Cubs News

What Carter Hawkins brings to the Cubs front office

3 years agoTony Andracki

Whenever a front office fills a new top executive position, there’s always a natural follow-up question:

Why this person?

The answer is always complex; there’s never just one reason.

In the case of the Cubs hiring Carter Hawkins to be the team’s new GM, it might be a little more simple than normal.

Think of Hawkins as the yin to Jed Hoyer’s yang.

See, this was already a unique situation for the Cubs. When Theo Epstein stepped down as president of baseball operations last fall, Hoyer was promoted into the role, leaving the GM spot vacant.

The rest of the front office has undergone some minor moves over the last calendar year but by and large, this is the same group from the end of Epstein’s tenure. It was not a cleaning-house type situation where the entire front office underwent a shake-up.

So Hoyer wanted to bring somebody in who was a complementary fit to the front office structure already in place. He was looking for a new partner.

Enter Hawkins, who spent 14 years in the Cleveland front office as an assistant GM and filled multiple roles in player development.

“I think [Hawkins balances] me out a little bit,” Hoyer said. “The way I came up in the game was kind of more on the player procurement/player acquisition/transaction side than it was on the player development side. And so for me, knowing what my areas of expertise are, I think he balances really well. He’s obviously been involved in trades and negotiations, but the main area he’s focused on has been player development. It was a really nice balance for my skill set.

“And then I do think it balances out our front office as well. The single most important thing we’re gonna do over the next three to five years is gonna be player development. As an industry, that’s where people are pouring resources right now to get an edge. And also in terms of our need to build this next wave.”

The next wave Hoyer is referring to is the talent coming up through the Cubs farm system. Many of the organization’s top prospects are years away from the big leagues — acquired in trades over the last calendar year, in the Amateur Draft or as international signings.

The key to building that next great Cubs team — Hoyer’s oft-stated goal — will be a pipeline of players coming up through the minor leagues to augment the group in Chicago.

Hawkins comes from a Cleveland organization that has been wildly successful at that in recent years — especially on the pitching side.

Over the last nine seasons, Cleveland has made the playoffs five times and finished above .500 in eight of the nine years (2021 was the only outlier, with an 80-82 final record). That included a run to the 2016 World Series, where Hoyer’s Cubs outlasted Hawkins’ Indians in an epic Fall Classic.

All the while, Cleveland sported a payroll in the bottom half of the league, most often finishing among the 10 lowest payrolls in Major League Baseball.

“Player development there is a must,” Hoyer said. “There is no success without it. In a bigger market, you can spend some money and go after some free agents but you have to draft and sign and develop players in a place like Cleveland. And obviously they’ve done that really, really well.”

That’s a unique perspective for Hawkins as he grew up in this industry — learning how to win with all those payroll constraints. Now he’s in a big market in Chicago and can lean on the experience in Cleveland to help the Cubs front office move forward.

When Hoyer whittled down his list of GM candidates, he found that all of the finalists had an expertise in player development.

“Ultimately, that will be the key to this next wave of success — how well can we take these players we traded for, the international signings and amateur signings and get them to the big leagues?” Hoyer said. “We have to do a great job in player development over the next three to five years. And obviously that was a huge part of my focus in this hire.”

Hawkins joins the Cubs at a time when developing players is paramount to the future of the franchise, but it’s a challenge he fully comprehends.

“There is no secret sauce,” he said. “Everything we do has to come back to winning at the major league level. But that is a lagging indicator. The leading indicator is having great people with great processes who are disciplined in those processes, who are committed to our organization and its vision.

“All of those processes have to lead back to acquiring and developing players better than the other 29 teams. The challenge is: Every time you have a press conference like this, you’re gonna hear somebody talking about acquiring and developing players. That’s because it’s the most important thing to do to lead toward major league winning.

“But it’s also one of the hardest things to do. It is so easy to skip steps. It is so easy to pull the plug on the process when you don’t get immediate results. But I know it can happen here for two really good reasons: 1) It has happened here. And 2) It is happening here.”

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