The biggest news Jed Hoyer made during his traditional end-of-season news conference was the fact that there was really no news at all. Of course, he, like the rest of us, was disappointed in not making the postseason and said it would be “really hard” to watch playoff games this afternoon instead of having the Cubs participate in them, but the bottom line of Hoyer’s remarks wasn’t anything that we haven’t heard before.
He said, “Painfully, we did not finish the race. We’re stuck thinking about what might have been. Ultimately, we have to live with that and it will motivate me all winter.” He added that internally, the goal was to make the playoffs, and even when the team was 10 games under .500, Hoyer said that “guys were begging me not to make trades,” (in other words, don’t sell off), and that the team believed in itself all year.
That’s one thing he credited David Ross with, saying, “Creating that kind of culture is incredibly difficult.”
So for anyone out there expecting Ross to be fired, that’s not going to happen. He’s got one year left on his deal and there’s a team option for 2025. That’s something that will be dealt with during the season. Ross is “not a new manager anymore, he has matured and developed and next year is very important for him and all of us.”
Hoyer added, “Ross should be proud that the group kept fighting for him.” In my view, that’s the culture that was created by Ross in the clubhouse.
One thing that I found interesting was when Hoyer said that he and Carter Hawkins and Craig Breslow are talking with Ross every day about guys who are available, etc. So this confirms that those of you who feel that some decisions are dictated from above might actually be on to something.
Hoyer said it was a very positive season for the system. They got rightful criticism for not developing pitchers in the past, but had guys come out of the system this year and blossom, Justin Steele in particular. He also mentioned Jordan Wicks and said, as you all surely know, that there are other guys about ready to help the MLB team.
About the September collapse, Hoyer said it was hard to define what went wrong in September. It was part fatigue, part regression, part was the bullpen that was injured and unable to perform. He noted that the team struggled in May and early June, didn’t win close games and struggled in every clutch situation, Three months later, he said, it felt like may again, not getting big hits, not getting it done in pitching situations.
The first elephant in the room was Cody Bellinger. Hoyer said that having the team score a lot of runs, 800+ runs, top six in MLB, Bellinger was a big part of that and had an incredible season. Hoyer said he and Bellinger had long a conversation on Sunday. Cody loves Wrigley Field and Cubs fans and had fantastic experience. Of course the Cubs would love to bring him back Hoyer said, and they will have conversations with him. “It’s rare to have a guy on a one-year deal and have that connection with fans.” If they can’t bring him back, will have to replace those contributions. Will be in communication, but it will be quiet, not out there — so don’t believe any rumors or “facts” you might hear about this. And honestly, this is the way it should be.
Hoyer was asked about Kyle Hendricks’ season and called it “exceptional,” saying Kyle is “one of my favorite players to be around, a great teammate and redefines low maintenance.” He said the team wants to keep him as a Cub for next year “and beyond.” So I’d be certain Hendricks’ option will be exercised.
Hoyer was noncommittal about coaching staff. He said there will be meetings this week and likely an announcement next week.
The rest of the news conference was questions about individual players, and Hoyer’s comments follow the player’s name.
Marcus Stroman: What are the expectations for him? It was a tale of 2 seasons, injured in second half, so he and his agent have a decision to make. If he chooses to come back, he’s a really good pitcher and you can never have enough good pitching.
Seiya Suzuki: He became a true middle of the order bat in the second half. He was upset and apologetic over the misplay in Atlanta, but that was one moment in a long run of bad moments — all players had moments they’d probably want back All his teammates tried to pump him up after what happened in Atlanta.
Dansby Swanson: He was so much fun to watch every day, everyone appreciates the steadiness. He’s such a good defender, knowing that the ball hit to shortstop is an out, gives everyone confidence. Can’t say enough about how he always focuses on the right things. He’ll be around a lot this winter, he’s a winner and will be in our ear, called him an “assistant GM.”
PCA: Good hitter, you can see how good he is defensively, he will have to make some changes offensively, pitching is a lot better than it is in the minors. Hoyer compared him to what Anthony Rizzo did with the Padres, when Hoyer was GM. He had a terrible first callup and needed to make adjustments, and those struggles helped him make those adjustments, suggested PCA could do the same.
Lastly, a question was asked about payroll. Of course, there were no specifics, but Hoyer said that Tom Ricketts and Crane Kenney were aggressive with payroll this year and they want to keep that momentum. He wrapped by saying organizational health is really strong, and they will talk over the next few weeks about financials.
In summary, this news conference was... a summary. No big news was broken, and we shouldn’t have expected that. Most of what Hoyer said are things we already knew.
Onward to 2024!