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A few midseason thoughts about Jed Hoyer as Cubs President of Baseball Operations

How is the front office doing with the franchise?

Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images

This is a companion piece to the one I wrote yesterday about David Ross’ performance as Cubs manager.

As many of you know, I haven’t been a big fan of Hoyer’s front office. My perception of Hoyer & Co. is that they rely far too much on analytics and not enough on scouting. As you likely know, the Cubs let go a lot of veteran scouts — and they’re being sued for age discrimination as a result — and this took a lot of knowledge out of the organization, in my view.

It’s not all bad re: Hoyer, so let’s look at his record.

Hoyer was named President of Baseball Operations in November 2020, signed to a five-year deal. Thus he’s got the rest of this year and two more to show that he warrants an extension, unless one is given before then.

Hoyer’s first major move was trading Yu Darvish to the Padres in December 2020 for four prospects who were seen as far from the major leagues, and Zach Davies, who was awful as a Cub. Two-plus years later, only Owen Caissie seems a true MLB prospect from that deal. The trade was almost certainly ordered from ownership for financial reasons. Darvish has had one good year and two mediocre ones in San Diego, and the Padres inexplicably extended him for five more years. They’ll likely regret that.

Nevertheless, it looked like the Cubs were well positioned for 2021. Coming off a division title in 2020, the team got off to a 42-33 start. That means at that point, David Ross had a 76-59 record, a .563 winning percentage that would be equivalent to a 91-win regular season.

Then the team started losing, and losing, and losing some more. A selloff ensued, detailed here back in 2021, and we don’t have to rehash it now. It was the right thing to do at the time, and Hoyer did acquire several very good prospects for the remnants of the Cubs World Series team, including Nick Madrigal, Daniel Palencia, Pete Crow-Armstrong and Kevin Alcántara. All told, I think Hoyer did pretty well with those deals.

He’s also done reasonably well signing major free agents. Marcus Stroman, Drew Smyly, Seiya Suzuki and Yan Gomes were signed before the 2022 season and all have made significant positive contributions to the Cubs. He also signed closer David Robertson, who was traded for Ben Brown, who could become a solid starter for the Cubs.

It’s the on-the-margin signings where Hoyer has failed. Also before the 2022 season, Hoyer spent $6 million ($4.5 million contract, $1.5 million 2023 buyout) on Jonathan Villar, $4 million on Andrelton Simmons and $1.75 million on Daniel Norris.

All three were awful for the Cubs and were released before the All-Star break. That’s $11.75 million that could have been spent on a better player, or simply banked for this year. The Cubs could have signed Jason Adam for about half what they spent on Norris, and Adam could either still be in the Cubs pen or have been flipped like Robertson was.

You can’t blame Hoyer for not being able to get more than a compensation draft pick for Willson Contreras. It was reported, months after the fact, that Hoyer had Contreras traded to the Astros for Jose Urquidy, a quality starting pitcher (though he’s been sidelined since the end of April with shoulder issues). Astros ownership nixed the deal.

The same contract pattern has repeated for Hoyer in 2023. Hoyer wound up getting the best value out of any of the “Big Four” free-agent shortstops by signing Dansby Swanson, and paid less overall than any of the other three got. Jameson Taillon’s signing hasn’t paid off yet, but his start against the Yankees Sunday hints that Taillon might redeem himself after all. He’s gotten excellent value from Cody Bellinger, who still might be extended, and also signed Ian Happ and Nico Hoerner to team-friendly extensions.

Those are all good. These aren’t: $1.2 million for Luis Torrens, who was let go in May. $1 million for Edwin Rios, who’s been just awful in his small sample size of MLB at-bats. A two-year, $14 million deal for Trey Mancini, who’s been mediocre at the plate and worse in the field. Brad Boxberger got $2.5 million and has been injured much of this year. Michael Fulmer, $4 million, has had an up-and-down season (though has been reasonably good lately). At least the Eric Hosmer experiment ended early and only cost the minimum salary.

That’s at least $10 million that could have been spent on better players. The Cubs could have had Jeimer Candelario for about half that, as he’s getting $5 million from the Nats. That would have stabilized third base. Former Cub Carl Edwards Jr. is having a pretty good year for the Nats and is making only $2.25 million, Hoyer could have signed him instead of Boxberger.

So it’s around the margins where Hoyer & Co. have thrown good money after bad players. They need to clean up this sort of thing, because they’re getting to the point where they are going to have to spend a bit more in free agency to truly put together a solid contending team. They need to get Marcus Stroman extended and they should also extend Cody Bellinger.

I’m going to give Hoyer a B-, and that’s just barely above a C+. He’s done some good things as Cubs baseball operations boss, but he still has something to prove to show he can do the same thing his former boss, Theo Epstein, did — bring a World Series title to the North Side of Chicago.


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