The Rundown: It’s Jed Hoyer Day in Chicago, Cubs Well Positioned to Succeed Going Forward, MLB Aiming For 162-Game Schedule in 2021

“Scan not a friend with a microscopic glass, you know his faults, now let his foibles pass.” – George Harrison

It’s Jed Hoyer Day in Chicago. Theo Epstein has had more than a little fun at his former sidekick’s expense, starting today, but the organization is now Hoyer’s to run.

Things in life always seem to come full circle, so here’s a quote from the Cubs new president of baseball operations that goes all the way back to the day he was introduced as GM in November of 2011:

“I think it’s too early to say [who the team will look at in free agency],” Hoyer said. “But I do think it’s fair to say we have to spend some time rebuilding the pitching staff. I look at what happened last year from the outside with them losing two starters the first week of the season. It’s very difficult for any team to survive that, but the Cubs didn’t have the depth to do that. Even though we have confidence in some of the starters, we have a need to add more …. Injuries can never be an excuse for a bad season. You have to make sure that you have depth to avoid the inevitable and survive.”

The more things change, the more they stay the same. I didn’t even need the book of idioms that Joe Maddon used to carry around to provide that insight. Strangely, the Cubs may find themselves trading from their rotation to strengthen the rest of the team. Yu Darvish or Kyle Hendricks could potentially provide a nice return and Alec Mills might fetch some decent lower-tier prospects as well.

It’s possible that one of Jon Lester or Jake Arrieta could return to fill the fifth rotation spot. Additionally, Hoyer needs to find rotation depth, a contact hitter with defensive versatility, some bullpen help, and he’ll have to determine who to protect in the Rule 5 Draft while deciding which arb-eligible players should be offered a contract and which should not. He still needs to round out his executive staff, including naming a general manager, and he and David Ross will need to replace third base coach Will Venable, who joined the Red Sox organization earlier this week.

There’s more: The farm system is extremely top-heavy and ranked as one of the worst in baseball; Hoyer’s baseball operations budget will be slashed after two years of excess and a large portion of his staff has already been gutted by ownership in the wake of Covid-19 financial losses. The Cubs are still the best team in the NL Central, though, and their rivals are dealing with similar hardships.

To say Hoyer has some challenges ahead is an understatement, and though I am not in favor of terms and phrases like “rebuild,” “retool,” or “heavy restart,” the team’s 2021 roster will definitely have the stamp of the new guy in charge. That’s true no matter which current players help fill those 26 spots and which do not. It won’t be an easy task, but it’s not like Hoyer has no experience.

Cubs fans will need to exercise patience, too. Even the best organizations, Chicago included, are wrong 45% of the time. It seemed at times that Epstein did not have the luxury of being wrong, and his mistakes were often compounded more than they needed to be. Hoyer will at least get some grace period from fans and ownership alike. There will be missteps, but there will also be home runs, and I have no doubt Hoyers is more than ready to take the reins and will prove to be more than capable of leading the team to its next championship.

Cubs News & Notes

Odds & Sods

Yes, Bobby Bonilla is still getting paid and will be for quite some time. The Mets bought out the $5.6 million left on Bonilla’s contract in 1999 in a deal that gave the retired outfielder $29.8 million, split into annual payments of $1.19 million, to be paid on July 1 of every year from 2011 to 2035.

Friday Stove

MLB is aiming for an April 1, 2021 start date, hopes to play a full 162-game schedule, and anticipates that the minor leagues will play a full season schedule starting May 1, as well.

The Marlins naming Kim Ng general manager last week was a win for baseball and society as a whole.

The Cardinals are generating a variety of models to determine their financial outlook for 2021, and that includes everything from a reduced schedule to a full house at Busch Stadium, something officials think is unlikely for the coming season.

St. Louis is at risk of losing their identity after releasing Kolten Wong and with Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright possibly moving on to new teams.

The Brewers have promoted Matt Arnold to senior VP and general manager.

The Braves could be the team most interested in acquiring Milwaukee reliever Josh Hader.

The Mets and Yankees are expected to be the highest bidders for the services of free agent second baseman DJ Lemahieu.

MLB has reduced the suspension it levied against Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman from three games to two for throwing at the head of Rays pinch-hitter Mike Brosseau in October. Chapman will serve his suspension to begin the 2021 season.

For teams looking at downmarket options in free agency, some intriguing names exist, including middle reliever Jared Hughes, who gained 10 percentage points on his whiff rate this year.

Starting pitcher Eduardo Rodríguez indicated he’d like to sign an extension so he can play for the Red Sox until the end of his career.

Baseball was “appropriately weird” in 2020.

Extra Innings

It’s tough to say that we took the standard of excellence set by Ichiro Suzuki for granted, but put in this perspective, it’s quite possible we witnessed the greatest hitter of all time.

They Said It

  • “For the last nine years, I have worked alongside so many dedicated colleagues with one goal in mind — to build a team and an organization that makes Cubs fans proud and provides them with memories of a lifetime. I will provide continuity to a department that has had tremendous successes over the past six seasons. Ultimately, this transition is about the future, and I look forward to constantly pushing the Cubs to evolve and grow to ensure that there is sustained success at Wrigley Field.” – Jed Hoyer
  • “He’s going to do an outstanding job. He deserves this opportunity and the Cubs are lucky to have him. He’s been a huge part of everything we’ve done here.” – Theo Epstein
  • “We have had our most successful period in over a century under Theo’s leadership, and we are grateful for everything he has given to this organization and this city. Jed has been a big part of that success too and offers a combination of continuity and a fresh perspective that will serve us well as we look forward to another period of sustained success.” – Tom Ricketts

Friday Walk Up Song

Cheer Down by George Harrison – By all accounts, Epstein and Hoyer have a truly special relationship. Many of us will miss Epstein and it might be a rough start, but in the end, I believe Jed will be among the greats in team history.

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