Jed Hoyer teases more moves as Cubs ‘not done with our offseason by any stretch’
The commentary and chatter surrounding the Cubs’ slow-moving offseason has not been lost on team president Jed Hoyer.
“I got the jokes for sure,” Hoyer said Friday at Cubs Convention. “It’s been a slow offseason in general, I think, around the industry. Obviously, we were a little slower than most.”
The Cubs stunned the baseball world in early November by firing David Ross to hire Craig Counsell as manager. Some viewed it as potentially the first big move of a busy offseason. A quiet two months followed instead; the Cubs were the last team to sign or trade for an MLB player this winter.
As of just a few days ago, they had done neither. But after landing Japanese starter Shōta Imanaga on a multi-year deal and acquiring top prospect Michael Busch from the Dodgers this week, the Cubs may just be getting started.
“We’re certainly not done with our offseason by any stretch,” Hoyer said.
With Imanaga aboard, the expectation is the Cubs are done adding to the rotation, barring something opportunistic falling their way on the market. But Hoyer is still looking to add in several other areas to a team that finished 83-79 in 2023 and missed the postseason by one game. The top offensive contributor from that team, Cody Bellinger, remains a free agent.
It’s no surprise, then, the starting lineup remains an area of need. Hoyer said the Cubs are still talking to several established free agent hitters and looking to add someone.
“I do think offensively, one of the big focuses has been the ability to hit right-hand pitching,” Hoyer said. “That’s been a focus, but sometimes that comes in the form of a right-handed hitter as well. We do need to handle right-handed pitching better as a team, and that’s something we’re focused on.”
Busch will get a shot to help in that area. Hoyer said the 26-year-old “certainly is going to play,” and first base is a natural spot for him. Busch, who debuted with the Dodgers last season, received sparse big league playing time but was named the 2023 Pacific Coast League MVP.
But Bellinger is the most obvious avenue coming off a strong 2023 campaign in which he earned NL Comeback Player of the Year honors after several down seasons at the plate. He also played strong defense in center field and at first base and has hit righties well in his career, including 16 home runs and an .830 OPS last season.
Hoyer did not tip his hand on any negotiations with the former MVP but reaffirmed his feelings on him.
“I think the world of Cody. Obviously, he had a great year here,” Hoyer said. “And even beyond having a great year for us, he really ingratiated himself well with the city, the fan base, the players. The players really think highly of him, and he knows that I think highly of him. None of that has changed at all.”
Hoyer also noted overall depth as a priority, as well as adding to a bullpen that collectively hit a wall last September. The Busch trade with the Dodgers also netted right-hander Yency Almonte, and the Cubs have made multi-year offers to relievers this winter.
“There’s a lot of ways to skin the bullpen cat, but we do need to focus on it,” Hoyer said. “It was an Achilles heel last year for sure.”
Bellinger is represented by agent Scott Boras, who historically has taken his clients’ free agencies into the later stages of the winter. In that case, patience is important. It also can be said of the Cubs’ offseason overall as Hoyer maintains a pragmatic approach in a slow-moving market, with a short- and long-term outlook in mind.
“The way I see it is I want to do good deals,” Hoyer said. “I don’t want to just do deals. There was really nothing early on that presented itself that made a lot of sense for us. You’ve got to be patient. Even now I look at it, and we made a couple of deals this week, but we’ll end up making more deals this winter.”
For as slow-moving as this offseason started, there is still about a month before pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training and two and a half months until Opening Day.
“I think Jed’s job and the front office’s job is to strike when the deal is right,” Counsell said. “And until then, you have to be busy. Until then, you have to just wait. That’s how an offseason works. You don’t know when the opportunities are going to come and when the negotiations are going to turn and the right phone calls are going to come.
“We’ve certainly added some really, really good players and interesting players over the last four or five days, and the offseason has got a ways to go.”