Jed Hoyer joined Jim Bowden and Jody McDonald during Inside Pitch (SiriusXM/MLB Network Radio) on Monday afternoon. Hoyer discussed a variety of topics as the first month of the season was coming to an end.
The Cubs have liked what they’ve seen from Mike Olt. Contrary to what has been reported, the Cubs have not cut off negotiations with Jeff Samardzija on a possible contract extension. Hector Rondon will get a look in the ninth inning to see if he can take the closer’s job. But the Cubs have other power arms, including Justin Grimm, Neil Ramirez and Arodys Vizcaino, that could be closers in the future. And while Kris Bryant has gotten off to a good start this season and Javier Baez has struggled, Jed Hoyer thinks both players are dealing with the same things. Teams are not pitching to either player yet.
Jim Bowden led off the interview by reminding Jed Hoyer that, at the time, his team was in second place, two games behind Arizona for the top pick in the 2015 draft. And asked Hoyer if he was at least pleased with where the Cubs were in the standings after the first month of the season.
“That’s a horrible way to look at things,” Hoyer said. At the Major League level it is all about wins and losses. Hoyer explained, “It’s been frustrating actually. We’ve played better than our record. We blew a bunch of early leads. Unfortunately this is the third straight year, early in April, we’ve had some closer issues. Unfortunately that took us out of some one-run games.” Hoyer is hopeful the Cubs can play better because he would like to start picking later in the draft.
On where Mike Olt is after the first month of the season
“He’s had his ups and downs as you would expect from a young guy,” Hoyer said. “One of the challenges we thought of when we had him make the team out of Spring Training was that he did play at Triple-A in 2013 but he really struggled. We knew this would be a little of a trial by fire for him, but he’s hung in there. We’ve played him against lefties and righties. He’s hit some homers. He’s got to get his batting average up a little bit and his on base up a little bit. We like what we’ve seen. He’s got huge power and he’s played good defense for us.” Hoyer added that with where the Cubs are right now, there is an opportunity for a player, like Mike Olt, time to develop in the big leagues.
On where the Cubs stand with Jeff Samardzija, the contract negotiations and his good start to the year
Hoyer explained that Samardzija has been outstanding this year. “We’ve said all along that this is a guy that does so many things that we want. He’s a big, power pitcher, he’s got great makeup and unfortunately we have not been able to come to an agreement on a deal so far,” Hoyer said. “We always keep the negotiations quiet. Certainly there is no line in the sand on not negotiating in the season. Maybe at some point we will both find the right value and it will work out.” Hoyer understands Samardzija’s frustrations. The team has not scored enough runs for him then blew the 5-2 lead in the ninth inning. Hoyer admitted, “He certainly deserves a lot better than we’ve given him so far.”
On the Cubs’ closer situation and if there are any young arms in the system that could take the role
“We actually have a number of guys with power arms that I think could do that role. Those guys might get those chances,” Hoyer explained. “That first chance will probably be Hector Rondon.” Hoyer mentioned Pedro Strop as a possibility as well. Hoyer thinks Neil Ramirez, Justin Grimm and Arodys Vizcaino could also close games at the Major League level. “There is certainly no doubt in my mind that the best situation is growing your own closer.” Hoyer added, “Going out and chasing a closer in free agency is really hard. Being able to develop your own and have a surplus of those guys that can do it is certainly the way to go.”
On Kris Bryant’s hot start, Javier Baez slow start, the draft and the future Cubs
“I think both Bryant and Baez are actually dealing with some of the same things,” Hoyer said. “Teams aren’t really pitching to either guy. I think Kris has done a really good job taking his walks and being willing to just be patient and hit the handful of pitches he gets to see every night. Baez has struggled a little bit, going out of the strike zone and guys are not really throwing him fastballs. I think he’s (Baez) going to have to learn that he has to push guys into the strike zone to have success. One thing with Javy is that he’s really struggled with every level for a short amount of time before he’s figured it out.” Hoyer has no doubt that Baez is getting ready to go on “an absolute tear and get his numbers back to where they belong.” Hoyer explained that the beauty of the minor leagues is a player has time to show how he is going to handle certain situations.
Bowden asked Hoyer if he’d seen some of the top players in this year’s draft, namely Carlos Rodon, Tyler Kolek, Tyler Beede, Brady Aiken, Jeff Hoffman and Nick Gordon. Hoyer admitted the Cubs “have seen most of those guys” but he “could not even begin to guess” which player the Cubs are going to select with the fourth pick in the upcoming draft. The Cubs plan to keep scouting all of the players as heavily as they can. Hoyer said, “We are going to take the best player available. You can’t pigeon-hole yourself in the draft. You have to take the best talent and keep doing that every single pick and you’ll be fine.”
Bowden asked if Hoyer thinks there is a clear number one in the draft. Hoyer said since the Cubs are picking number one he can’t really say. “It’s hard for me to answer if there is a clear number one.”