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Jed Hoyer Appreciation

I appreciate Jed Hoyer.


For years, he was the General Manager of the Cubs when they were known as Theo Epstein's Team. He was obviously a very big part of the Championship Season, as well as a team that made the playoffs in five of six years. He never got enough credit, despite making some very savvy moves.


When Theo stepped down last offseason, it was for good reason. He recognized that he wasn't going to be around and did not want to be a lame duck. As the Cubs had lots of impending decisions on core players reaching free agency, Theo knew that Jed would need to make the moves that would impact the team on into the 2020s. Kudos for not only recognizing that situation, but also having the humility to step aside.


Then it became Hoyer's call on Darvish, Rizzo, Baez, Bryant, etc. Hoyer would have to potentially negotiate deals and have the guts to make some unpopular moves. After seeing all of the moves he made in 2021, I have full confidence in Jed Hoyer as the long term guy for the Chicago Cubs. He's not going to make a right move every single time, but his decisions have always had the long term best interests of the team at heart. Hoyer is capable of balancing the short term with the long term, an art that few teams can handle in modern day baseball. I'd like to examine a few gutsy moves he made this year, and with the benefit of some hindsight, explain how he made the right move in the heat of the moment.


Yu Darvish:

It was an extremely unpopular trade as the Cubs unloaded Darvish for teenage prospects. It was essentially a big way to punt on the 2021 season. But he did it anyways. We can blame Tom Ricketts for the budget, but I honestly don't see this as a cost cutting move. Yes, Darvish had a great second half to 2019 and a solid shortened 2020 campaign. But he was also going into his age 34 season, and had $56 million and 3 years left.

Yu Darvish was never going to duplicate his Cy Young worthy 2020 season again. Jed knew this. He took advantage of a team looking to ride one more arm into the playoffs. After how rough Darvish's 2018 was, Jed didn't get too fancy when presented with the chance to unload a potential disaster. He did it.


Yu Darvish had an ERA over 4 in 2021. He still has 2 expensive years left. The prospects Hoyer got look good, as of right now. Still too soon to rate this trade fully, but it looks very favorable for the Cubs a lot sooner than any pundit predicted. Good on Jed for seeing this one out and having the guts to do it.


Kris Bryant:

Trading a franchise icon is never easy. When the Cubs had two major losing streaks with Bryant on the roster, it made sense to reload the team for the future. So Hoyer did just that. Whether Bryant leaves the team in July or October, the Cubs would have been in the same situation now. At least they got a few decent prospects for Bryant.


We can complain about the lack of an extension, but I feel that getting Bryant to free agency was Boras's mission since Day 1. He wants his clients to sign 10 year $300m+ deals, and KB was a prime candidate for a contract like that. After his great first two years, he easily could have commanded those numbers. As Bryant's had a few iffy seasons since then, I don't consider him to be the same slam dunk. I could go either way on this, but I don't consider Hoyer's handling of KB to be an outright mistake. Hoyer was dealt tough cards, and at the end of the game broke even. That's good enough.


Bryant's 7 year deal was a far below what I thought he would ever sign for, and I wish the Cubs were in on that. That said, I'm really surprised teams like NYY, BOS, SEA, DET, WAS, NYM, etc. were not in with a late $200m bid to snag him away. Maybe they were and Bryant preferred the Denver area.


Anthony Rizzo:

Remember when everyone was shocked that the Cubs wouldn't sign Rizzo to anything more than 5 years and $75 million? A deal like that would be looking very questionable right now after Rizzo's subpar 2021. I hate to say it, but Rizzo is aging very fast and has a bad back. He might be the most popular player since Sosa, but Hoyer was not held back by fuzzy memories.


Rizzo's OPS+ from 2014-2016 was 147, and averaged an OPS of .913. Since 2017, he's surpassed that average one time (2019) and had an OPS under .800 the last 2 years. I'm sorry, but there are first basemen that have better upside that won't cost $20m per year. Though the Cubs got Rizzo at a bargain for many years, but it did not make sense to overpay him now. For what it's worth, nobody else did either, as he get only a 2 year deal.


Javy Baez:

Not overpaying for Javy is a win. I love Javy, but if his skills erode with age, he's going to be a brutal player. He's had issues defensively, despite having terrific raw skills. His offensive has always been boom or bust. The second his bat speed dips, he's in trouble as he lacks the discipline to truly be successful. Even though he was good in New York, he's got bust potential. His career OPS+ is 104, slightly better than league average. I don't think he's putting up 2018 numbers anytime soon, which really skews his average for the career.


His defense was also subpar in 2021. For the year, he had a .954 fielding percentage at SS, and 3 RDRs, both of which were full season career worst numbers. Likewise, his .968 fielding percentage at 2B was his worst numbers since 2015. He made 24 errors in 2021, which is 22.6% of the total errors he's made in his career. His previous career high was 17 (2018). 2021 was arguably his worst season defensively. That's not a good trend going into his 30's.


Good for Hoyer to not take the bait on this one. A player who's barely above league average offensively that costs $23m per year until he's 35 is not the way to build a winner. I think Hoyer milked the best years out of Javy at a low cost, and moved on when the time was right.


Craig Kimbrel:

After a rough start, Kimbrel rebounded back to form in 2021. Hoyer played the long game, scooping up a solid second baseman in Nick Madrigal with a ton of team control. With the rest of the team getting turned over, this was a move that had to be made. Hoyer got plenty of value in this one.


Now I don't consider Hoyer to be perfect. He should have traded Davies over the summer (IMO). When he tried to rebuild the rotation after trading Darvish, bringing on Arrieta and Trevor Williams was not enough. But when Hoyer does make mistakes, they tend to be of overall low cost. His biggest and most costly mistake is arguably Jason Heyward's contract, and that was of equal blame on Epstein/Ricketts wanting to make a splash. And really, that move should have been safe enough. Comparing that to other teams that load up on big contracts and then get stuck in a rebuild cycle for years, Hoyer has been able to turn over the roster efficiently so far. He'll need to score on some of these prospects, but did turn a farm system that was ranked 23rd into one ranked 9th. That's good work.


Jed Hoyer deserves some credit for playing some of the best hands he could possibly play. More often than not, he makes the correct decisions. He doesn't get hung up on memories and hold onto fan favorites for too long. He clearly has a goal of making the team competitive for as many years as possible, and that is the correct way to run a baseball team.


Spending:

All offseason long, the typical pundits bellyached for the return of Bryant Baez and Rizzo. Also for Correa, Freeman, Story, Rodon, Castellanos, Schwarber, and so on.


As of 3/26/22, here is what the spending on free agents per team looks like for the NL central.

CHC $199m (6th)

STL: $55m (18th)

CIN: $14.8m (24th)

MIL: $12.9m (26th)

PIT: $12 (27th)


Cubs: $199 million spent on free agents this offseason.

The rest of the NL central: $94.7. Fact: This offseason, the Cubs spent twice as much as all of their direct competition COMBINED on free agents. Between Stroman and Suzuki, nabbed 2 top 20 free agents in terms of AAV). The only other teams to do that were the Mets, Phillies, Rangers and Dodgers.


Pundits call the Ricketts cheap. But once again, the Cubs spent a lot of money in the offseason.

Farm System:

A year ago, the MLB pipeline rankings had the Cubs at 22nd. As of last august, they were up to 18th. Pipeline has yet to release rankings for this season, but others rank the Cubs system as such:

Bleacher Report: 12th

Prospects1500: 13th

Baseball America: 15th

Keith Law: 16th


The Cubs may only have a handful of players in the Top 100, but have quite a few in the Top 300. I expect the ranking to break the Top 10 by midseason, personally. That's quite the turnaround from not that long ago.

That is significant, because despite last summer's sell off, the team is in a position to compete soon. There will be no four year rebuild, like 2010-2014. Hoyer deserves lots of credit for that.

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