Jed Hoyer is in Phoenix for the GM Meetings and he spoke with media members publicly for the first time since shocking the baseball world by hiring Craig Counsell as the highest-paid manager in the game. The move was one Hoyer and the handful of informed parties believed was best for the Cubs both immediately and into the future, which it had to be for them to fire a World Series hero with a year left on his deal.
“This is no knock on Rossy, who I think incredibly highly of, but Craig is at the very top of the game,” Hoyer told Jesse Rogers and other reporters. “It’s hard to rank managers but he’s at the top of the game…
“He’ll take his and beat yours and he’ll take yours and beat his. Consistently, they’ve outperformed expectations.”
That sentiment has led some to believe the Cubs are going to take the less expensive route this winter, giving Counsell the same kind of inferior-on-paper roster he won with in Milwaukee. But do you really go out and make this kind of coup if you’re not going to make other serious upgrades? The flip side is that Counsell was surely drawn to the idea of leveraging the Cubs’ resources to win in a way he wasn’t able to with the Brewers.
But even though there’s no way Hoyer is going to sit on his hands while every top free agent signs elsewhere, he’s probably not looking to break the bank with multiple long-term deals. That said, he left the door open to a number of possibilities.
“I don’t think we signaled that we’re going to have some crazy aggressive offseason,” Hoyer said. “I like our position and if there are moves, even big moves, that will help us continue that trajectory we’ll definitely do it. But I don’t think it’s a signal somehow we’re going to have the biggest and boldest offseason.
“If we do, it’s because things lined up for us.”
That’s exactly what happened with Counsell, who Hoyer had long admired from a distance as a division rival. When the opportunity opened up, the Cubs pounced. We could see the same thing in free agency and on the trade market, particularly when it comes to situations similar to the one Cody Bellinger was in last year. And despite their aversion to exceedingly lengthy contracts, Hoyer knows that is the necessary cost of doing business with superstars.
Unless, of course, you can trade for one or two whose limited contractual control mitigates both the future commitment and painful prospect capital. Juan Soto should definitely be on their radar regardless of the near impossibility of an extension. He alone won’t turn them into a World Series favorite, but he’d be a big step in the right direction and the Cubs won’t have to empty the farm to get him.
In order to add more pop from the other side of the plate, Hoyer might inquire about Pete Alonso as well. If the Mets remain reluctant to deal with the Cubs for various reasons, Rhys Hoskins would be a nice consolation. The 30-year-old hasn’t quite lived up to his potential and might be willing to ink a shorter deal in hopes of capitalizing in a big way next season.
Matt Chapman has been mentioned as a possibility for third base and he’d give the Cubs an even more incredible defensive infield, but he’s hardly a superstar and the bat has been inconsistent over the past few years. Should his market prove to be too rich for the risk, perhaps Justin Turner makes sense. He’s been mentioned as a solid fit and just batted .276 with 23 homers and 96 RBI for the Red Sox last season. And hey, 39 is the new 37.
I’m not suggesting the Cubs should or will prioritize inexpensive deals of limited duration, only that those deals are a little easier to make and don’t necessarily preclude bigger moves. The biggest takeaway here is that Hoyer flat-out said they’re willing to make those very moves if they make sense. That’s tantamount to a Bat Signal coming from someone who was able to maintain an airtight lid on his courtship of Counsell.
As the offseason truly gets underway, I think it’s safe to say the Cubs are open for business and will entertain all manner of options over the next few months. Some rival execs even believe they “may be the most aggressive team for his services,” which has me all hot and bothered and probably has our Facebook fans simply bothered. Good times.