Cubs President of Baseball Operations Jed Hoyer held his traditional end-of-season news conference Monday morning and covered a wide range of topics.
The only real news that he made was stating that Willson Contreras will definitely receive a qualifying offer from the Cubs and that the team “will be in touch with his representatives.” It is, of course, up to Contreras whether to accept that offer (and I think it’s 50/50), but for any of you who had thought the team wouldn’t make the QO, now we know they will.
And if you think the Cubs won’t spend money this offseason, Hoyer wouldn’t commit one way or the other about doing that in free agency, but he did say that if he went to Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts with a plan, he said Tom would give him his total support and: “If we get to a place where we ask for a significant amount of money, I have no doubt we’ll have his blessing and the resources will be there.”
Regarding a couple of other current players, Hoyer heaped praise on Nico Hoerner, saying he’s “totally focused on the team,” and also on Ian Happ for stepping up when many players were hurt in the second half. He also singled Happ out for helping Seiya Suzuki navigate his transition from NPB in Japan to MLB.
He said the team has taken “the first steps” regarding contract extensions for Happ and Hoerner. Nico did a terrific job at shortstop, Hoyer said, but admitted infielders will have to get more athletic with the upcoming modifications to defensive shifting.
Further on Suzuki, Hoyer said it was a real transition from what Suzuki had imagined, to things like travel and time zones, which are much more of a real grind physically here than in Japan. He met with Suzuki for 45 minutes recently regarding preparation for next season. Hoyer said Suzuki did a great job of grinding through this season, even with the finger injury, given all that happened his numbers were solid.
Hoyer said the Cubs are fine with Suzuki playing for Japan in the World Baseball Classic if he wants to, and will leave it up to him balancing having a normal spring training as opposed to playing in the WBC.
Regarding Kyle Hendricks, Hoyer said Kyle has not started throwing at this point, but has goals for having a “normal” offseason. Hoyer has confidence Hendricks can come back and be the guy he has been since 2014, though there is a level of uncertainty regarding that.
At the beginning of the session Hoyer noted that the first half of the season was “not up to our standards,” but he was “incredibly impressed” with the second half and how some very inexperienced players now have good experience. He gave credit to the players and also David Ross and the coaching staff for having a team that never stopped competing every day. Hoyer said that helps create confidence in a very young group.
About Ross, Hoyer added that he is “a good partner for Carter and me. Every day he wants to get better. He knows what winning looks like as a player, and wants to get back to that, his entire focus. He’s good at creating a fun culture but also a culture of accountability.”
On several occasions Hoyer mentioned building a winning team “for the fans,” and noted he spent the weekend watching the postseason, but didn’t enjoy “watching playoff baseball from my couch.”
Remember last year when Hoyer talked about “intelligent spending”? He did so again, saying, “We have some holes to fill and we will be aggressive in filling those holes. We can compete next year but we also want to sustain it over a long time.” Of course, that’s what every team wants to do, and it isn’t necessarily an easy task. He added that it was “gratifying” to see the pitching take a step forward, but even though the team played well in the second half, they didn’t score enough runs, so that will be a “clear area of focus” this offseason.
He made a nod to something many of us have criticized this year, saying he “missed” on some transactions in the first half. Hoyer didn’t name names, but I suspect he might have been talking about the signings of Andrelton Simmons and Jonathan Villar. Hopefully there won’t be any “misses” of this nature this offseason, an offseason Hoyer called “really important... to build toward our goal,” which is to “build something special, something lasting.”
Granted, that’s what any baseball executive would want. Hopefully they can follow through on that this winter. Hoyer was asked to compare the current state of the team to where they were in the 2014-15 offseason, given that some have made a comparison between the step forward the team took late in 2014 and also in 2022. Hoyer said that the Cbs were further along in 2014 regarding hitting development in the system (Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber) so the comparison is not fair in that point, but pitching now is a bit farther along. The one big signing that winter was Jon Lester, as they knew all about what he could bring. Otherwise there were small trades, etc. that year (Dexter Fowler, Miguel Montero). Interestingly, he didn’t mention that offseason’s signing of Joe Maddon at all.
Turning to pitching development, Hoyer said it is something the team takes great pride in. He mentioned Craig Breslow (now director of pitching) and Kyle Evans re-did pitching infrastructure, commitment to make real changes in that area. While they are proud of that infrastructure, Hoyer added you can never have enough pitching and have to augment through external acquisitions.
Hoyer was asked about a couple of the Cubs’ more important prospects. He had lots of praise for Matt Mervis, “one of best minor league seasons I’ve been around,” especially for a guy who struggled last year. He improved at each level and hopefully will continue this fall, a very special season. Hoyer gave credit to the scouting department for getting him signed in the strange year of 2020 when after a five round draft it was open signing for anyone.
Regarding Brennen Davis — Hoyer said he’s happy Davis is playing and doing well. He said Davis is not as strong as usual due to the back surgery. He has no doubt Davis will work hard in the Arizona Fall League and get back to normal and is excited to see him in Spring Training.
- Regarding the current coaching staff, maybe by the end of the week the team will have an announcement
- The Cubs didn’t have the depth to handle injuries and that will be a significant focus
- Hoyer is excited to have a normal spring in 2023 and noted that David Ross hasn’t had a single “normal” Spring Training since he’s been manager
- Said the Cubs were “sloppy” on the bases and need to significantly improve their baserunning
- Says he’s looking forward to the pitch clock and added “you guys [reporters at the news conference] probably are as well.” (I know I am!)
And with that, today’s session with Jed Hoyer ended, and now we get into the grind of the offseason, with many changes sure to come for the Chicago Cubs before they take the field next March 30 against the Brewers at Wrigley Field.
As always, we await developments.