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‘We have a lot of innings to cover’: How the Cubs are attacking the offseason after GM Meetings

2 years agoBruce Levine

CARLSBAD, Calif. — As baseball’s top executives met here in Carlsbad, Calif. for the annual General Managers meetings, the Chicago Cubs contingent led by president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer and new general manager Carter Hawkins arranged get-togethers with some of the 29 other teams and certain player agents.

Their goal? To pursue the right way to fill the numerous holes on the 26-man roster for 2022 and beyond.

Hoyer and Hawkins will be talking this offseason at length with other clubs about obtaining a shortstop, left-handed power bat, a strong backup catcher and, most of all, controllable starting pitching. Hoyer also said the bullpen will need some fortification.

“I will say that every veteran guy I have known has said you need veteran guys to help teach the young guys about the role,” Hoyer said about the components of his future pen. “They need to have them as mentors or to put an around when things get tough. That was why Stropie (Pedro Strop) was so amazing for us with young guys. You can’t have all young guys, you need some vets to help them through it.”

Having lost 91 games in 2021, while finishing under the .500 mark for the first time since 2014, Hoyer took the slaps on the back and congratulations with a grain of salt after picking up veteran LHP Wade Miley off waivers.

“We were excited he was on waivers and excited to land him,” Hoyer said. “We talked about needing to add innings this winter and needing to add starting pitching. Really pitching on our team throughout. It was exciting to start that process but it’s certainly not the end of that process. We have a lot of innings we need to cover.”

Hoyer noted the Cubs had to finish very low in the standings (seventh worst record in MLB) in order to get a shot at Miley. The pecking order for waiver wire choices goes in reverse order of how many games teams win the previous season. Hoyer pointed out that despite the lottery position the Cubs have in the draft and waiver deals, his group must be nimble in reacting to the free agent and trade marketplace.

“That is how I look at this whole week of meetings,” the Cubs top baseball executive said. “As I said (on Marquee) today, you go in with some plans and ideas and those often get dashed very quickly. So, you try to be prepared and opportunistic as possible. Some team may come up with a proposal we had not thought about and we have to be prepared while thinking through things quickly.”

Hoyer is energized by the addition of the new front office people he has hired. He already had a strong staff still in place from the successful playoff run the club had between 2015 and 2021.

“We talk about two forms of currency,” Hoyer pointed out. “When you are able to be more nimble with both prospects and financially, it allows you to do things (like the Miley signing) more quickly. If you are less nimble you cannot do things like that. That said, I don’t want to spend a lot of winters picking at 7 but when you do, yes it’s an advantage.”

Having money to spend on payroll is not the cure-all for teams like the Cubs. Hoyer and company do run a big market club but want to be fiscally responsible in building the next sustainable winner at Clark and Addison.

“There are those cycles in the game where teams are shedding (payroll) for certain. You must always be on the alert for that,” Hoyer said. “You try to gauge throughout the summer what teams may be dropping payroll (Reds and A’s for example right now) and be ready with the data for that. You never know what opportunities will come your way.

“If I learned anything in the game, they always will. If you are always nimble you will be able to react. We have more resources to spend in part because we don’t have the (star) players we had because they were taking up a lot of payroll space. We need to be able to use those resources in a really smart way. A lot of people look at a signing (players) for just that year, but we must look at how contracts will impact payrolls beyond that. You are not just spending 2022 dollars you are probably spending 2026 dollars as well. So, you must be careful about that.”

Asked about the atmosphere around these meetings, Cubs GM Carter Hawkins took some time explaining the culture of trade and free agent talks with the CBA contract expiring December 1 and rule changes that could impact how contract language reads in the future.

“Really for us right now, it’s business as usual,” the first-year general manager insisted. “Obviously we are optimistic a deal will get done. But that is out of our control, and it really hasn’t impacted things in discussions. Of course, you have to have a contingency plan and prepare for what may happen in the future. But the preparation and talks so far haven’t changed very much.

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