Jed Hoyer Speaks: Learning Lessons from Failure, The “Front Edge” of a Successful Run, Rizzo, Suzuki, Bellinger, Hosmer, More
Chicago Cubs president Jed Hoyer was on The Show podcast with Joel Sherman and Jon Heyman, talking Cubs offseason, lessons learned from a non-dynasty, and much more. The full interview is here on Spotify, and there’s a portion of it embedded at the bottom of this post.
Among Jed’s comments …
- A big chunk of the discussion, in two sections, was about how and why a “dynasty” didn’t happen with the 2015-18 team. Hoyer says that some of it was circumstantial, but a lot of it was mistakes that the organization made, particularly in not continuing to change and move forward. You can’t bottle up a moment and just try to stay right there and be successful in the exact same way. Moreover, there was a lot of change in the game in that period of time, and the Cubs simply didn’t do enough to keep up or adapt or stay ahead of it. They spend a lot of time thinking about those lessons.
- Speaking of which, Hoyer admitted that after the pandemic, he knew he was going to have to reduce payroll, and that there was a chance there would be a big sell-off at the deadline in 2021. Those were hard decisions, but he believes in what the Cubs have done, organizationally, since then. He described it as being on the “front edge” of what will become a very good run of success – but this time, hopefully learning the lessons from the last time so that it isn’t just a short stretch of excellence and then another big fall-off.
- Hoyer also said that the Cubs approached almost all of the core with extension offers after the championship in 2016, making what they felt were good, market offers. In hindsight, he said, it was probably a bad time to try to do it – the players were coming off a historic win, were rock stars in the city, were making a lot of off-field money, and they understandably weren’t in the headspace to sign “market” deals at that time. Lesson learned.
- Later, when the Cubs tried to get extensions done, they just didn’t work out for various reasons. Interestingly, Hoyer said it was the failed Anthony Rizzo negotiations in 2021 that made him decide he doesn’t want to negotiate extensions during Spring Training anymore. As you remember, things got really public and really sour there late in the spring when a deal didn’t get done, and Hoyer says he felt like that was just a really bad way to start a season.
- As for this offseason, Hoyer said the Cubs had a large number of obvious needs: improve the infield, fill center field, add two rotation arms, add power, etc. That can make for what looks like a “successful” offseason – and he does feel like the Cubs accomplished what they hoped to accomplish – but it’s even better to be in a spot where you are filling so many spots internally that your offseason tasks are really simple. Then it seems like you didn’t really do a lot in the offseason, but that’s because you didn’t have as much to do.
- Interest note on Seiya Suzuki, whom Hoyer described as underperforming defensively compared to how he performed in Japan, but the expectation is that he’s going to be a lot better this year because of his overall familiarity and comfort. I take that to mean the Cubs are expecting Suzuki to be a plus defender this year, because to my eye, he was basically “fine” last year. It was always hard to get a perfect read on just how good he was defensively in Japan, though, because, yes, he won awards, but there were seriously conflicting scouting reports.
- Cody Bellinger has been working at the Cubs’ facility in Arizona every day since he signed with the team. Hoyer really liked that as soon as they started talking to Bellinger, it was clear that he strictly wanted a one-year deal in a place where he could rebuild himself. That was exactly the right fit for the Cubs, too, and it leaves Hoyer feeling even more optimistic that Bellinger can be a productive player again this year (just don’t bet on a return to MVP-level).
- Hoyer says that, in his experience, so many of the teams that wound up a big surprise in a given season did it because they overperformed in run prevention. So, yes, defense was a big focus this offseason.
- Interesting side point that Hoyer made on center field defense, specifically. He talked about how defense out there peaks so young (I’d never thought about it, but yeah, that tracks), so ideally you want to have the position manned by a young player. When you have to go out into free agency to find a center fielder, it’s often the case that the “center fielders” out there are actually going to wind up signed to play in a corner spot.
- The plan right now is for Eric Hosmer to be given a chance to start every day at first base against righties. I took that to mean he’ll have some runway against righties, but he won’t necessarily start against most lefties.
- Good line: whatever lineup you write out for yourself going into Spring Training is probably the last time you write that lineup. (As in, injuries and underperformance always, always, always happen. So your plans will change, almost immediately.)
- Some of the visual on the pod:
Cubs Prospect Notes: Minor League Spring Games Underway, Davis, Mervis, PCA, Canario, Caissie, Amaya, Horton, More
World Baseball Classic Getting Awesome, Stroman’s Start, Mancini’s Clever Move, Relief Prospect Factory, and Other Cubs Bullets
Another Day, Another Extension for the Not-Cubs (Corbin Carroll Gets a Huge Deal from the Diamondbacks)
Ruiz Extension, Gomes the Coach, Bellinger’s Approach, Painter’s Injury, Marlins Signings, WBC, and Other Cubs Bullets