s worth, which may be nothing. It was just a pretty brief answer.)
- The win-loss record is less the focus in the second half, and it’s more about the positive signs the Cubs were seeing, including in the minor leagues. Hoyer was happy that the team played hard and won games, but he was more impressed by the competitiveness and the preparation despite being out of it. Sounds like it should be the norm, but it’s not the norm around the league.
- Also, some of the success was just the Cubs getting healthy. There were long stretches where injuries were straining at the same time as inexperience was showing. “We just didn’t have the depth to handle it.” Paraphrased: That’s why we have to keep adding depth. The farm system is strong, even as we lack some of the star power we had last time. We have tremendous depth, though.
- Hoyer’s praise for David Ross as a manager was effusive. He can see Ross getting better and better with more time in the role. It’s clear to me that Hoyer views Ross as something of a “great young manager,” so to speak, and believes in the upside there.
- On making big spending decisions with the support of ownership, Hoyer said: “I know that if I provide the right information, can defend my case, and have thought of everything,” ownership will support any moves he wants to make.
- Intelligent spending means there is a vision for what the Cubs want to create. There are some short-term moves that feel good, but can have very real long-term consequences. So sometimes you do have to temper the aggressiveness, because the goal is to be competing at a championship level every year. But clearly the Cubs want to be competitive and fill holes, Hoyer says. They just don’t want to hinder the broader vision. Hoyer doesn’t feel like he’s saying anything groundbreaking on this topic, because every organization has to think about the balance of short-term and long-term.
- Hoyer definitely sounded open to higher-AAV, shorter-term deals (he almost perked up audibly when Holmes brought up the very non-specific example of trying to get a guy on a five-year, $200 million deal instead of a ten-year, $300 million deal). We’ve heard this before about Hoyer, but it just seems like he’s a guy who really doesn’t like longgggg deals. Large guarantees? Large annual values? Sure. But the years. That’s the question. So you might want to look ahead to the Cubs trying to sign guys to huge AAV deals but on shorter terms. As we’ve seen with some deals over the last couple years around baseball, it’s not an unrealistic approach. Sometimes you can make it work with stars.
- There is a need for more power on the team, Hoyer says, because the lower-scoring, tighter games invite more randomness. Good teams blow teams out more frequently.
- Pitching development in the system is getting better continuously. A lot 2019 was spent creating the plan going forward, and then executing that plan starting in the fall of that year. But things kinda blew up in 2020 because there was no minor league season. Still, Hoyer says there has been tremendous progress. The Cubs were among the leaders in the minors in pitching stats and velocity, each of which are big changes from the past. There is no finish line, though. You don’t “figure out” how to develop pitchers and then just stop. This is the first time Hoyer can remember looking down through the system, in his time with the Cubs, and he sees guys at every single level who can impact the big league team over the years ahead. Significant depth. (That’s what it looks like from the outside, too. I have said all year that I don’t remember the Cubs having this volume of quality depth in my lifetime.)
- Carter Hawkins has been a great fit as GM because of his hard work and his intelligence and his character, but also because he came up in an organization that necessarily had to be all about player development. Yes, he brings a lot of that knowledge with him.
- The front office is trying to learn from some of the mistakes from last time, but there will be a building up process again, and trying to be a team that goes into the playoffs each year with a real chance to win it all. Doing it as fast as they possibly can, but they don’t want to be hasty in any decision making.