As is the case every year before the Convention starts, Jed Hoyer makes the rounds on the radio and fields questions about the Cubs the day the annual fan fest starts.
Jed Hoyer spent time the Friday morning before the Convention on 670 The Score and joined David Kaplan and Jesse Rogers later in the day on ESPN 1000.
The Cubs’ GM covered a variety of topics with Kaplan and Rogers that were different from the radio spot earlier in the day.
Jed Hoyer indicated Jorge Soler will be moved around the outfield, seeing time in left field as well as right field. And he acknowledged conversations have taken place with the Rays, among other teams. The front office has talked to clubs, like the Rays, that have young pitching and those teams are interested in the Cubs’ young hitters.
On it already being mid-January and talking baseball on the day Cubs Convention begins
“I know it. It’s fun to have all the guys here. We actually just took all the players on a tour of the new clubhouse construction site. It’s just great to see all of the guys and it kind of gets you excited a month before Spring Training.”
On if he is surprised by all the free agents still available in mid-January or did he expect it?
“A little bit surprising. You never know. Every year is different. This year the pitching for the most part went off the board really quickly. The position player market was slower to develop. You just never know from year-to-year why that’s going to happen. Sometimes it’s just one guy that doesn’t sign and he holds up a market. Other times it’s because there is just less interest in those players maybe than people thought. You never know. There are a few more guys out there than I expected, but like I said, I think going into every winter you know it almost never goes strictly according to plan.”
On the Cubs new clubhouse, how does it look? Did he see a lot of smiles from the players? Is it fair guys like John Lackey, Ben Zobrist and Jason Heyward never had to experience the old one?
“Yeah, I know. We went on the field and then went down. There’s the old clubhouse that’s going to be a batting tunnel for next year until the other one is done. They kind of get a feeling of what the old clubhouse was like with nothing in it and then they go in the new clubhouse and it’s just unbelievable the difference in size and scope. I was trying to pay attention to a lot of the players’ reactions and they were really excited about it. I agree with you. In some ways I feel like everyone should sort of pay the penance of the old clubhouse for a while.”
On if the new clubhouse was discussed in the negotiations with Ben Zobrist, Jason Heyward and John Lackey, was it a factor?
“I don’t know if it was a factor. We certainly talked about it with how good our facilities are going to be. I do think the Dominican facilities are irrelevant to those guys but when you include the Dominican facility and our Spring Training site is amazing and then what we are going to have here, there’s no doubt we have … if we’re not tied for first then we’re just first all alone as far as best facilities in baseball now. Our clubhouse will be incredible. Soon enough the office building and the Plaza will be done and I just think Wrigleyville is going to be … it’s going to look wonderful.”
On the Cubs not only being predicted to have a great season and projected to win 95 games, the roster is the envy of a lot of teams in baseball, but many prognosticators think they should trade for a starting pitcher and centerfielder. Can a front office almost do much in the off-season and trade players that might be needed for in-season deals to fill areas of need due to injury or poor performance?
“I do. I think there’s a real risk in trying to create a perfect team or a team with no holes, quote-unquote, in the off-season. I think we are really happy with the group we have. If we end up going to Mesa with this exact 40-man roster, I think we’d be fine with that. Obviously if something comes up that makes sense for us over the next month or so, we will definitely engage on it. Obviously we’re working and talking to teams every day. I’m happy with where we are and I think there is no reason to tinker just for tinkering sake. And you’re right, the bullets we might need to go do something else right now, we may need to push those bullets in a different direction. You don’t know what’s going to happen in-season. One of the things that makes me really happy is that we are very versatile in a lot of areas. Very versatile pitching staff with a guy like Adam Warren, [Trevor] Cahill, [Travis] Wood, [Clayton] Richard, those guys have all started. And then obviously position playing wise, adding Zobrist, Heyward can play all over in the outfield, Javy [Javier] Baez is playing infield and outfield. [Kris] Bryant can do both. Just having the ability to move guys all over the field is such a valuable thing because we are going to have injuries. We are going to have poor performance on both pitching and hitting and you don’t know where it’s going to happen. Saving some resources and saving some bullets to be able to address that in-season, I think that’s really underrated.”
On the way a player performs at the end of a year sometimes becomes the lasting snapshot for the season, it’s best to take a step back and look at the entire picture. Jason Hammel was good in the first half, the end wasn’t great. It was the opposite for a player like Jorge Soler and Chris Coghlan had a good five months or so. Who is going to play right field? The assumption is it will be Jorge Soler that it’s his job, but he had to earn it when he came back from injury. Is Coghlan a No. 4 outfielder or will Soler and Coghlan both play right field?
“Yeah, I think we’ll move guys around for sure. Making sure that both those guys can play left and right I think is important. I think having that kind of depth in the outfield really is valuable because giving guys days off and staying fresh and getting to the end of the season in a rested way is such a valuable thing. Last year, Theo and I had a ton of worry really leading up to the All-Star break that we didn’t have the depth we wanted last year. Javy was in the minor leagues. [Tommy] La Stella was hurt and we didn’t have the bench that we had hoped for last year. And as a result we kind of worried that we were going to run guys into the ground. It’s something we want to avoid this year. It ended up being okay last year but we do need to make sure that our guys are rested and that they head into the really important part of the season really on fresh legs and able to play for seven months.”
On Jonathan Herrera and Chris Denorfia being first off the bench last year and this season it will be Javier Baez and Chris Coghlan. Baez and Coghlan would be starters on other teams, right?
“Yeah, there’s no question and I think that being able to have those guys fill in, give a guy a day off or fill in for an injury. I’ve said ad nauseam on this show that depth is such an incredibly underrated thing. Nothing is going to go according to plan. It never does. That kind of goes with the prognosticators or the projections. That stuff’s great. It means we have a talented roster. I think we know that. But we also know that it doesn’t mean anything. It means that we’re going to be faced with a lot of different decisions and a lot of things are going to come up in-season that we can’t expect right now. Having the depth to deal with that is really important. On the projections, is wonderful but we don’t read anything into it. We know really we are a third place team. We had a great year. We won 97 games, but we’ve got to get above the Cardinals and get above the Pirates. That’s really our goal. It doesn’t really make much of a difference when you look at the projections.”
On running into Anthony Rizzo at the health club and him being around 30 pounds lighter, did the Cubs tell him at the end of the year he is too fat and he should lose some weight? Or is that all him?
“[Laughs] I haven’t call him fat in a while. I actually just saw him for the first time, a couple of hours ago, I thought he looked great. I’m glad to hear he looks good in workout clothes. He doesn’t need to be quite as big as he was. I think being nimble around the bag and running the bases, I think he can improve on all those different things. But he’s a really good athlete in a very big body. His brother, I know played offensive line in college, like 300 pounds. I think Anthony has that frame that he can be huge. I love the fact that he’s taken the time to really get in great shape heading into the season.”
On the Cubs starting staff … John Lackey sent a text message to David Ross and Jon Lester when he signed, ‘Let’s go win the whole f-in’ thing.’ The players are all in, Jason Heyward is talking about the core. What is the one thing right now he’s concerned about and the one thing he’s willing to “hang his hat on” going into Spring Training?
“That’s a good question. I think that we really improved our contact-rate, situational hitting but I think that’s something we really want to stress in Spring Training. We added Zobrist and Heyward, which will help that, but I think that’s something we can do better. We have to be better at scratching one run across this year than we were last year. I thought last year we were excellent in July, August and September at kind of bludgeoning people at times but we weren’t very good at getting one run and we have to be better at that than we were last year. That’s one thing. I think the outfield defense is something that we really have to stress in Spring Training. Obviously we know Heyward is one of the best right fielders of all-time. I think he will be very good in center, but he’s going to have to work hard out there. Schwarber and Soler, those guys are going to have to work hard and really step up and be excellent in left and right because I think that’s one area. Our infield defense should be really good. Our outfield defense I think is something we have to work hard on to make sure that we good at the run prevention part of the game too.”
On comments made by Matt Silverman on MLB Network Radio, have the Cubs talked to the Rays?
“Yeah, we’ve talked to them a lot. We’ve talked to a lot of teams quite a bit. I think we have a lot of good, young players especially on the offensive side. There are some teams out there that have really good young pitching. We’ve talked to a lot of those teams. When I read Matt’s comments, he said over the next couple of years. I don’t think he was inferring something was going to happen soon. I think he was just saying as organizations go we do match up pretty well. And I think that’s probably accurate, but yeah, not close to anything there.”