The Cubs have been telling us for a while that they’re hard up for cash, and now things have gotten so bad that executives are being forced to operate remote parking shuttles. I don’t have evidence of that, but it’s the only way to explain Jed Hoyer throwing three of his former star players under the bus Monday afternoon.
Wait, no, a better explanation is that he’s trying to stay out in front to better spin the narrative that he was left with no option than to trade nearly everyone away. Simply presenting this as an organizational choice would not be a good look for a team that figures to be lackluster for at least one more season and that lacks dynamic star power at a time when gate receipts and television revenue already appear to be struggling.
Hoyer obviously can’t come out and criticize ownership’s budget mandates, so a little proactive PR was to be expected. However, the degree to which he spun things recently qualifies him as a tribute band rocking classics like “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong” and “Pocket Full of Kryptonite.”
If only the Cubs really did have pockets full of something green rather than repelling the supermen who’d led them to a world title. But since shutting up is actually free, Hoyer could have done exactly that for much less than the cost of a veteran reliever. And he almost did, until he didn’t.
“So that is the thing that will probably be my greatest source of frustration from this era,” Hoyer told ESPN 1000’s Kap and J. Hood (h/t @CubRachel). And I don’t wanna address anyone individually, we said we wouldn’t talk about extension talks publicly and I think it’s in bad faith to do it now.
”The only thing I will say is that, while frustrating, I put my head on the pillow every night knowing we put our best foot forward. The extensions we offered these guys will hold up exceptionally well, historically they’ll hold up exceptionally well against the open market. I don’t know why guys didn’t want to sign. I don’t know why guys didn’t want to even counteroffer, oftentimes. I don’t know.”
Okay, that’s exactly what you’d expect him to say because it’s pretty much what he’s been saying the whole time. But then, perhaps because he’d already gotten on a bit of a roll and just couldn’t stop himself, Hoyer essentially painted his former players as the bad guys.
“Every one of these guys would say they wanted to stay in Chicago, ‘We wanted to be a Cub,’ but then we would sit down and do negotiations, that wasn’t how they acted,” Hoyer continued. “And, you know, I see a guy like Lance Lynn who comes to Chicago and signs an extension and he certainly could have gotten more on the open market this winter but he said, ‘I wanna stay here, I wanna be a White Sock.’
“That wasn’t the same thing that — other than Kyle Hendricks, who I admire for really rolling up his sleeves with us — we didn’t have that and so it’s a source of incredible frustration for me. But at the same time, it’s a source of zero second-guessing, a source of zero analysis on my part. What could we have done?
”Because I look at it and I know what was offered and I know what the dialogue was. I accept that we put our best foot forward and tried our hardest but it was not reciprocated.”
I’m not sure how he can be so confident about putting his best foot forward when it’s stuck so firmly in his mouth, but go off, king. Without even digging into the veracity of Hoyer’s claims, which I admittedly find pretty dubious, this is just so ill-advised. However, it tracks perfectly with what David Kaplan has reported and maintained over the last couple of years, at least in regard to Kris Bryant, so it’s conceivable Hoyer got a little of the unholy spirit while he preached to the choir and ended up speaking in loose tongues.
That looks even worse when you consider how it appears to contradict what he’d previously said about these players. After first talking about leaving the door open to them, which was itself little more than lip service, he just slammed that door shut. What’s more, Hoyer had indicated to each of the players he traded that he’d kept their interests in mind when seeking out deals.
“Yeah, I think that’s what he told all of us,” Bryant told the media in San Francisco when asked about Hoyer’s trade strategy. “I’m going to believe him in that that’s what he wanted for us. He sent Craig Kimbrel to the White Sox. His daughter has a heart condition and he doesn’t have to move. That’s very respectable. Rizzo going to New York and his family being from there.
”Javy going to play with his friend Francisco Lindor. Me going out West to play for such a winning organization and having my family close by. That’s a very classy move, I think.”
You can take the “cl” right out, though, because Hoyer’s latest words were very ass, I think. There’s simply nothing to be gained from such a statement unless it’s to serve his own best interests when it comes to prepping the media and fans for the rebuild to come. Maybe he realized he had given people false hope for a reunion or two in free agency and needed to squash that idea quickly.
Or maybe it’s like that trope in which someone says mean things they don’t actually believe just to push someone further away emotionally. Anthony Rizzo expressed as much when asked about Hoyer’s comments.
“I’m kind of confused on why,” Rizzo told Kap and J. Hood. “Why say that? Sounds like a bad breakup and the person saying they’re fine when they’re not fine.
“Listen, when it comes to the guys on or team and what we did — Gold Gloves, Silver Sluggers, MVPs, Rookie of the Years, good people — those things cost money. I know it comes down to a business, and when you want your cake and you want to eat it too, that’s kind of how it seemed.”
Hoyer saying what he did serves only to piss off a large swath of fans while giving credence to others who believe Bryant, Báez, and Rizzo were under some obligation to subjugate their own best interests to the spendthrift whims of ownership.
In the end, what strikes me more than anything is how ham-fistedly unnecessary the whole thing was. There was never an expectation that Hoyer would be a Theo Epstein clone, but the departure we’re seeing when it comes to addressing the media really makes me long for the past. Even if Epstein often talked around specifics, he was measured and transparent. Hoyer seems to talk in circles, saying either nothing at all or way too much.
This was certainly a case of the latter and it’s concerning beyond just the more obvious matter of being a dick move. Very recently, the Cubs were a model organization that lured free agents and convinced them to sign for less than they could otherwise earn because the culture and competitiveness made it all worthwhile. Now, however, the president of baseball operations is trading away most of his stars while publicly decrying their lack of desire to sign team-friendly deals.
Is that a place big-time free agents want to go? I mean, yeah, you can get anyone if the money is right, but that hasn’t been the case for the Cubs since Yu Darvish and we saw what happened with him. This isn’t a matter of the players being greedy prima donnas, it’s the Cubs not truly wanting to spend what it would take to keep those players. Hoyer could have stuck to a simpler version of that idea and just left well enough alone, so why he chose to salt the ground here I’ll probably never know.
As with so many other think-pieces about this particular topic and the Cubs’ future in general, we’re really going to need to wait for the offseason to see whether and how there’s any impact. The Cubs have a tremendous salary surplus after this season, one that would easily allow them to retool and contend quickly as their improved farm system pays dividends. Or they could choose to operate cheaply while relying heavily on the minors to supply impact talent down the road.
I could be wrong, but Hoyer’s comments indicate the latter is the preferred path.