After years of talking about change and accountability but never doing anything to meaningfully address shortcomings of the roster, Jed Hoyer drove the Cubs across the rubicon with a series of trades that indicate a rebuild. He even admitted it’ll be as much after initially opting to use different re-words, though walking back previous statements has kind of become Hoyer’s jam lately.
The president of baseball operations invited all manner of scorn, including from Anthony Rizzo, when he more or less threw his former players under the bus on ESPN 1000. As Hoyer explained in Denver, it was a poor choice of words and may have been something of a catharsis.
“(Monday) on the radio I got asked a direct question and I did express my frustration of never getting deals done,” Hoyer told members of the media prior to the series opener against the Rockies. “And I think that frustration comes from a good place. It comes from a place of wanting to get deals done and wanting to keep those guys here. If I could do it over again, would I have probably ended that sentence earlier? I probably would have.”
He probably also would have ended the collective tenure of the Cubs’ core a little earlier if he could do it over again, though there are probably a few other deals he’d take back first. The issue isn’t simply that the franchise mainstays couldn’t get it done or that Tom Ricketts is cheap, ideas that form disparate hills upon which far too many of you out there are willing to die.
In reality, the two concepts form one big hole from which the team hasn’t been able to climb. The Cubs’ downfall was that their poor decisions were rooted in the promise that big money would be there to pay off the mistakes. But rather than spend through a path that grew considerably rockier after 2016, ownership clamped down on the budget and applied the pressure that culminated in last Friday’s sell-off.
Now it’s a matter of whether and when the Cubs will spend big again, something Hoyer indicated will indeed be the case with the Cubs committing under $50 million to player payroll next season. They have to spend out of necessity, unless they fill the roster with minor leaguers, so it’s just a matter of how big they want to go in free agency.
“When I say I don’t know exactly when we’re gonna [be contenders again], it’s more because I’m being honest,” Hoyer told 670 The Score’s Bernstein & Rahimi. “We have the ability to be opportunistic and we have the ability to pivot if things come up.
“We don’t know exactly the rules of the game going forward, so I think that’s important. Ultimately, no, this isn’t a 2012, 2013 situation. This isn’t a long rebuild.”
You can toss out the stuff about being opportunistic and pivoting because that’s something he’s said about 37 times over the past few years, and almost in those exact same terms each time. It’s earwash. The stuff about the CBA, though, that makes sense. Teams don’t know where the competitive balance tax threshold will be set or whether there will be new rules about rookie contracts or salary floors. There’s a lot yet to determine.
But where Hoyer really needs to be held to his words is about the duration of this rebuild, which we all know is like trusting a contractor with a firm deadline on a home build that’s part of a brand new subdivision. Bearing in mind Hoyer refused to put a specific timeline on it, we know it’ll have to be less than five years. Or less than four, since the 2015 team won 97 games and appeared in the NLCS.
So do you buy that Hoyer can have the Cubs in the hunt for the NL Central and the team’s first postseason win since 2017 within three years? A better question is whether you believe they’ll spend the money to make that happen. They’d better, since rolling out an inferior product is going to hurt revenue in a big way.
This winter, or at whatever point the CBA is finalized, will tell us a lot more about how realistic Hoyer’s vague timeline really is.