Hoyer's goal for Cubs: Don't win the offseason, win next season
The basic themes of the Cubs offseason were already obvious, but team president Jed Hoyer expanded on those thoughts during his end of season address with reporters on Wednesday.
The Cubs plan to be active in free-agency, but Hoyer has emphasized spending money wisely.
What does that mean? Well, just look around baseball to find some answers.
Yankees pitcher Gerrit Cole ($324 million) lasted just 2 innings in Tuesday's AL Wild Card loss. Bryce Harper ($330 million) might win NL MVP, but hasn't lifted the Phillies into the playoffs in three season.
There are plenty of other examples where spending big didn't pay off for MLB teams.
"The Giants, for example, they certainly didn't win the offseason. They won the season," Hoyer said. "The Rays lost (Blake) Snell and lost (Charlie) Morton. They certainly didn't win the offseason last year. They won the season.
"There are teams out there that made huge splashes, they were aggressive, they were lauded for all the things they did and they're not playing in October -- just like us. So as we build this, I think it's really important to make one good decision after another. That's how I think about the offseason."
It took the Cubs a long, long time to build a World Series winner, let alone a team that could be a consistent playoff participant. Hoyer looked at his personal experience for optimism about the Cubs building another winning team.
"I remember sitting in St. Louis in the summer of 2013 and looking at their lineup and looking at our lineup and feeling like we were literally light-years away from being able to compete with them," he said. "Two years later, we beat them in the division series and kind of kept going from there. So I think things can change quickly, I think that's the goal."
Hoyer also reiterated that pitching will be a high priority this winter. The Cubs ranked 27th in starting pitcher ERA this season at 5.27. The top 11 teams in starter ERA either made the playoffs or came close.
Some of the top starters on the market aged 31 or younger include Carlos Rodon, Robbie Ray, Marcus Stroman, Kevin Gausman, Noah Syndergaard, Eduardo Rodriguez, Alex Wood, Steven Matz, Michael Wacha and the Cubs' own Zach Davies.
The Cubs got Davies from San Diego in the Yu Darvish trade. He had disappointing results with the Cubs and Hoyer made it clear he's not really looking for a starter with less velocity than Kyle Hendricks.
"You need power pitching, you need power arms to win in today's game," Hoyer said. "You need to be able to miss bats, there's no question about that.
"I think Kyle Hendricks, he's been so good for so long with his pitch mix. In a lot of ways he's sort of a modern unicorn."
The Cubs have three younger pitchers who throw in the mid-90s with Adbert Alzolay, Justin Steele and Keegan Thompson. Hoyer said he expects all three to be in the mix next season, though their exact roles are to be determined.
"Our pitching fell short and a significant part of that is we didn't strike enough guys out, we didn't miss enough bats, we put too much pressure on our defense," Hoyer said. "We do need to get more power arms. That's something we're actively developing in the minors and I feel good about the progress there.
"But that's something we'll be looking for in free-agency as well. The makeup of our staff this year was too contact-oriented and that's something that needs to change."
Hoyer talked about individual players on the roster, but that was mostly stating the obvious. He expects Frank Schwindel, Patrick Wisdom, Nico Hoerner and Ian Happ to plays roles next season. He's hoping for a bounce back from veteran outfielder Jason Heyward, who is owed $44 million over the next two years.
He said they usually talk about extensions in the spring, so there's no news on a potential deal to keep Willson Contreras around long-term. A more immediate goal is finding a reliable backup catcher.
"With Willson, I think he played too much," Hoyer said. "I think he got worn down. I think he's an elite offensive player, but it's hard to be an elite offensive player when your legs are gone. That's something we have to really focus on, that we can keep Willson as an elite offensive player."
Hoyer said outfield prospect Brennen Davis exceeded expectations this year, so there's no plan yet for where he'll start next season. Top pitching prospect Brailyn Marquez, who missed the season with injuries, is healthy now, but likely won't ramp up his activity until the spring.
Hoyer confirmed hitting coach Anthony Iapoce is moving on, as is Mike Borzello, who spent 10 years with the Cubs and was serving as associate pitching, catching and strategy coach. Hoyer said the Cubs will retain assistant hitting coach Chris Valaika, though not necessarily in the lead spot.
Hoyer also said momentum continues to move toward a contract extension for manager David Ross.