Jed Hoyer joined Bruce Levine and Mike Esposito at the top of the second hour of Saturday’s Inside the Clubhouse (670 The Score) to talk all things Cubs after the GM Meetings.
Jed Hoyer discussed the winter season from free agency to trades and the importance of self-scouting as the front office looks to improve the roster to keep the Cubs among the top teams in a very competitive National League.
On the appearance at the GM Meetings that teams arrived more prepared than usual and ready to start talking trades for what is typically a more relaxed environment
“Yeah, it felt a little bit quicker pace I think than it has in past years. There is definitely some years you go to the GM Meetings and there is just a lot of discussion, lot of fact finding. This year there was a little bit more action. I think we were part of some of that action. Obviously we weren’t … we didn’t get any deals done. It feels like everyone kind of revived their engines a little more this year. And as you can see from the [Andrelton] Simmons trade to the Angels and the [Craig] Kimbrel trade to the Red Sox, there are some quick trades. Usually once that starts up it doesn’t slow down. So we could be in for a pretty active winter.”
“Yeah, not to be too strategic I do wonder a little bit how much some of those early trades were at positions that weren’t incredibly well-represented in free agency. You know shortstop doesn’t have a ton of options, closer doesn’t have a ton of options. That may change here and there may be trades that involve starting pitchers and outfielders but in general I wonder how much those trades were born of the necessity of not having those particular type of players on the free agent market.”
On the perception around the league the Cubs have young, controllable power hitters and position players, the need for starting pitching and the importance of self-scouting
“No question evaluating your own guys, not only their talent level but also how they fit into your team is really important. Probably one of the most important things we do. I do think that when you, for example you mentioned the [Josh] Beckett-Hanley [Ramirez] deal, it also involved Anibal Sanchez and it also involved Mike Lowell. It was a really big trade. We gave up a lot of talent and the guys we got back helped us win a World Series. I do feel like whenever you are talking about any of our good young players, not just guys in the big leagues, but guys in the minor leagues as well, those guys have a lot of talent. And if they’re dealt at some point to get pitching they are going to go off and have really good careers. I think that we have to focus not only on them but also what we get back and realize that when you do make trades … everyone wants the kind of trade you make where you’re a seller where you can trade away a player and get prospects back. It’s a lot different kind of deal when you are trading young big leaguer for young big leaguer for example. Obviously you’re hoping that young big leaguer goes to somewhere else, that young hitter for example, and has success. I think in the example of Beckett and Hanley both guys had great careers, that trade helped both sides a lot. It was just a matter of a fit at the time. Those are the kinds of things you consider when you get to this stage of our evolution. We are looking at the free agent market. We are looking at trades. Ultimately we are just trying to figure out how do we build the best team possible to compete now and compete in the future? We’ve got a really good division we have to compete in. The Cardinals are going to be excellent. The Pirates are going to be excellent. There are other really good teams in the National League. We know what our standard has to be and that’s really what the calculus is all about right now.”
On the comfort level with making major trades like the Josh Beckett-Hanley Ramirez deal as he’s gained experience in the GM’s role
“I think anytime you do a big deal like that you can have a sense of the gravity of it. And you also realize that 49 out of 50 of those deals fall apart at the 50-yard line. They usually don’t get very far. So when you actually get a deal that progresses and gets a completion there’s always a sense of astonishment in some ways because usually deals that big usually fall apart of their own weight. I think certainly there is a lot more comfort going back a long way. You don’t think about it but when I look back I’ve been part of very big trades both as an assistant GM and as a GM. You just try to do as much research as you can. Have as much information as you possibly can and make the right decisions for the organization. And have an understanding to really focus on what you’re getting back because you’re going to give up good players to get good players and you have to have a certain acceptance of that reality.”
“You always have to pay attention to each piece of the deal because sometimes the secondary pieces end up being the really key players in the deal.”
On conversations the Cubs had with free agents and if there is money ever mentioned in the initial meetings or is it just discussing parameters with the player’s agent
“There is really no money ever discussed in the first meeting. The first meeting, usually most of the agents that have a bunch of clients it’s usually not just a meeting about one client. You talk about a bunch of the guys and you kind of get a feel for, they get a feel for who you are interested in and then you talk a little bit about the fit, the positional fit, the city fit. That’s usually the first discussion. Sometimes you will get down to what the player is looking for in terms of years and kind of get some parameters of expectations but there is no financial parameters are really ever discussed in that first one. Sometimes we see if the player, if it’s a high-profiled player, we will see if the player wants to come to Chicago at some point if they don’t know the city well or they want to get to know us better and get a tour around. But really the first one is sort of get to know you and it kind of kicks the process off. Sometimes they progress quickly. Sometimes the next phone call the agent will ask for offers. Sometimes they progress really slowly. A lot depends on the player, his desire to have a fast or slow process but by in large they almost all start out the same way.”
On paper the Cubs appear to matchup in trades with several teams, among them the Indians and Padres. Have the Cubs talked to the Indians and Padres about possible trades and were those discussions revisited during the GM Meetings?
“I’d probably say … obviously we’ve touched base with every team since the end of the season. You kind of get a feel for which teams you just don’t matchup with at all. Some teams are looking for exactly the same things we are, so you will never matchup. You kind of cross them off the list. We probably had pretty serious discussions with maybe a dozen, maybe 15 teams at the Meetings. Obviously some of whom we felt right away were really good matches. Some we felt like just make sure we stay in touch with. Sort of like the agent process, I think that is sort of the same process you start in October getting a feel for what teams are looking for. It’s impossible to really stay in touch with 29 teams. And like I said, you don’t matchup with 29 teams. We try to stay in touch with the dozen or so that you might really have a match with. We do have a good match with, matches with teams that really like our young hitters. That’s our strength. We are certainly not looking to move our strength. At the same time we have a commodity that is rare and so a lot of teams do check in with us.”
Bruce Levine: “[A.J.] Preller may be sitting out on your porch. If you look out the blinds right now … [laughs] … he may be out there. I think you gave us a fair answer. That’s a fair answer. You can’t identify the exact teams that becomes a nightmare for you. Obviously the teams with some starting pitching that is movable would be your matchups.”
Hoyer: “We haven’t hid the ball this winter. We need to acquire starting pitching. Obviously if Dexter [Fowler] moves on via free agency, center field is an area of need for us. Some winters I think we are probably more coy about what we are looking for. I think this winter it’s pretty clear to everyone what we are going to go after. It does make the matchups a little bit easier. You can identify which teams sort of have what we are looking for and which teams don’t. But yeah for the most part we are looking to strengthen a lot of areas of our team but in particular starting pitching and if Dexter moves on in free agency then obviously center field is a need as well.”
On what kind of payroll flexibility the Cubs have this winter
“Obviously we’d never reveal a specific amount. We’re still getting a sense of exactly what our revenues will be and exactly what our flexibility is. That’s the significant part of the calculus of the winter. Not only the flexibility you have this year but also thinking about how that flexibility will manifest itself out in the future. We do have … we have to live for now but we also have to think about later on. You do have to give consideration to the fact that eventually this young core is not going to be nearly as cheap as it is now. You have to give those things consideration. It is about getting our budget now but it’s also about projections to where we are going to be in the future and how our decisions now impact the future payrolls as well. It is complicated in that way when it comes to free agency because you are often making pretty long commitments. It’s kind of a long-winded way to say we will never reveal exactly what our payroll is for this year, but there are a lot of factors that go into making those free agent financial decisions.”
On the Cubs ticket increase
“It’s always difficult to increase ticket prices because you know the season ticket base is sort of your lifeblood but I do feel like in this situation we’ve been flat for now three or four years as we were rebuilding and honestly putting the fans through a lot of losses. We were flat with our ticket prices and at some point you sort of do have to catch back up with inflation and catch back up with where other teams have gone to increase their revenue. Ten percent sort of helps us catch up for a bunch of years of being flat when the team wasn’t doing well.”
On Jake Arrieta and the upcoming awards week
“Jake’s wonderful. I’m really hoping that next week he gets good news on the Cy Young. I feel like with those kinds of awards nothing would make me happier than seeing a guy that works as hard as he does, a guy that has sort of been down a bit and really resurrect his career. I don’t know what could make me happier than seeing him win the Cy Young. I do wish him the best next week. That would be a great outcome for us.”