Cubs GM Jed Hoyer was on Buster Olney's podcast for ESPN today; here are some highlights.
- The Cubs' bullpen sports a 4.26 ERA, 13th in the National League. Hoyer knows it needs to get better, and espoused his philosophy: "A big part of it is drafting power arms and having a surplus and inventory of those kind of guys. Usually you draft starters in the draft, and a lot of the best relievers are failed starters and I think you have to really do that year after year after year. I think that's how you end up with a good bullpen. Going out in the offseason and deciding, OK, we're going to spend money on the bullpen, that's a total fool's errand." Hoyer splurged on Kyuji Fujikawa for two years and $9.5MM this offseason, and he's having Tommy John surgery this month.
- Regarding the Cubs' inability to draw walks, Hoyer said, "We've got to change up the whole culture. The culture of the Cubs was always, swing early in the count, walks were never something that was emphasized. It's a really slippery slope, you don't want to have a bunch of passive hitters on your team. At the same time, walks are indicative of a good approach at the plate, and we don't have that. We've tried to bring in hitters…Rizzo has a good approach at the plate, DeJesus is excellent, Nate Schierholtz, Valbuena's a good on-base guy. But a lot of the guys we inherited have struggled with that adjustment, and something we have to keep on pounding away at. We've said, if guys we inherited aren't going to do that, we have to find other people because we're just not going to win baseball games if we don't get on base more."
- It's not true that the Jim Hendry regime ignored walks and OBP til the very end, however. The Cubs led the NL in walks in 2008, when they won 97 games. They spent big money on Kosuke Fukudome prior to that season because of his approach at the plate, and signings like Milton Bradley and Carlos Pena were of a similar mindset. Regarding Hoyer's comment about "guys we inherited," Starlin Castro, Welington Castillo, and Alfonso Soriano all have walk rates below four percent this year. Then again, so do Schierholtz and Scott Hairston. And at .334 in his Cubs career, Rizzo hasn't been an OBP machine either.
- Though Hoyer suggested the team will replace low-OBP players, shortstop Starlin Castro (.294 this year) isn't considered part of the problem. "He'll figure out the on-base thing," said Hoyer, who says Castro is "just in a slump right now."
- If there was any doubt, it sounds like the Cubs will be trade deadline sellers once again. "If you are in a situation where you're not going to compete that year, and you have players that aren't signed for the next year, you're doing a disservice not to acquire young players at that time," said Hoyer. The Cubs' impending free agents include Matt Garza, Scott Feldman, Carlos Marmol, Dioner Navarro, Shawn Camp, Kevin Gregg, and Ryan Sweeney, while David DeJesus has a club option for 2014. Hoyer noted that the draft is a line of demarcation, after which teams start talking trade in earnest.
- The Cubs convinced Feldman to sign by offering an opportunity. "We told him flat out this winter when we recruited him that he'd be in the rotation and we'd try to give him as many starts as possible," said Hoyer, who admitted being able to offer that kind of opportunity is one of the few nice things about being in a rebuilding situation.
- Though the Cubs have "never really been in a huge hurry to move" Alfonso Soriano due to his positive clubhouse influence, Hoyer admitted, "At some point, it may make sense." Hoyer feels that Soriano might welcome a trade for a chance to get a ring. Hoyer said Soriano, who has a full no-trade clause, has not given the Cubs a list of teams, preferring to take it on a case-by-case basis. Back in February, Soriano told reporters there were "six or seven" clubs he's named to the Cubs as acceptable trade destinations, teams in the "east or center."
- The Cubs pick second in Thursday's draft, and Hoyer noted, "We've really made a concerted effort not to let that #2 pick derail the rest of the draft." The Cubs have narrowed their list down to four college players, thought to be Mark Appel, Jonathan Gray, Kris Bryant, and Colin Moran. Tomorrow or even on draft day, Hoyer and company will whittle their list and take the best player on their board that doesn't go to the Astros first overall.
- How have Hoyer and Cubs president Theo Epstein done since taking over in fall 2011? Bruce Miles of the Daily Herald judges their major moves.