Jed Hoyer Speaks: Spending Flexibility, Having Multiple Shortstops, Mervis and 1B, Hitting Coach Changes, Suzuki and the WBC, More

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Jed Hoyer Speaks: Spending Flexibility, Having Multiple Shortstops, Mervis and 1B, Hitting Coach Changes, Suzuki and the WBC, More

Chicago Cubs

At the GM Meetings in Las Vegas this week, Chicago Cubs President of Baseball Operations Jed Hoyer met with the media at various times to discuss the offseason. You can read more about that here, here, here, here, and here, among other places.

Among Hoyer’s comments and some of my thoughts …

  • Speaking to the general ability to spend this offseason, Hoyer suggested that it’s nice to have a lot more financial flexibility than in years past (read into that how you will), and talked about the relationship between that flexibility and the team’s push to compete in 2023: “That’s been the focus of all those conversations (internally) – having the financial flexibility to do that. Our payroll is certainly going to go up (in 2023). We expect it’s going to continue to go up as we’re more competitive. As the team gets better and better, I certainly expect it to keep going up and up. But I do feel like we certainly have the flexibility this winter to be competitive on the free-agent market.”
  • If you REALLY start parsing the words there, you will get less excited (the payroll was bare bones last year, so obviously it will go up; Hoyer’s mention of it continuing to go up from there as the team gets better means they don’t expect a huge spike this offseason; etc.). That said, the tenor reads differently to me than last year, and certainly the couple offseasons before that. I don’t think there is anything the Cubs cannot or will not consider. It’s just that they are going to be a team that strongly pushes back against super-long-term deals. That’s just been the prevailing wisdom on Hoyer’s philosophy for a long time, and no, it isn’t just because of how poorly the eight-year Jason Heyward deal went.
  • And with that in mind, I found Hoyer’s comments on the shortstop market FASCINATING: “I look at the shortstop situation kind of the way you look at the draft. Which is, if you drafted a shortstop every year you’d be in good shape. The best defenders usually play shortstop, the best athletes often play shortstop, those are guys you can move around …. It’s a position where you can have multiple guys that can do it.”
  • I mean, that’s as close as you’d ever get Hoyer to saying publicly that, yes, they are in this shortstop market. We already know they’re taking meetings on that front, but come on. It’s real. Yes, the length of deals is an issue and a question and may be a road block. But clearly the Cubs do want to land one of these guys.
  • Even when talking about Nico Hoerner being solid at shortstop, Hoyer’s comments took on the veneer of being about the Cubs wanting multiple top middle infield gloves: “Nico was one of the top defensive shortstops in the league last year. We’re totally comfortable with him playing (shortstop), but he also has the ability to play second base and probably many other positions as well. I thought one of the real strengths (when you) go back to ‘15, ‘16, ‘17 was we had (Addison Russell), we had Javy (Báez). We had two elite defensive shortstops; you can move those guys around. When one guy did get hurt, we weren’t running out utility guys that shouldn’t be playing at shortstop.”
  • On Matt Mervis and making first base additions in free agency, Hoyer said what we’ve all been saying: “(Mervis) has earned a lot of runway and playing time going forward. He’s had such a great year at three levels and now the Fall League. He’s a big part of our plans. That said, we’ve talked about depth a lot and it’s important to keep building that depth. So, he’s very much in our plans, but I think we’re also going to be active in exploring alternatives that can play first, that can play DH, and I think that’s really important.”
  • Sure seemed like Hoyer also confirmed the public thinking about what they want to do at catcher: “It’s a two-way position. Obviously you want guys that can hit, but it’s a run-prevention position. So much of it is game-calling, preparation, feeling strongly about that everything that pitchers do is a ‘we’ thing. It’s about that teamwork and that collaboration.”
  • The Cubs have not finalized roster-crunch-related decisions yet, but Hoyer said the plan was to finalize decisions this week, and then sleep on it over the weekend before executing the moves next week.
  • Hoyer spoke about the change at hitting coach, and expressed hope that outgoing coach Greg Brown might stay in the organization: “We think the world of Greg Brown. He’s a tremendous hitting coach. With the current major-league guys and the young guys coming up, it wasn’t the right fit in the majors. We certainly hope he stays in the organization and can have a big impact on the franchise. Going with a guy in Dustin Kelly that we think the world of and has relationships with all those young hitters, that was really important. We felt like Dustin was the right fit.”
  • OK, but that doesn’t really say much about why the change. I wonder if Hoyer’s next comments hint at them having a sense that the collaborative process (from minors to majors) was simply working better on the pitching side than the hitting side, and maybe they now feel like they have a better model they can emulate: “What we want is a hitting department with different areas of strengths, and ultimately everyone has a plan to make players better together. We want to have different people working on different things, whether it’s one guy might be more of a mechanics person, one guy might be more game planning, the mental side, things like that. But ultimately it’s important that you have a pitching coach, a hitting coach that have (emotional intelligence), that have the ability to allow them to work with someone else, have experts in different areas and not feel like they have to be the final arbiter or the best coach, the best game planner or the best mental guy. That’s really important in becoming more collaborative. We definitely have it on the pitching side right now, and getting the hitting side to that place was really important to us.”
  • Hoyer is still encouraging of Seiya Suzuki playing for Team Japan in the World Baseball Classic this spring if he wants to; he’s just also hopeful that Suzuki can have a smooth and normal and productive spring. So it sounds like it’s about trying to have that absence during Spring Training for the WBC be as consistent as possible with preparation for the season.
  • Hoyer confirmed that the Cubs will want to add in center field, which is something that’s been obvious for a while now. More on that later.

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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.