Jed Hoyer joined Casey Stern and Jim Bowden on Inside Pitch (MLB Network Radio) last Thursday after the Cubs rather impressive 17-0 win in Cleveland.
Hoyer talked about the plans for Kyle Schwarber and why he is going to stay at catcher and not move to the outfield. Addison Russell may be playing second base, but Hoyer sees him as a shortstop. And the Cubs plan to just let Ian Happ hit while he plays the outfield this season.
Jed Hoyer said the Cubs will be aggressive leading up to the deadline while making moves that make sense for now and for the future. Hoyer also addressed the Javier Baez–Steven Matz rumor.
And the front office has had a lot of fun watching Anthony Rizzo go from a prospect to one of the elite players in the game.
On the plans for Kyle Schwarber and why will the Cubs not keep him in the big leagues and have him play outfield, then develop him in the off-season as a catcher
“He’s [Kyle Schwarber] been fun to watch. He’s a great kid. We’re excited for him to be able to do this for Interleague play. The timing worked out well. We felt like it was time. He sort of dominated Double-A and we knew it was time to send him up to Triple-A because they were not pitching to him anymore. So it was time for Triple-A and we felt like it was a good stop on the big leagues, DH a little bit and then head to Triple-A. He’s got a bright future with us. We love his bat. We really think he can catch and we are going to keep working on the catching for a while this year. We are glad we have him. He’s a powerful left-handed bat with a short swing and it was fun to see him get some hits last night.”
On why it is so important for the Cubs to develop Kyle Schwarber as a catcher … Is it because of the lack of catching in the system? Or because there is no room in the outfield?
“First of all he really wants to catch. He’s made that clear to us all along. He believes he can do it. He felt like once he got pro instruction that he would really improve and he really has. We are really happy with the way he has caught this year. The value of him catching is tremendous. He’s a really good leader but also if you can get that kind of bat behind the plate it allows you to get a lot of offense elsewhere. You look around the league and you look at the offense out of catchers, there are not that many guys that can swing the bat like him. I think, obviously that is our hope we can develop him as a catcher. And like I said, the fact that he really wants to do it, I think that is a position where you are either all in or you’re out. I think he is all in to catch and we are pretty excited about his development.”
With Miguel Montero signed through 2017, in the running for a Wild Card spot and a legitimate shot at the post-season, why not put Kyle Schwarber in left field and go try to win? And have him go back to catching after the season in the Fall League.
“That is an interesting question. Like I said we are going to definitely send him to Triple-A on Monday. That is the move that makes sense for us right now, to put him there. Listen, he had a nice game last night [Wednesday], hopefully he keeps going. Also, Chris Coghlan has got really very underrated numbers. He’s hit into a ton of bad luck this year. His hard contact rate is one of the hardest on our team, so we’ve been happy with what we have seen out of Chris, but, yeah there is no doubt that it is exciting to have a guy like Kyle and that kind of bat for us in Triple-A.”
On what he has seen from Addison Russell since he has been in the big leagues and how is he developing as a second baseman?
“Yeah, I think he has shown really great survival skills in all facets. He’s [Addison Russell] a young kid. He’s 21 years old. When he first came up he was a little bit overwhelmed. It was remarkable how quickly he got through that process and he’s kept improving all the time. Second base, he’s got so much range at second base it’s been really fun to watch. He still makes some errors on plays that he looks like he is a little uncomfortable on because he has only been at second base for a little bit. But in terms of the athleticism and the quickness, he’s really helped our pitching staff a great deal by playing second.”
Does Addison Russell end up a shortstop long-term?
“We still see him as a shortstop. We have a lot of shortstops on our team and that’s a big advantage. Certainly he’s played really good second base since he came up in mid-April but by no means are we calling him a second baseman. I think he’s a shortstop. I think he can play shortstop for a long time in the big leagues.”
With the team winning games, will the Cubs approach the trade deadline differently than the front office thought they would before season started?
“Certainly the most important thing whenever you talk about the deadline is the team that put you in the position to need to make those kinds of moves. Obviously this has been a fun season so far. We’ve played a lot of close games. I think we’ve got 27 or 28 one-run games and our guys have shown the ability to battle and win a lot of those games. We are still pretty far away and we still have, I guess five weeks or so until the deadline, but we’ve put ourselves in a position to be buyers. I think that we will try to be aggressive but we are still not in the mode … we are going to try to make deals that make sense for now and make sense for the future. We know that we have a really good team now. We also know we have a chance to have a pretty special future and the last thing we want to do is mortgage that future for right now. We will try to make moves that make sense for now and the future.”
On if everything stays the same, will the Cubs be in the market for a Cole Hamels, Johnny Cueto, top of the rotation guy or more likely a Tyler Clippard-Ben Zobrist type deal?
“Obviously, even if things stay the same, we will have to figure out what are needs are at that moment. I think already this year, for example with our bullpen, we’ve had really good months and we’ve had some really bad stretches with our bullpen. It is hard to know exactly what you are going to need when you get there, but I think we will keep on evaluating that and try to figure out exactly what we need. Our starting pitching has been really good so far this year and it has also been healthy. I think with every team in baseball that is contending, really the health of your starters and the health of your bullpen really does determine a lot of what you do at the deadline and really determines a lot of your success.”
On the impact Joe Maddon has had on the clubhouse this season, how much of a difference has he made with this team?
“A tremendous amount. He’s shown from day one that he really believes in this group, believes we can win. Guys in the clubhouse can spot a fraud a mile away. They know when you are not being truthful. I think they know he really believes in this team. He’s really positive. The whole coaching staff has been great. We’ve had some veteran leaders, guys like David Ross, [Miguel] Montero, Chris Denorfia and Jon Lester that have come in here and really made a difference in helping these young guys play day in, day out. I think that is the biggest challenge for a young group like this is kind of managing the ups and downs of the season. I think those guys have really helped, along with the coaching staff, of making sure it stays positive every day. And Joe is … Joe has been tremendous and there is no way we are where we are in the standings right now without Joe.”
On the Cubs plans for first round draft pick Ian Happ
“With Ian [Happ], we’ve had a lot of success drafting college hitters at the top of the draft. There is a certain comfort that we have drafting college hitters that have performed on the Cape [Cape Cod League] and performed in college baseball. Ian really fits that mold. He’s a switch-hitter. He’s got power from both sides. He controls the strike zone and we like the defensive versatility. He really fits for us very nicely. Right now we are going to have him play outfield for the rest of this season. I think in the Instructional League we will definitely work on him at second base. Given the short season after the draft we feel like the best thing to do is just let him play outfield, let him get a lot of at bats. We can work in Arizona once the season ends on the infield stuff.”
On how good it is for him to see Anthony Rizzo go from great potential to great player to now really elite level, MVP status?
“It’s been a lot of fun. Theo [Epstein], Jason [McLeod] and I, we’ve known him since he was 17. It is really fun to watch him blossom. He just snapped a little bit of a cold stretch last night. But before that his ability to cut his strikeout rate to where it is. You look at his walks and hit by pitches, they are so much higher than his strikeouts. For a power hitter, it is just a remarkable transformation. I think a lot of it is Anthony [Rizzo] saw what he wanted to be. I think he saw the players in the league that he admired and he really went out and tried to make the changes to do that. When you look at how much he has changed his swing and his approach since he got to the big leagues, it’s really a testament to hard work. This is a guy that his first year in San Diego he struggled with velocity and he struggled with left handers and now he’s a guy that really handles velocity and he’s been terrific this season against left-handed pitching. He’s been willing to work on his weaknesses and that’s a big part of why he is the player he is right now.”
Any truth to the rumor the Cubs offered Javier Baez, before he got hurt, to the Mets for Steven Matz?
“No. No. Everyone always tries to connect us with the Mets as far as trades. We’ve got good relationships with Sandy [Alderson] and Paul [DePodesta] and J.P. [Ricciardi]. That rumor itself is totally untrue. I’m not sure where that came from.”