Depending on which way your fandom is trending, you’re either buying in or tuning out what the Cubs were peddling this weekend. Love/hate relationships generally produce myriad feelings, including scorn and doubt, but no matter how you feel about Chicago’s executive and ownership branches, both are promising to provide plenty of hot stove news this winter.
On Friday, Jed Hoyer officially announced Carter Hawkins as the team’s newest GM, filling the vacancy created when Hoyer took over for Theo Epstein as president of baseball operations late last fall. Hawkins arrives from Cleveland, where he was assistant GM to Mike Chernoff.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) October 15, 2021
The newly minted GM has a background in player development, which will be a welcome addition to an organization that boasts a boatload of promising arms at almost every minor league level. Hawkins contributed to the development of Cleveland’s starting rotation in recent years, one that has had great success at the major league level. Some of the team’s star pitchers past and present include Shane Bieber, Aaron Civale, Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, and Triston McKenzie, among others. There are a couple more promising pitchers in the Guardians pipeline, including Daniel Espino and Gavin Williams.
Hawkins and Hoyer will meet with the media today, and Hoyer has said repeatedly since the season ended that starting pitching is the team’s number one priority this winter. Cubs starters had a 5.27 ERA this year, which ranked 27th in baseball. Getting five quality innings per game out of the rotation was something of a rarity, putting added pressure on the bullpen that frequently churned through personnel.
In other team news, Tom Ricketts sent a note to season ticket holders and those on the waiting list this weekend. Love or hate him, he’s promised to spend money this winter, wants the team to be competitive, and pledged his love for the fans who stuck with the team through its roster overhaul at the trade deadline.
“While highs and lows are a part of our game and nothing novel for unwavering Cubs fans,” Ricketts wrote. “I know 2021 was a lot to process. Further, while making good long-term decisions with our roster looks good on paper, it doesn’t soften the pain of losing or the emptiness of missing the postseason. With our attention now solely on the 2022 season, please know this: we respect your high expectations, we share your desire to win and we commit to fielding a competitive team reflective of your unrivaled support. We’re more than excited to enjoy both the journey and our ultimate destination of winning another World Series championship with you again soon.”
Many of us have been critical of Ricketts and we know the sting of being let down time after time since 2017, but I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt this winter. I don’t believe that “spending intelligently” is corporate-speak for persuing the unwanted and misfits section of free agency, though nobody can convince me that players like Max Scherzer, Kris Bryant, and Carlos Correa will be targeted by Hoyer and Hawkins. Still, the tandem should have plenty of financial ammunition to build back better, apologies to Joe Biden. If anything, it should be an interesting offseason once the new CBA is in place. As usual, we’ll have you covered here at Cubs Insider with all of the rumors and breaking news.
Cubs News & Notes
- If the Cubs are looking to sign an impact player this winter, Correa is one of the better fits in free agency.
- The Cubs have just three players on guaranteed contracts in 2022 — Kyle Hendricks, Jason Heyward, and David Bote — for a combined $38.5 million, along with two notable arbitration-eligible players: Willson Contreras and Ian Happ.
- Hawkins arrives with extensive experience in player development. The new GM helped keep Cleveland competitive with annual payroll budgets that consistently ranked among the lowest third in the majors.
- Hoyer continues to insist that he does not want to undertake a long rebuilding process. He and Hawkins are positioned to react as they see fit with a drastic increase in payroll flexibility and a pipeline of solid prospects. The club president indicated that he is looking forward to “partnering with [Hawkins] to build the next great Cubs team.”
- The near-term goals for the organization’s dynamic duo include finalizing the coaching staff and deciding on which players to non-tender.
- Contreras, Happ, Rex Brothers, Adam Morgan, Jonathan Holder, and Joe Biagini are the arbitration-eligible Cubs. Last winter, the Cubs parted ways with Albert Almora Jr. and Kyle Schwarber. Hoyer also declined to exercise the option on Jon Lester and traded his best starter, Yu Darvish, to the Padres. Backup catcher Victor Caratini was also included in the Darvish deal.
From the Front Office
“I am thrilled to bring Carter [Hawkins] into our organization. He has earned a fantastic reputation as a leader through hard work, open-mindedness, humility, and intelligence. I enjoyed getting to know him throughout the interview process, and it quickly became clear that we share the same passion for team building. I look forward to partnering with him to build the next great Cubs team.” – Hoyer
Climbing the Ladder
Congratulations to the Chicago Sky, your 2021 WNBA champions!
The Chicago Sky became the first team in WNBA history to win the title without posting a winning record during the regular season (went 16-16). pic.twitter.com/0uw6MDusWg
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 18, 2021
Championship Series News & Notes
The Braves held serve at home to take a 2-0 lead in the NLCS and could be on the verge of upsetting the 109-win Dodgers.
Last Night’s MVP
- Eddie Rosario – Hitting from the leadoff spot, the Atlanta left fielder enjoyed a 4-for-5 night with a walk-off RBI single as the Braves edged the Dodgers 5-4.
How About That!
In a dramatic development, the league will require its teams to cover the costs of minor league housing in 2022. Some players have opted to live in their cars or team clubhouses and in many other cases, players have packed as many teammates as possible into apartments to help minimize rent and utility payments. Exact details have yet to be finalized, but MLB will make an official announcement before the start of the 2022 season.
The league is also reportedly considering its own in-market streaming service in an attempt to reach viewers who refuse to be tethered to an existing cable TV contract. Perhaps that’s why Rob Manfred recently dismissed Sinclair’s attempt to provide streaming services through its RSNs.
Nationals outfielder Juan Soto still has three more seasons to go before he becomes a free agent, but as was the case with Bryce Harper before him, it’s impossible to ignore the noise surrounding the record-breaking contract he’s likely to command.
Ted Williams stepping up to the plate with the Red Sox down a run probably didn’t give that pitcher the warm fuzzies.
Ted Williams getting ready to step in the batters box pic.twitter.com/DaJJkoO7tn
— BaseballHistoryNut (@nut_history) October 18, 2021
They Said It
- “While we failed to extend our six-straight winning seasons streak and secure our spot in the postseason, we made important changes that put us in a position to succeed as we build the next great Cubs team. Beginning to replenish our much-improved farm system was just the start. Jed and the team are now focused on reloading our roster. We have the resources necessary to compete in 2022 and beyond, and we will use them. We will be active in free agency and continue to make thoughtful decisions to bolster our team this offseason.” – Ricketts
Monday Walk-Up Song
Lies by the Black Keys – Though I believe Ricketts will deliver on his promises, we shouldn’t be afraid to call him out if he lets us down again. At least we have textual evidence of his stated intentions.