Jed Hoyer addressed several topics in a Zoom call with media members Monday morning as the Cubs close in on the start of spring training. Their gear was all packed up last week and health protocols are expected to be agreed upon by Tuesday, so expect to hear about firm report dates soon. The Cubs have also received approval to operate Sloan Park at 25% capacity for Cactus League games, a development that could boost their revenue projections.
Though Hoyer was not explicit in that regard, he did mention that “a number of factors” led to their baseball budget projection being adjusted upward. That was first reported a little over a week ago, right around the time the Cubs agreed to a deal with Joc Pederson. It also coincided with news about the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the approval of which could hasten the ability for Wrigley Field to host fans in 2021.
Jed Hoyer said they did get recent news on “a number of factors” that updated their budget projection. He said they’ll likely add more players in the next week or so.
— jon greenberg (@jon_greenberg) February 8, 2021
While we don’t know whether Hoyer was simply addressing that initial increase or speaking to the availability of even more payroll flexibility, he did clarify the team’s direction this winter. Barring a deal that really bowls them over, it sounds as though the Cubs are not actively looking to swing any trades at this point. Or, perhaps more accurately, they’re not concerned with slashing more salary.
“There’s no necessity to cut,” Hoyer said. “By definition, we’re trying to add depth and pieces to help us win.”
Hoyer on budget (plans to add still to roster):
"There's no necessity to cut. By definition we're trying to add depth and pieces to help us win."
That includes trying to add another starting pitcher, he said.
— Gordon Wittenmyer (@GDubCub) February 8, 2021
Hoyer specifically mentioned the desire to add another starting pitcher, something that has been reported for a while now. Even after agreeing to a deal with Trevor Williams, the Cubs have continued to monitor the market for rotation depth and have been connected to several different names to this point. However, many of those have already fallen off the list.
Carlos Rodón re-signed with the White Sox, Mike Foltynewicz joined the Rangers, Chris Archer got more than expected from the Rays, and Jake Arrieta is reportedly seeking more than the Cubs want to offer. Other intriguing names include Taijuan Walker, who looked good in 2020 after missing nearly two years due to Tommy John Surgery, and James Paxton, who was limited last year by back issues.
The question with those two is whether health issues have limited their respective markets such that the Cubs can “afford” them. Even starters with checkered pasts have been commanding bigger deals than anticipated, so it could be a matter of whether and by how much Hoyer’s budget has expanded. The Williams contract seems to be something of a ceiling, but it’s possible that getting creative with deferrals and incentives could allow the Cubs to add someone in a higher tier.
“If there’s an area that sort of — I don’t want to say keeps me up at night — but an area that I wake up in the morning and think about how to deal with, it’s definitely the pitching,” Hoyer said.
Even if one move won’t elevate them to Central favorites in and of itself, creating solid depth in the rotation helps them from falling too far off the pace being set by the Cardinals. Pederson’s addition actually rounds out both the defense and offense a little more while bouncebacks from several disappointing performances in 2020 could see the Cubs hanging crooked numbers with more consistency.
If it feels like I’m polishing a turd here, well, I guess I am to a certain degree. But I’ll be damned if this thing won’t look a little shinier with one or two more buffs.