Jed Hoyer Talks Cubs at the Winter Meetings

Jed Hoyer joined Casey Stern and Jim Bowden during Inside Pitch (MLB Network Radio) from the Winter Meetings on Wednesday afternoon.

Jed Hoyer did not confirm or deny the Cubs’ interest in Shin-Soo Choo but gave a little detail on the thought process that goes on before signing a big name free agent. Hoyer discussed Jeff Samardzija, what effect trade rumors have on players and his shortstop Starlin Castro.

Casey Stern: As our cavalcade of guests continues as we get a chance to welcome in one of our favorites. The Vice President and General Manager of your Chicago Cubs, Jed Hoyer, who joins us here, live. Jed, how are you and thanks for a few minutes, what’s going on?

Jed Hoyer: That was the fastest I’ve ever gotten on set …

CS: We get you right in there …

Jim Bowden: Like a pit crew …

CS: It’s like a line change in hockey …

JB: Exactly and what you don’t know is that the seat is really warm because Scott Boras just said you were one of the mystery teams on Choo …

All: [laughs]

JB: … So now you’ve got to react to it …

All: [laughs]

JH: So, I’m so disappointed. Scott’s got like 75 people around him and I’ve got you guys.

CS: We have that … [laughs]

JB: They were just all here [laughs] and then when we started talking about the Cubs, they all went over there …

JH: Oh …

JB: … So I have to ask you. Are you in on Choo?

JH: I’m not going to answer that directly.

JB: You don’t need to answer that directly.

All: [laughs]

JB: So, how are the Winter Meetings going? Are you guys working towards anything?

JH: I think you know from these meetings you have so many irons in the fire that you know going in 19 out of those 20 irons are going nowhere. You just have to keep on having ideas, having ideas. I do think at these meetings I always feel the most creative teams or the most diligent teams often win out, because you have to be willing to keep on coming up with ideas. And keep thinking of ways to attack things because most things fall apart. The weight of most deals, kill most deals. So, you’ve got to be diligent. We are obviously working towards a lot of things and hopefully some come to fruition. But it wouldn’t be through lack of trying. And sometimes it happens a couple of weeks from now. That idea you had, this could work. So, I feel like these are a little bit of an endurance test.

JB: Sure …

CS: Without specific players. Ellsbury, obviously who you know well, and Choo who is out there now. As a team you’ve been honest with us and your fan base. I say this not because you are here, but I mean this, you guys have been honest since day one with that fan base more than I’ve ever seen with anybody with the Cubs. They understand better now than I think they ever have the process of ‘we don’t won’t to be .500, we want to win.’

JH: Right …

CS: The growth comes with a lot of kids but at some point money is going to be spent. And you are going to make decisions. O.K. ‘This guy is worth that gamble.’ Right or wrong, D.C. Werth. Seattle does it with Cano. Are you at a point where you could do that and make an expenditure that an extra years and AAV kinda move to bring the guy to Chicago?

JH: I won’t say no but I will say I think the timing is the real crucial part of that decision …

CS: Sure …

JH: I look at Seattle, as an example, they’ve got Zunino, Franklin, Miller, Ackley, Smoak is still young. They’ve got all of those guys so going after a guy like Cano the total expenditures over there for their positions players are still low because they have those young guys. It’s tough to jump too soon. When Washington did Werth they probably thought they were a year away but they thought he was a perfect fit. So, to me the timing of that expenditure has to be really good because you only get one or maybe two of those bullets and you want to make sure when you do that it is the exact right position, the exact right player. Right now we have a ton of young talent that is coming. All of those guys are not going to be in the big leagues this year, the guys in the minor leagues, so we are trying to keep that in mind and the timing in mind. We’ve tried to be transparent. I wake up in the morning and I’m really excited about our future. We can’t make the hands of the clock go faster but I think the time is coming where I think we will be good for a long time.

JB: And the difficult part, Jed, in the timing is that it would be ideal to say ‘O.K., next off-season is when we will go get the piece. Or two off-seasons from now.’ But then you’ve also got to look ahead and say ‘What is the market going to be a year from now. Who is going to be sitting that we might be able to play on? What are the chances of that player re-signing?’ Your group is special … Baez, Bryant, Soler with the tools. I mean you’ve got some really special guys coming but you’ve also got to be thinking ahead. O.K. when they get here, I want to be able to win like St. Louis pretty quick with their kids. So to win I’m going to have to add maybe one piece this year, maybe one piece next year. Can you talk about that global thinking as we wait for the kids to get there?

JH: One of the challenges, your exactly right. One of the challenges is with that global thinking is exactly where you need that piece. I think that if you jump too soon you might not need a piece in that particular area. You want to make sure that when you add that spot is that it is the position you need, the kind of player you need. If you do go too early I think you can block someone or end up doing it in a position where you say ‘Gosh, I actually had that guy. I just didn’t realize it.’ So I do think that is part of the challenge. Once nice thing with our young guys is that we think we have some positional flexibility. A lot of those guys can play multiple spots …

JB: Sure …

JH: … I’m hoping that asset those guys have will enable us to have some flexibility. Because if you are only a one position player, it is great to have that, but it is nice to have guys that can go multiple spots. That way you can be a deep team. You have a lot of looks. I think that is one thing the Cardinals have done a brilliant job of is, Carpenter can move over to third now but he played second. Allen Craig can play first and go out in the outfield. They stress that. As a result you get an injury somewhere it is not as big a deal because you’ve got guys that can move around the diamond.

CS: You know moving onto the trade front, timing going back to that issue, with trades it is different. Where do I get the best value? Do I take a guy who’s a free agent at the end of the year until July or what if he gets hurt and I don’t have the same value and all of those questions. Even fans naturally ask themselves, when we specifically talk about your club and a Jeff Samardzija, can you take us through the process of your own thoughts, when you guys get into a room, of the player. The chance we have to keep him. Is there a path to go that direction rather than trade? Talk us through what is going on.

JH: It’s been pretty well publicized we’ve met with his agent a lot. We had a meeting today. We never want to talk about the specifics, but everyone knows we’ve been talking. I think this is a guy that is only going to keep getting better. He has only been starting for two years. He’s got big stuff. I think a little bit of refinement to his game. His biggest challenge I think is the football mentality. Sometimes he gets frustrated on the mound and I think as he learns to control his emotions and as he has more starts under his belt he will get better and better. But that is the calculus. Can we keep him and at what cost? How does he sync up with our young guys? The hardest part of rebuilding, and every person who has ever done it, I’ve picked their brain and they’ve told me the same thing, the hardest part is the timing. Making sure you can sync everything up at the right time to maximize that value. So that is our focus on everything. Trying to make sure when we get there we are there for a long time and try to sync that stuff up. Obviously the talks with Jeff and all these things that is exactly what we are thinking about is how does it sync up together.

JB: You have to go down a very difficult parallel in which you’ve got to listen to trade offers because you’ve got to know what you can get back. You’ve got to go through a negotiation to see if you can get him in a value that makes sense for your long term budget. But then from the trade perspective, like when you are having discussions here, Garza is out there, Tanaka is out there. There are choices out there. When you get to July of next year, possibly in this particular case, there could be more of a demand in trade. You might get more in July. Then you’ve got the health risk if he’s not signed by then. So, when you measure all of that, where are you with Samardzija? And can you spell his name?

All: [laughs]

JH: I can if I am typing …

All: [laughs]

CS: I can’t …

All: [laughs]

JB: Me too …

CS: Spellcheck …

All: [laughs]

JH: I’m doing a Spelling Bee on live radio.

All: [laughs]

JH: You know that’s the challenge, it is trying to figure all of those things out. There are a lot of different factors. You are always thinking about that. You talk about listening on players. I think you are doing a disservice if you don’t listen on guys. I think one of our frustrations is a lot of things get out in the media now. You are listening on this player or you are listening on that player. That is my job. If I own a house, there is nothing wrong with going to look at another house. I can shop around. I think that sometimes a team will ask you about a player that you have absolutely no intention of trading whatsoever, but why not listen? You can listen. It doesn’t mean you have to make a move and sometimes those things get out in the media and it is frustrating because you’re just doing your job. And the other team is just doing their job by asking. Right?

JB: Yeah …

JH: So, sometimes that is hard because …

JB: And Cleveland had it with Masterson. Terry Francona sat here an hour ago and said I had to call Masterson and tell him he’s not getting traded. He goes I don’t know how it got out there or what it was but I had to call him and calm him down. Matt Kemp, they had to go tell his agent, you are not being dealt. It is difficult in …

JH: It is …

JB: … this day and age because you also think you are having a confidential conversation and there almost isn’t one today.

JH: No, I think you have to assume everything is going to be on Twitter ten minutes later and you have to operate with that mindset. I think one of the nice things about being in a big market is I do think your players get very used to being out there in the media. If you are in Boston, New York, Chicago, L.A. you are going to be in trade rumors and I think our players do a really good job of tuning it out. I think if you are in a sleepier market like San Diego or a smaller place they are not used to that as much because the media is not digging as much and more stuff might stay confidential. So, I do think in a big market that most of the times when you tell a player there is nothing to that, they are like ‘Hey, I don’t worry about this stuff, I hear it all the time.’ But I don’t care, it’s got to be disconcerting that all of the sudden you’re thinking I’m going to have to pick up my condo tonight. I think the human element is real and when a guy starts thinking I might get traded. I also think it is much, much harder mentally in season when you have to go play a game that night. Off-season, guys are home and they are off doing whatever they do, I think it is easier to deal with those rumors. I think that during a season it is really hard for a guy. They are thinking about a game, about living in one city and the thought of getting on a plane and going to another city. That is what I tell my friends when they ask about trade rumors. Could you imagine, tomorrow having your boss tell you that you are transferred to Houston. That is a difficult thing …

CS: And you find out on Twitter …

JH: Exactly. That is hard for any person. So, it is a mental challenge to deal with trade rumors. And I think, like with anything, the more mentally strong you are as a player the better.

CS: Real quick, last one before we let you run Jed and I appreciate all of the time. Weird kind of a shortstop market and Peralta gets a lot of money. Drew the only guy and you guys have kids in your system coming so I would assume phone calls are made and rightfully so because when you get them it means people like your player and everyone wants to have the conversation. So, maybe he’s more than what they’ve gotten so far but you guys already know that is coming with Castro. Would you ever have a conversation with anybody, really deep about moving him? How much is he unmovable? Can you give us a sense of where you are with his growth right now?

JH: Yeah, I think he had a down year last year. He’s the first person to admit it. But this guy is only 23. This guy is almost prospect age …

CS: Right …

JH: He should just be coming up to the big leagues. He’s got four years of Major League service. So, listen we believe in him as much as we did when we got there. I think he is going to bounce back to be the player he was in 2010 and 2011.

JB: Sure …

JH: It’s really hard to find a quality shortstop. It’s hard to find a guy who can hit at shortstop. We have one very good one in the big leagues. We have guys in the minors. But, the beauty of shortstops and the beauty of centerfielders is that they can play anywhere …

JB: Anywhere. Second, center …

JH: Yeah, that is the nice thing …

JB: Is he getting in better shape? He was looking like a little bit … the year before I watched him a lot, he was on one of my fantasy teams, and produced all of the time and this past year not so much. Is he in a little better shape? Is he working at that in the off-season?

JH: It has actually been his entire focus this winter. Our strength guy has actually been staying with him in the Dominican and gives us reports all of the time. He says he looks like he is in great shape. He’s going to slim down …

JB: Good …

JH: I think he can steal a lot more bases. And the one thing with him is I really believe there is power there. I think as he matures … He’s got bat speed. He’s got strength. He’s got a big frame. I think there is going to be a lot of power there once he grows up. And we all know that is the last thing that comes. I think there is going to be a lot of power there …

JB: He’s only 23 …

JH: Exactly.

CS: Jed, always appreciate it. Stay well and Happy Holidays and Happy New Years to you and yours. We will talk to you on the flip side alright?

JH: Thanks guys, appreciate it.

_______________________________________________________________________

Follow ChicagoCubsOnline on Twitter: @TheCCO and @TheCCO_Minors

Quote of the Day

"There are places I remember. All my life though some have changed. Some forever not for better. Some have gone and some remain. All these places have their moments ... " John Lennon/Paul McCartney