Lessons learned, Chicago Cubs ready to move forward

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Chicago Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer, left, and president of baseball operations Theo Epstein watch as players warm up before Game 3 of the National League championship series against the New York Mets last month at Wrigley Field.

    Chicago Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer, left, and president of baseball operations Theo Epstein watch as players warm up before Game 3 of the National League championship series against the New York Mets last month at Wrigley Field. Associated Press

 
 
Posted11/8/2015 7:30 AM

Before he got set to take off for this week's general managers meetings, Cubs GM Jed Hoyer took a moment to reflect on the 2015 season.

"I think the further I get away from it, I've ended up in a place where I thought it was as fun a ride as I can remember," he said. "Just a great group of guys. Tons of comeback wins. Tons of walk-off wins. Obviously, we exceeded everyone's expectations, including our own. We thought we had a good team. I think 97 wins exceeded even our highest expectations for this team.

 

"But it never felt unnatural. It felt like the snowball got rolling down the hill. We were confident. Our veteran guys led well and played well. Our young guys, they're talented, and they kept getting better and better as the season went on.

"It just felt like what happens when a team gets hot late in a season, and I thought our group was really good and really strong, and we were led by a great coaching staff."

The Cubs' postseason ended in a four-game sweep at the hands of the Mets in the National League championship series, a series in which Hoyer said the New York played "almost four perfect games against us."

The focus of Hoyer and team president Theo Epstein now is on moving forward as they travel to Boca Raton, Florida, to meet with other GMs and agents for free-agent players, several of whom intrigue the Cubs, especially the pitchers.

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Guiding the future by the past, Hoyer said he took away a couple of things from the Cubs' season and postseason.

"To me, it underscores two things: the value of winning your division," he said. "We won the one-game (wild-card) playoff. The nature of that game, it makes you want to win your division and get right to your five-game series.

"The second take-away is you have to get there every year or almost every year because what you really want is to be that team, the hottest team. The Royals got really hot after they were almost eliminated by the Astros, and they rolled through people.

"You make it every year, and you have much better odds of being that hot team that can sustain three series."

To get back there next year and in the years to come, the Cubs will have to do a couple of things. They'll need to upgrade their starting pitching, and they'll need to find a center fielder and leadoff hitter if Dexter Fowler leaves via free agency.

Big-name pitchers David Price and Zack Greinke are on the Cubs' radar -- as well as on the radars of other teams -- and a return of longtime Cub Jeff Samardzija as a free-agent signing isn't out of the question after Samardzija completed this past season with the White Sox.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"Our focus is going to be on adding starting pitching," Hoyer said. "Certainly we want to add at least one, but we do need to impact our starting-pitching depth. We will certainly look to add multiple starting pitchers at various levels of the organization. That's probably the best way to say it.

"We could add a couple of guys at the major-league level. As far as what we hope to add to our 40-man roster, we're going to look to add considerable depth.

"One of the great things about our season was that we were really healthy in our rotation. I think we're realistic to know that's oftentimes good fortune, and we have to prepare for seasons where we're not as fortunate as far as starting-pitcher health."

In most years, the GM meetings are used to set the groundwork for possible deals down the road. This year it could be different.

"I expect the conversations (this) week to become much more detailed," Hoyer said. "As we saw with the deal between the Mariners and the Rays (last week), I think it could become a very fast-moving trade market. I think there could be, if not action in Boca, I think there can be action soon after that.

"Some years, you go to the GM meetings and you're kind of information gathering. I think there's probably going to be a little more urgency for teams. Given the fact that there's already been a trade, I think people realize things could happen quickly, and I think people are going to be ready to move quickly."

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