Hoyer expects Cubs offense to look different in 2021
Jed Hoyer has plenty of items on his checklist as he takes over the Cubs front office, but one of the top priorities will be solving the mystery that has been the offense in recent seasons.
The Cubs have largely had the same core of hitters for this entire six-year stretch. It’s obviously served them well, with three straight trips to the National League Championship Series and a historic World Series title.
It’s led to plenty of individual success too — a slew of All-Star appearances and MVP votes, including Kris Bryant taking home the award in 2016 and Javy Báez finishing second in 2018.
2020 is a difficult season to evaluate, as it was so different from any other year. Bryant, for example, missed time with injuries and played only about a month’s worth of games.
But the shortened season was a continuation of a level of offensive underperformance the Cubs have been open about since the 2015-17 run.
“The irony of the whole thing on the hitting side is we’ve drafted and developed great hitters,” Hoyer said. “We’ve actually had surplus hitters and we’ve been able to trade some of those hitters for pitchers. That’s been frustrating that we haven’t had the offensive juggernaut that we thought we were developing, to be frank.
“Most of the time since the season [ended] that we’ve spent talking about our team has been talking about what we can do to fix that offense. What are we not doing well enough? How can we change practice habits? How can we change our messaging? We’ve had countless discussions about that because it is a problem. The problems you guys see and the problems you guys talk about are the same things we’re trying to fix on a daily basis.”
So how do the Cubs fix this particular problem?
Hoyer faces some difficult decisions with the core group of hitters this winter, as four guys — Bryant, Báez, Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber — are only a year away from free agency.
All four have had high levels of success in the big leagues and it’s easy to look at the back of their baseball cards and immediately chalk up 2020 as an aberration.
Plus, the Cubs have to feel good about their long-term offensive players. Ian Happ just turned in a breakout season, Jason Heyward had his best offensive year in a Cubs uniform and Willson Contreras has started the last two games for the NL All-Star team.
But for whatever reason, the combination of this group has not performed up to their own standards and as a result, change is likely coming to the Cubs lineup.
“On the offensive side, we want to look and feel and perform different than we have the last few years,” Hoyer said. “We need to be different as an offense, no question. I think we have to identify some of the things we’ve done poorly and we have to work to improve them.
“That is this game. You’re always tackling a new challenge. Nothing’s ever perfect. You never have a perfect roster. You never have a perfect situation. Right now, the thing we’re trying to figure out is why we struggle offensively given the players we have. So yes, I do think the offense will look different next year.”
How different is the question.
We’ll find out in the coming months as Hoyer looks to move this organization into its next phase.