As a part of a yearly tradition, Chicago Cubs fans have become accustomed to the president of baseball operations speaking to the press at the end of the season. Prior to 2021, that face was Theo Epstein for nearly a decade. This season presented the first in-person opportunity for Jed Hoyer to take the stand after the conclusion of regular-season baseball. For Hoyer, what a hell of a season to have to recap after the way 2021 played out, am I right?
That said, Hoyer has plenty of experience in a baseball front office. Despite this being his first true time as the “top dog” so to speak, Jed knows how to handle situations like this. His press conference offered several interesting things to watch over the coming months. Without further ado, let’s jump into some of those takeaways.
Praise for David Ross
Jed Hoyer shared plenty of praise of manager David Ross during his end-of-season presser. Hoyer not only confirmed the reports that Ross and the Cubs have discussed an extension, but he also noted that Ross is a great manager to work with on a regular basis.
To be frank, fans should love the fact that Hoyer backs Ross as much as he does. There is certainly the possibility that Hoyer’s pick was Ross, given that Theo Epstein said the succession plan was in place for a few seasons. If that’s the case, then Hoyer and Ross certainly appear to be tied at the hip.
Despite the tough season, Hoyer said Ross, “kept morale [high],” among other praises. 2021 was truly a hell of a test for the second-year manager, but he handled every blow in stride.
Ah yes, the looming CBA negotiations are certainly something Jed Hoyer and company need to consider entering this offseason. It’s undoubtedly an “elephant in the room” of sorts, given any terrible negotiations between the two sides could lead to a strike. However, as fellow my Cubs On Tap panelist, Juice, said on Monday’s episode, the two sides cannot afford a strike after the loss of a full, 162-game season with COVID-19 in 2020.
Now, the CBA will not only affect if a season is played or not. Rather, it will affect how players are compensated, when teams can talk to players, and so much more. Hoyer, as well as the rest of the league, will possibly be in a bit of a holding pattern until the new agreement is finalized.
One important thing a new CBA might change is the service time rules in the MLB. With a possible abolishment of the rule impending, Cubs’ top prospect Brennen Davis may play in the Opening Day lineup, unlike top prospects of year’s past.
The Legend of Frank Schwindel
Who didn’t love the story that was Frank Schwindel in 2021? Yes, the Cubs endured one of the most epic sell-offs of all time, but Schwindel’s story was a bright spot during the second half. The 29-year-old rookie won NL Rookie of the Month in both August and September, all while providing a high-contact bat that also possessed power.
“That was a lot of fun to watch. Watching the way he played, the energy he had, the way he grinded his at-bats… I think Frank is going to be a big part of our team.”– Cubs’ president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer
Schwindel was incredible. Hoyer noted that he isn’t anointing anyone at any position just yet, but stating that Frank will be a big part of the team in 2022 is certainly noteworthy for his future in Chicago.
Don’t Have to Win the Offseason
Jed Hoyer pointed to two teams specifically, the Tampa Bay Rays and San Francisco Giants, as teams that didn’t “win the offseason” but made the right moves to put a good team on the field.
Based on Hoyer’s words, it’s safe to believe this will be the Cubs’ approach this winter. Sure, they can target a big bat or big arm (or two in both cases), but realistically they’ll aim to make good decisions that don’t hinder the team long-term. If that’s the case, a few “splash-like” moves may take place, but realistically, more mid-level moves appear to be the Cubs’ appetite during the baseball hibernation.
Pitching, Pitching, and More Pitching
Jed Hoyer was quoted prioritizing pitching prior to Wednesday’s presser, but the team’s president of baseball operations doubled down on that sentiment.
The Cubs are certainly in need of pitching, there is little doubt about that. As a team in 2021, the Cubs had the fourth-worst team ERA in all of baseball. Only the Pirates, Diamondbacks, and Orioles possessed higher team ERAs. There are a lot of options that the Cubs can bring in this winter, so there is faith that Hoyer will act on these comments and bolster the team’s pitching ahead of 2022.
Willson Contreras “played too much.” Those were exact words from Hoyer on Wednesday. The Cubs’ backup catchers were not only bad in 2021, but they were also a revolving door with seven (yes, re-read that) secondary backstops being used throughout the season.
Contreras played the sixth-most games of any catcher across baseball in 2021, even with missing time due to injury. Hoyer indicated in his press conference that Willson is an elite offensive player, but when the legs are dead from playing too much it’s difficult to contribute at a high level offensively. If the Cubs want the best out of Willson Contreras, that likely means adding a quality backup catcher to the mix. In addition, if the CBA leads to a DH in the NL, Contreras’s bat can be a difference-maker without him having to be behind the plate more than three or four times a week.
Aside from pitching, Jed needs to prioritize finding a reliable backup this winter so Willson isn’t catching six days a week in 2022.
Happ-y for Ian
Ian Happ’s second half was sensational and really turned around his future with the Cubs. Entering the latter part of the season, many within the fan base called for Happ to be non-tendered this winter. However, Happ began to turn his season around in early August, picking up a lot of steam in the middle of the month and through September.
In September alone, Happ slashed .323/.394/.615 with seven home runs and 22 RBIs. He and Schwindel were by far the best offensive players for the Cubs at the end of the season. However, Happ’s hot streak extends his stay in Chicago and possibly fits him into a better spot in the lineup that suits his strengths in 2022. Happ led off at times and hit lower in the lineup early in the year but found himself in the heart of the order later in the season.
Hoyer only touched on Happ briefly, but he mentioned not taking away from late-season performances, and Happ’s is certainly one that fits that mold. Happ’s last two months were special and that’s something he can hopefully build on moving forward.
Jed Hoyer set up the 2021 offseason perfectly. He presents just enough insight to the media and fan base without tipping his hand about the future. There are many holes on the Cubs’ roster. There are also plenty of players on the roster who can make an impact in 2022. If Hoyer is the baseball mastermind that he is perceived to be, he’ll make the “right” moves this winter to ensure the Cubs are competitive in 2022 and beyond.