Jed Hoyer joined Jim Memolo and Todd Hollandsworth during the final hour of First Pitch (MLB Network Radio/XM Radio) on Thursday morning. The Cubs’ GM was the first of several radio appearances made by the Cubs on Thursday that included Theo Epstein spending time on WEEI in Boston.
Jed Hoyer discussed a variety of topics including the reasons they signed Edwin Jackson, a few of the other moves that were made this off-season … and the fact that the off-season is not over yet.
Jim Memolo: In Chicago yesterday, the Cubs formally introduced Edwin Jackson after signing him to a four-year deal. Joining us right now is Cubs’ General Manager, Jed Hoyer is our guest on First Pitch with Jim Memolo and Todd Hollandsworth. Jed, how are you doing today?
Jed Hoyer: I am doing well, how are you guys doing?
Todd Hollandsworth: Doing great, good morning Jed, thank you for jumping on the program. Happy Holidays. I hope the family is doing great. Edwin Jackson, a four-year deal. Why does that make sense for the Cubs right now?
JH: The biggest thing is that we are looking to add starting pitching to add depth. We did not have a deep rotation last year. We took shots with a couple of guys on one-year deals in Scott Baker and Scott Feldman and we really wanted to do that because we believe in both guys. But we also wanted to make sure we signed someone that would help us stabilize our rotation going forward and the two guys we really pursued for that were Anibal Sanchez and Edwin Jackson. They both pitched last year at 28, they both had a lot of success and we feel like both of those guys had a chance to be a part of our future going forward. We did add some guys on one-year deals, kinda hunting for some value on the free agent market but we also felt like it was important to add some stabilizers. It makes sense for us in 2013 because he makes us better but it also makes sense going forward. A lot of people were surprised that we were willing to make a four-year deal with someone right now given that we publically talked about building up our young player core but the truth is that Edwin will be 29 next year and the truth is that you can’t really build it up in one off-season. You have to do it gradually, making steps and this is a player that was on the market this year that made a lot of sense for our future.
JM: Jed, I am one of the people who was kinda of wondering about it myself. So you are projecting that Edwin is going to be part of the process when the Cubs are at that point where they are contending?
JH: Yea, it is a four-year deal and this is a guy who has been really durable. He came up too early, and I think he would even admit that, he came up too early but since he broke back into the rotation with the Rays in 2007 he’s had six consecutive seasons of 30 starts. He’s been durable. He’s had some really good seasons and he’s had some solid seasons but he really hasn’t had a bad season. And not only is he a guy that is durable and eats innings but also with his athleticism and age there may still an upside which is a rare thing for a free agent.
TH: Jed, I know the argument that would be out there that the state of the franchise is improving it and understanding that 30 pitchers the franchise used last year, obviously, was way too many. Edwin Jackson to me certainly makes some sense. My question to you is this, is there a player out there or is there potentially a player out there, say in the next 12 months or even maybe into next off-season, a player, a position player that you might go in with this type of deal?
JH: Yea, I think this off-season we certainly focused a lot on starting pitching, pitching in general. The off-season is not over, for sure, but we were able to improve the pitching staff more certainly than the position player group this off-season mainly because the players we felt best about and the deals we felt best about, so far, were on the pitching side. But we have a lot of work to do offensively. While our pitching staff and lack of depth got a lot the attention last year. I think if you look at our offense there were a lot of things we didn’t do nearly well enough. We certainly need to improve those things and there will be a lot of attention paid to that. One of the reasons we did focus a lot on pitching and made the investment in Edwin because I think organizationally right now, I do think we are stronger on the farm from a position playing standpoint. We need to work to build up our minor league pitching depth. At the big league level, you’re right, I think our offense does need improvement and we will be looking to do that, not only over the next 12 months but certainly well beyond that as well.
TH: Jed, not to name names but, well, I’m going to do it anyways because it’s our show and sometimes we do this stuff. Well, like a guy like a Michael Bourn. A lot of people would say that he makes sense for the Cubs. If Edwin Jackson is part of the future, certainly maybe getting into years of accountability, years of expectation for the fan base, couldn’t you make that same argument for say a Michael Bourn fitting with the Cubs?
JH: Obviously I can’t comment on individual free agents but certainly centerfield is a position … I think right now we will be playing David DeJesus out there. Certainly he can do it and do it well but he’s a guy that is not a natural centerfielder. He’s a guy that has played a lot more corner outfield in the last few years. So yea, centerfield is a position both short-term and long-term that we will be looking to improve but specifically commenting on Michael Bourn is not something I can do. (Hollandsworth laughed)
JM: Jed, let’s get to this upcoming season, there’s always the question, and frankly you’ve kinda done what you said you were going to do the last time we talked to you on this particular show. That is go out and maybe sign some veteran pitchers to build up the staff for this year, and with Edwin Jackson, apparently in the next couple of years. I guess the question is, where do you project this team for this upcoming year within the rebuilding framework?
JH: Well, I think every single season your job and your responsibility is to do everything you can in the off-season and not only improve every position but make the team as competitive as possible. Obviously the off-season is not over yet. I think certainly from a pitching standpoint we’ve done that. Now we need to turn our attention to the position playing group and see if there are improvements to be made as well. But I think that you can never walk past any individual season, no matter how much your building for the future. The Oakland A’s, last year, certainly are a good example. They were actively building for the future and they wound up in the playoffs and the Baltimore Orioles are the same way. I had that exact same experience in 2010 in San Diego when we were certainly looking to build something for the future and the next thing you know you are right in the pennant race. So, I think it is a mistake to look past that one year but certainly it does not mean you make moves that are going to deter you in the future or hurt you in the future. That has really been our main goal. We really focused on 2013 but we are not really going to do anything in 2013 that is going to hurt us going forward. I do think the best years of the franchise are probably in the future.
TH: Jed, I want to ask you real quick specifically, offensively I know that you would probably admit that this is an area, the offense has got to get a little bit better. The way this team is constituted on paper, where are you looking for improvements specifically from this group?
JH: Are you talking about positions?
TH: I mean just overall. Are you thinking on base percentage, more situational hitting? I mean, how do you view this offense improving this season, in 2013, from last?
JH: The biggest thing for me, I sort of grew up in baseball with the Red Sox and we really got on base, grinded at bats and stuck it to a lot of middle relievers in the sixth and seventh innings and really beat them up. That’s the kind of offense I really like to play. I know that is how Theo wants to play as well. We were kinda the furthest thing from that last year. We didn’t see enough pitches; we didn’t get on base enough. We looked at the walk to strikeout ratio for our hitters and they were not nearly good enough. That is really our biggest focus, not only short-term but long-term is getting to that point when you face the Cubs that you really feel like it is a battle, offensively. You might score one run in the first six innings but the opposing pitcher is at 105 pitches and he comes out of the game. That’s really over the course, not only in a game but a series that really makes a huge difference. That’s really got to be our focus. Look at even the Cubs in 2008; I think they led the National League in on base percentage. They were really good about seeing pitches and that’s been a gradual deterioration for the last four of five years. And it got to the point, I know I was in San Diego, that when you faced the Cubs you felt like okay, a right-handed pitcher could easily make the Cubs chase and they had a lot of guys that were right-handed hitters that would strikeout and chase outside the strike zone. We need to get away from that. We need to get a group that is more like the 2008 team that sees pitches and grinds out at bats. To me that is the kind of offensive baseball we want to play. We are not there yet but we will work hard to get there in 2013 but I have no doubt going forward that we will be able to build that kind of offense.
JM: Cubs’ GM Jed Hoyer with us this morning on First Pitch. Jed, you talked about some of the organizational depth among positional players and frankly, last year for a 100-loss season was kinda fun for me to watch because you guys did try a lot of different things and you did get a look at a lot of different players. How close are some of those kids you are talking about, depth wise in the organization, how close are some of them maybe getting a look see this year?
JH: That is a good question. I think one we will probably have a better feel for in Spring Training. I think this year our most talented minor league players probably won’t be ready for a look. Some of those guys are probably going to start out in Kane County or start out in Daytona. But I think when we look back on the year, obviously, the Major League 101 losses certainly were unacceptable and something we have to improve on. But I think we did, as an organization, add a lot of talent over the course of the year. We felt really good about the way the minor league system looks at this point. We are a long way from getting it to look the way we want it to be but it was a good year that way and I think it will be a fun Spring Training for us to watch the guys we brought in. I think it will be fun during the course of the year to have some really exciting young players. Like I said, we like the position playing group a lot. We need to improve the pitching depth. We will have a number of drafts and probably some trades that can help us do that.
JM: I think for what the season was, I think a lot of people in Chicago understood where you guys were going with it and maybe appreciated the way you were doing it. But it is going to be interesting moving forward. Jed, we appreciate you taking some time out this morning, enjoy the rest of the off-season and the Arizona warmth will be here soon for you guys with Spring Training.
JH: Looking forward to it, thanks guys.