“Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.” – William Shakespeare
If we graded Jed Hoyer on the headlines he’s generated since taking over for Theo Epstein as president of baseball operations, he’d definitely earn an A for shock and awe. Most of us (read: me) may have been too quick to judge, and owe the man an apology. Like the blue-collar craftsmen that helped forge the marvel that is Chicago’s beautiful skyline, Hoyer has provided a better-than-yeomanly force at a time when the entire organization could have easily come crashing down.
Epstein didn’t have the wherewithal to do what his replacement has been asked to do, but Hoyer executed his plan with tremendous efficiency. He cut payroll, patched up some of the team’s more pronounced inconsistencies, added depth to one of the league’s poorer farm systems, and will field a team that has a legitimate chance of winning the NL Central. Let’s be honest: When he non-tendered Kyle Schwarber and traded Yu Darvish, most of us believed the Cubs were barreling toward a 60-win season
In fact, Hoyer has been so proficient at checking the boxes of his offseason to-do list that he actually earned favor from Tom Ricketts in the way of a bump to his baseball operations budget. It may not have been much, but the hike in payroll was certainly enough to bring Joc Pederson, Jake Arrieta, and Brandon Workman to Chicago. Those players fit right in with the club mentality the front office has established so far, and the extra money also allowed Hoyer to add Jared Banner to his staff as VP of special projects.
— Marquee Sports Network (@WatchMarquee) February 18, 2021
Though the North Siders enter training camp with a few question marks, they have a strong veteran presence and a roster full of players who know what it takes to play winning baseball. They’re better defensively, Pederson gives them a strong lineup presence to replace Schwarber, and the rotation could be as deep as nine starters depending on wildcards like Shelby Miller and Kohl Stewart, and rookies Adbert Alzolay and Brailyn Márquez.
They’re not as deep or versatile on offense as recent iterations, but Joe Maddon isn’t managing this team anymore and David Ross prefers a more consistent lineup. Hoyer may also have enough of a budgetary cushion to add depth during the season if he needs to. With a roster full of players on essentially one-year deals, the new president of baseball operations can also pivot seamlessly to sell mode if things go by the wayside. It’s been quite some time since the Cubs have had that type of in-season flexibility.
Cubs News & Notes
- The Cubs and their fans are hoping Arrieta can recapture some of his magic from his first tenure with the team.
- Though it’s not as simple as preferring Arrieta over Jon Lester, the front office did opt for the veteran starter who allegedly has “something to prove.”
- Arietta’s deal was finalized and formally announced yesterday. To open a roster spot, the Cubs placed left-hander Kyle Ryan on the COVID-19 related injured list.
- With Darvish now pitching for the Padres, Kyle Hendricks is the unquestioned ace of the Cubs staff and it bodes well for the team that one of his main goals this year is to try to be a “consistent force.”
- Hendricks has been better with each passing year since joining the Cubs in the deal that sent Ryan Dempster to the Rangers.
- Despite remarkable consistency, Hendricks gets little love from nearly all baseball analysts and projection systems. Even Vegas bookmakers are down on Chicago’s newly minted number one starter.
- Workman received a one-year deal worth $1 million from the Cubs with another $2 million in potential incentives.
- Hoyer also inked reliever and fan-favorite Pedro Strop to a minor league deal with a chance to earn a roster spot.
- The Cubs are counting on elite years from pending free agents Kris Bryant, Javier Báez, and Anthony Rizzo.
- I made a Bryant prediction on Twitter yesterday evening.
- Radio play-by-play man Pat Hughes will cover some of the Cactus League games for Marquee Sports Network this spring.
Odds & Sods
Current and former MLB players are loving the Instagram mini-me versions of themselves.
Annnnnd we're down to single digits 👏 👏 👏
— MLB Players (@MLBPlayersInc) February 8, 2021
Spring Training News & Notes
The Padres kicked off Spring Training on a high note: Fernando Tatís Jr., the 22-year-old shortstop widely viewed as baseball’s brightest young star, agreed to a 14-year deal worth $340 million Wednesday night. That could keep him in San Diego for the rest of his career, though the Mets will still be paying Bobby Bonilla for one more year after that. Tatís’s deal is the longest in MLB history and ranks third all-time in terms of dollars.
If MLB manages to expand the playoffs this year or permanently, Nationals starter Max Scherzer would like to see the league incorporate a round-robin tournament for the Wild Card and Division Series rounds. Scherzer is on the executive subcommittee of the players’ union and a member of MLB’s rules committee.
Tim Tebow is retiring from baseball after five years as a minor leaguer with the Mets. I’m not going to link an article because this announcement was way overdue.
The Blue Jays will play their regular season home games at their Spring Training home in Dunedin, FL until Canada changes its COVID-19 border restrictions.
The Rangers intend to show much more intestinal fortitude this season. GM Chris Young stated that “by the time teams are done playing us, they’re going to know what the Texas Rangers stand for.”
Tony La Russa started his second tenure with the White Sox amid controversy and deception, but could still be regarded as a hero of sorts if he leads Chicago’s South Side baseballers to the World Series.
La Russa said he welcomes any and all judgments surrounding his DUI arrest last year.
Should the USOC ever make diaper throwing an Olympic event, Buster Posey certainly has a leg up on the competition.
Buster Posey is looking strong back in Giants camp, and revealed the hilarious way he kept his arm in shape during his time off 😂 (via @PavlovicNBCS) https://t.co/607rbp21jS pic.twitter.com/NUqTQNVdtd
— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) February 17, 2021
They Said It
- “Kyle is a guy who stays in great shape, he is very durable and we trust in the innings that he can give us, but we’re gonna be smart. I’ve got a lot of confidence in [him], but I don’t wanna put any numbers on innings. The guy that I worry about the least is Kyle Hendricks.” – David Ross
- “I think I’m ready to take on a full load again. I know what it’s like to go through a full season, so I can lean on that experience. I just want to be there, be that consistent force for these guys, take the ball every fifth day and they know what they can get out of me.” – Kyle Hendricks
Thursday Walk Up Song
Cats in the Cradle by Harry Chapin – When Hendricks first came to the Cubs, Arrieta was the leader of the team’s pitching staff. Now their roles have reversed.