Cubs Front Office Spring Press Conference: Player’s Recovering, Extension Talks, Prioritizing Defense, Big Seasons for Suzuki and Bellinger, Rules, More

There are a few different ways to mark the start of baseball season. The end of Super Bowl is the fun way to think about. The day pitchers and catchers report is probably the most official (that’s today!). But the annual President/GM press conference is my personal preference. I like to think the offseason begins with the end of season press conference in October and ends with the Spring Training press conference in February.

Today, Chicago Cubs President of Baseball Operations Jed Hoyer and General Manger Carter Hawkins took the mic in Mesa, Arizona. These aren’t exact quotes, but I did my best to jot down what they said in real time as I watched.

  • Jed: Spring Training is an audition for a lot of guys. There are a lot of non-roster invitees here to win jobs, to set themselves up for a really good summer. And it’s our job to put them in the best position to succeed. It’s a job interview.
  • Carter: I’m really encouraged by the guys we brought in this offseason, it’s a good mix of players, and the vibe here has been outstanding. There were a lot of guys out early, and there’s an edge here that’s a little more (palpable) than last year.
  • Jed: So far all but 8 or 10 guys are already here in Spring Training. He’s not surprised, because Spring Training has really changed over the years. It’s no longer a time to get ready. Now, you show up in shape, ready to go. And that speaks to the expectations and excitement for the season. Players are excited about the (non COVID, non lockout) normalcy.
  • Jed: Because of the lockout, we can’t use anything we learned about signing players last spring training as a lesson for anything this year (like the relief market). Everything was way more crunched last season, it was almost like another trade deadline.
  • Jed: The new rules add an element to spring training practice this season – base running, pitch clock. I’m sure there’ll be some struggles, especially pitchers struggling with the clock. We’ll also have to test our boundaries with base running here to be better prepared for the season.
  • Jed: David Ross and Tommy Hottovy will help the pitchers with their plans/workouts. It’s hard to change routines, but they’ll have to use this spring to do that.
  • Carter: Watching these guys take ground balls and taking fly balls, it’s encouraging to see the experience and talent level of the defense, in particular. The pitchers are really excited, we’re really excited. I know are pitching staff is “over the moon” (about the quality of the defense).
  • Carter (On similarities to his time in Cleveland): Pitching and defense is a similarity, having defense up the middle, having guys that can throw strikes. We’re gonna have to score runs, but you don’t have to score as many when you have good pitching and defense.
  • Jed: Codi Heuer is going to be delayed into the season, 60-day IL is a possibility. And we’ll be talking about his workload and limiting his back-to-back appearances all year. Kyle Hendricks will throw off the mound soon, but he’ll be delayed. We’re prepared to start the season without him. Most important thing is to get him back to pitching like Kyle Hendricks.
  • Jed (on whether extension negotiations will end now that we’re in Spring Training): No definitely not a hardline thing. We’ve definitely had discussions, though won’t talk about them. We’ve had good dialogue with both sides (seemed to imply Nico Hoerner and Ian Happ). My preference is not to get into it at the end of spring training, where it’s affecting the preparation and mentality. That’s something we’ll be aware of. We’ve talked to “both camps” about them (again, Happ and Hoerner implied). There’ve been positive conversations for sure.
  • Jed: External projections … they have their methodologies, ultimately our job is to prove those wrong. Every year there’s going to be +/- 10 wins on those systems. Our goal is to be one of those +10 teams. I won’t question someone’s methodologies. And we certainly have our own internal projections.
  • Jed (on internal evaluation of starting pitching): Throw strikes, good command, good defense run prevention in general. We don’t have a strikeout pitching staff but we’ll limit walks.
  • Jed (on adding another reliever externally): The bullpen is always in flux. Our hope is to add more young options out of our farm system. That’s the dream, a bullpen almost entirely fueled internally, but it’ll always be a work in progress. We have a lot of confidence in pitching.(executives/coaches/infrastructure). We’ve also looked strategically to limit long-term deals in bullpen and that’s worked for us.
  • Carter: There are different buckets of spring training players: (1) Guys that know they have a roster spot, just preparing for the season. (2) Bubble guys fighting spots, like the NRIs, guys not clear they’re going to be on the team, the “audition” players Jed talked about earlier. And then there are (3) Exposure guys. Guys getting used to big leagues, the routines, the long spring ramp up, etc, like Pete Crow-Armstrong and Matt Mervis. Just the opportunity to experience those full six weeks (sounded like Matt Mervis is not making the team, by the way). On Mervis, specifically, this spring is only about exposure, it won’t be evaluative.
  • Jed: Seiya Suzuki looks “great,” after working really hard all winter. We knew he was working hard, as we were in communication. He wasn’t kidding about coming in stronger. He talks so much about what he learned last year, about hitting fastballs, wearing down during the season, etc. So coming in stronger, that’s the transition we talked about last year. It was a three part season (for Suzuki) in 2022. He started off hot, got hurt, and then finished strong. I think he learned from each part of that. He learned he can compete at this level, that he can translate his Japanese performance here really well. But also here’s what he needs to fix to do it. Hoyer specifically called out changes to his diet, working on hitting different pitches, and how he’ll keep on assimilating better and better. Jed also learned what Cubs can do to help that process, not just for Suzuki, but other players, as well.
  • Jed: We added some power this winter but it’s not our strength, so Suzuki turning into a power bat would be very big for the 2023 Cubs.
  • Jed: Trey Mancini will get some work in corner outfield, but the majority of his at-bats will come at 1B and DH. He’ll be in the lineup almost every day. Wrigley is well-suited for him (spray charts fit Wrigley well), he should thrive at Wrigley. Eric Hosmer will play a lot of 1B against RHP. I don’t want to make out David Ross’ lineups for him, but Hosmer at 1B, Mancini at DH against RHP seems likely.
  • Jed: I love the group of guys we brought in, they’ve won, they’re hard working, their supportive, a lot of good teammates, with great reputations. They’ll help the young guys. And I think they’ll be a group that comes together exceptionally well.
  • Carter: We’re supportive of players competing in the WBC — Matt Mervis (Israel), Owen Caissie (Canada), Marcus Stroman (Puerto Rico), Seiya Suzuki (Japan), etc. We have no concerns about their ramp up, they may just have more advanced work early on. Don’t know the exact date they’ll head out for World Baseball Classic events.
  • Carter: The WBC can be good for a guy like Matt Mervis to see more advanced pitching and more intensity. The WBC is as close to MLB intensity as you’ll get, more than AFL and Triple-A. That’ll be huge for those guys. Lot of upside for us there.
  • Jed: Ross helped bring this team together, and was a big part of recruiting process this offseason. He’s got a great connection with players, and is probably one of the main themes of our recruitment. Recruiting players is not always about the most money. Ross, Wrigley, and Chicago sell themselves.
  • Jed: We have a lot of players that have potential to breakout to exceed their projections this season. With every guy, that has to be the goal; How do i take it to another level? Categories of those players: Guys that bounce back from down seasons, young guys that take the next step, someone like Seiya Suzuki in his next year. We’ll need (them to take a step forward) to a certain extent in order to get where we want.
  • Jed (on who will be the closer): I think that’ll be Rossy’s decision, we have a number of guys that are capable of doing it. I think Ross did a fantastic job at the end of last season after trading David Robertson. Ross mixed and matched really well. And in a way, I think that was educational for him. He never had that option, he normally had a set closer. I would expect some of that (mixing and matching), though it is nice to have that certainty of role. I’m sure that’ll be part of his thinking, as well. It’ll play out this spring/season.
  • Carter (on Cody Bellinger): He’s got experience with the coaching staff. He’s been here almost every day since he’s signed, that’s been extremely encouraging to see him in the weight room, with our coaches and resources. And we just want to help him to be himself. That’s our goal have him reemerge as the guy he was.
  • Jed: Love that guys are showing up early, that was the hope of building a really nice new complex. But it’s also totally fine for guys that like spending time in their hometown, with their own gym and own trainers/hitting coaches, etc.
  • Jed (strength of rotation): We have a lot of strike throwers, I don’t expect free passes, the ball will be in play, but the quality of strikes will be good and our guys will limit hard contact. Also a lot of veteran guys with expectations, but guys that can take a step forward like Justin Steele and Hayden Wesneski. They can take it to the next level.
  • Jed: Certainly I think our game planning infrastructure has been good for a long time, and that’s a competitive advantage. But the ball will be in play a lot, and that’s why you have to have a good defense. We’re going to have to rely on good defense and pitch mix and that’s something that we’re good at, but it’s also the big challenge.
  • Jed: Certainly wish we had Kyle Hendricks right away. Early in the season last year we weren’t ready when we had injuries, so that’s been a huge emphasis for us this year (depth). We will have injuries, things will go wrong. So we planned to overcome those this year. Certainly, we have much better depth than a year ago. Goal is to continue to build farm system out so we don’t have to do that externally. We’re better equipped than last year, but not where we want to be yet.
  • written by

    Michael Cerami began covering the Chicago Cubs for Bleacher Nation as a part-time contributor in 2015. One year later, he joined Bleacher Nation full-time, covering the Chicago Cubs and Major League Baseball. Today, Michael runs Bleacher Nation, contributing as a writer (Cubs, MLB) and an editor for all sections of the site, including the Chicago Bears, Bulls, and Blackhawks, as well as MLB, NBA, NHL, and NFL. In 2019, Michael was the co-host of NBC Sports Chicago's Cubs Post-Game Show Outside the Ivy. You can find him on Twitter/X @Michael_Cerami

    more cubs news

    Dansby Swanson with Two Incredible Defensive Plays Tonight (And Justin Steele is Loving It)

    Justin Steele is pitching really well tonight against the San Francisco Giants. But things would've have gone quite as smoothly so far if it weren't for Dansby Swanson. Not once, but TWICE tonight, Swanson has made a Gold Glove caliber...

    Pre-Gamin’: Cubs at Giants (8:45 CT) – Lineups, Broadcast Info, Game Thread

    CUBS LINEUP — The Cubs are starting a four-game, west-coast road trip tonight at Oracle Park. Justin Steele is on the mound for the Cubs, who are running out of time to turn this ship around before the trade deadline...

    A West Coast Trip? Sure, Why Not … Cubs vs Giants Series Preview

    Cubs vs Giants — In case you missed our earlier conversation, the Cubs upcoming stretch looks like their toughest of the year. And unfortunately, unless they start playing a lot better — immediately — this could be it for the...

    An Incredible Week for Matt Shaw Means It’s Award Time

    If you have seen Matt Shaw's name a lot this past week, it's because he's been lighting up the Southern League, even more than he already was. Thus, he gets some weekly award honors: Shaw, 22, was the Cubs'...

    The Second All-Star Ballot Update is Still Light on Chicago Cubs

    Not that you'd expect otherwise at this point, but the Chicago Cubs are not running away with the fan voting for the 2024 position player All-Star starters. You have to go deep to find any Cubs names at all:

    MLBits: Must Read on the Pitching Revolution, Mets, Cards, Kwan, More

    MLB NOTES—Once in a while, you come across a story that's an absolute must-read. The Athletic's Andy McCullough delivered that for us this morning with his feature, which helps us understand the school of logic behind the pitching revolution in...

    Cubs Farm Report | June 24, 2024: Shaw Blasts Two, Scary Collision, Just Missing Out, More

    CUBS PROSPECTS — Matt Shaw blasted a pair of home runs, but a scary collision stole the show in a Tennessee loss that allowed Birmingham to take the first-half division title. Cubs Prospects Report | June 24, 2024 Triple-A Iowa...

    He Has Work to Do For Sure, But Making Declarations About Pete Crow-Armstrong’s Offensive Future is Silly

    I got pretty annoyed this weekend when I saw a bit from Bob Nightengale's latest: "MLB scouts have insisted all season that Chicago Cubs prospect Pete Crow-Armstrong may not be the impact bat that’s been hyped, and so far they’ve...

    This Next Stretch Will Define the Cubs Season – And it’s Arguably Their Toughest of the Year

    The Chicago Cubs are four games under .500, eight games out of first place, and nothing seems to be going right for them. So naturally, the universe is delivering one its toughest stretches of the season. And for the Cubs,...

    It Ain’t a Good Feeling, Morel’s Blast, Diaz Sticky, Martinez PED, and Other Cubs Bullets

    Going outside without immediately becoming drenched in sweat. Yeah baby. Today is a win. Well, for me, I mean. I can't speak for the Cubs' prospects in San Francisco tonight ... As for last night ... another loss. Another series...

    Latest News

    Where to Watch Denmark vs. Serbia: UEFA European Championship 2024 TV Channel, Start Time and Live Stream

    On Tuesday, June 25 at 3:00 PM ET, Denmark (2 points) and Serbia (1 point) meet for each side's final match in Group C at the 2024 UEFA European Championship.This game will be airing on Fox Sports 1.Watch the entire...

    Where to Watch England vs. Slovenia: UEFA European Championship 2024 TV Channel, Start Time and Live Stream

    England (4 points) and Slovenia (2 points) meet on Tuesday, June 25 at 3:00 PM ET in the third game of Group C action at the 2024 UEFA European Championship.You should head to FOX in order to see this match.Watch...

    Padres vs. Nationals: Free Live Stream, TV Channel, How to Watch

    In a series opener on Tuesday, Adam Mazur will start for the San Diego Padres (41-41) against MacKenzie Gore and the Washington Nationals (38-39), with first pitch scheduled for 9:40 PM ET at PETCO Park.See how to watch the San...

    Dodgers vs. White Sox: Free Live Stream, TV Channel, How to Watch

    In a series opener on Tuesday, Bobby Miller will start for the Los Angeles Dodgers (48-31) against Chris Flexen and the Chicago White Sox (21-58), with first pitch scheduled for 8:10 PM ET at Guaranteed Rate Field.The article below will...

    Angels vs. Athletics: Free Live Stream, TV Channel, How to Watch

    Taylor Ward and the Los Angeles Angels (30-46) host JJ Bleday and the Oakland Athletics (29-51) on Tuesday in a series opener, with first pitch at 9:38 PM ET.Keep reading to find out how to watch the Los Angeles-Oakland matchup...

    Connor McDavid Wins the Conn Smythe Trophy — on the Losing Team

    After producing a historic 42 points (8 goals, 34 assists) in 24 games -- breaking Wayne Gretzky's playoff assist record -- Oilers superstar Connor McDavid won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the postseason's most valuable player. Before tonight, only...

    How to Watch Royals vs. Marlins: Live Stream or on TV

    The Kansas City Royals (42-37), who will give the start to Seth Lugo, host the Miami Marlins (27-50) with Yonny Chirinos on the hill, Tuesday at 8:10 PM ET.The article below will give you everything you need to know to...

    How to Watch Brewers vs. Rangers: Live Stream or on TV

    The Milwaukee Brewers (45-33), led by William Contreras, host Marcus Semien and the Texas Rangers (37-40) at 8:10 PM ET on Tuesday in a series opener.If you're planning on watching this game, keep reading for streaming and TV options for...

    How to Watch Twins vs. Diamondbacks: Live Stream or on TV

    In a series opener on Tuesday, Joe Ryan will take the mound for the Minnesota Twins (43-35) versus Brandon Pfaadt and the Arizona Diamondbacks (38-40), with first pitch scheduled for 9:40 PM ET at Chase Field.Keep scrolling to find out...

    Houston Astros vs. Colorado Rockies Series June 25-26: Odds, Starting Pitchers & Predictions

    The Houston Astros will be hosting the Colorado Rockies for a two-game series, with the first matchup getting underway at 8:10 PM ET on Tuesday, June 25.Astros vs. Rockies Series Info Rockies @ Astros Time: Tuesday, June 25 at 8:10...

    more cubs news