- Diamondbacks assistant GM Jared Porter “is the heavy favorite” to become the Cubs’ next general manager, according to The Athletic’s Sahadev Sharma (subscription required). Newly-minted Chicago president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer has stated that he wants to make an external hire for the GM job in order to bring a fresh viewpoint into the Cubs’ front office, though Porter is still a known quantity, having previously worked with Hoyer in both Chicago and Boston. Other speculative general manager possibilities for the Cubs include another Diamondbacks AGM in Amiel Sawdaye, as well as former Marlins president of baseball ops Michael Hill.
The Cubs announced a series of promotions in their baseball operations department Monday, with former big leaguer reliever Craig Breslow being elevated to assistant general manager. He joins Randy Bush (another former big leaguer) and Jeff Greenberg, who was promoted to AGM status earlier this season, in that role. Breslow has also been named the organization’s vice president of pitching.
This will be the 40-year-old Breslow’s third full season in the Cubs’ front office. He retired after the 2017 season and joined the Cubs as their director of strategic initiatives prior to the 2019 season. He spent the 2020 season as the Cubs’ director of pitching and as a special assistant to president of baseball ops Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer. Greenberg has been with the Cubs since 2012, with prior titles including director of baseball operations and, more recently, director of pro scouting. With Epstein stepping away and Hoyer ascending to president of baseball ops, Breslow and Greenberg will take on a larger role in the front office.
Notably, none of today’s promotions include an appointment to general manager. Hoyer said at last week’s press conference that he expected to hire a new GM from outside the organization, emphasizing the importance of allowing for new voices, ideas and perspectives to complement the continuity elsewhere in the front office.
Some notables from the Cubs’ many other front-office promotions: Chris Moore was named vice president of research and development; Matt Dorey was named vice president of player development; Louie Eljaua was named vice president of international scouting; and Alex Suarez was named senior director of international player development and operations.
The Nationals’ recent interest in Kris Bryant isn’t the first time Washington has explored trading for the former NL MVP, as the Nats and Cubs held some discussions just last offseason. Victor Robles was known to be of interest to Chicago in a potential Bryant trade, and Jesse Dougherty of the Washington Post adds that held firm in keeping not only Robles, but also Juan Soto, Trea Turner, and pitching prospect Jackson Rutledge during negotiations with the Cubs.
Needless to say, there was zero chance Soto, Turner, or probably even Robles were being moved for Bryant last offseason, and this quartet will continue to be off the table in any trade talks this winter. Rutledge (the 17th overall pick of the 2019 draft and ranked by MLB.com as Washington’s top prospect) could have made some sense as a trade chip when Bryant was coming off an impressive 2019 campaign and had two years of team control remaining. Now, however, Bryant is just a year away from free agency and is looking to rebound from an injury-plagued 2020 season. As Dougherty notes, the Nationals or any other team might not have to give up much or any major prospect capital to land Bryant, if the Cubs’ chief intent is just to get Bryant’s projected $18.6MM salary off their books.
Right-hander Charlie Morton came off the free-agent board Tuesday when he signed with Atlanta, but the Braves had competition in the form of the Twins. Minnesota “had a lot of interest” in Morton, according to Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News. Geography may have worked against the Twins, though, as Morton has said in the past he prefers to pitch on the East Coast.
Even after missing out on Morton, the Twins still have a mostly set rotation with 2020 Cy Young contender Kenta Maeda, Jose Berrios, Michael Pineda and Randy Dobnak among those in the fold. However, with Jake Odorizzi, Rich Hill and Homer Bailey currently on the open market, the team hopes to address its rotation from outside, as Dan Hayes of The Athletic relays.
“Any time you lose Jake Odorizzi, Rich Hill and Homer Bailey to free agency, you’re not going to be complacent,” general manager Thad Levine said. “You realize there are pretty significant holes to fill. But we certainly don’t go into this offseason as if we have to fill three holes.”
Hill, 40, was the only member of that trio to deliver quality results over a sizable sample of innings for the Twins last season, but according to Hayes, they haven’t closed the door on re-signing Odorizzi – who MLBTR predicts will earn a three-year, $39MM payday this offseason. Otherwise, though, it doesn’t appear they’ll shop at the top of the market for pitching help, as Hayes writes it’s “unlikely” the Twins will go after the No. 1 free agent available, Trevor Bauer, or pursue trades for the Rays’ Blake Snell or the Cubs’ Yu Darvish.
[RELATED: Twins Offseason Outlook]
Although the Red Sox didn’t contend in 2020, they at least considered a blockbuster acquisition over the summer. They and the Cubs discussed a trade centering on third baseman/outfielder Kris Bryant, Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune reports. Those talks fizzled, so it’s unclear whether the two sides will revisit them this offseason.
Bryant has spent most of his career at third base, but as Gonzales notes, he’d be an outfielder in Boston. After all, the Red Sox already have Rafael Devers at the hot corner. They also have Alex Verdugo and Andrew Benintendi as corner outfield options, but the latter could head to center field in 2021 with Jackie Bradley Jr. currently on the free-agent market. That could leave room for a Bryant acquisition.
For Boston or any other team, Bryant would not be a long-term pickup unless he signs a contract extension. The 28-year-old is entering his last season of arbitration control, in which he’s projected to rake in $18.6MM. Considering how well the former NL MVP has performed for most of his career, that doesn’t look like an unreasonable sum. But the Cubs may be looking to part with Bryant after a pandemic-shortened year in which he endured uncharacteristic struggles. Bryant went through by far his least productive season, batting .206/.293/.351 (76 wRC+) with four home runs in 147 plate appearances, and now his Cubs tenure may be nearing an end.
The Cubs formally introduced longtime general manager Jed Hoyer as their president of baseball operations via press conference on Monday, not long after announcing that he’d signed a five-year deal through the 2025 season. (Fans can re-watch the entire press conference on Twitter.) Hoyer’s promotion maintained some continuity among the club’s decision-makers, but it also created a hole in the front office infrastructure, as the team did not promote a replacement GM to take on his former duties.
While Hoyer’s very promotion speaks to trusting the in-house group, however, he revealed that his expectation is to hire a general manager from outside the organization rather than to promote from within. The 46-year-old spoke of valuing new ideas, new input and new ways of thinking to help keep things fresh. The timing of any such hire, however, remains unclear. Hoyer acknowledged that there’d likely be an announcement in the coming days of some in-house promotions, but he merely said he planned to conduct a search for his new GM and wouldn’t further delve into specifics as to when the process would commence or draw to a close.
Unsurprisingly, Hoyer was asked frequently about the status of the team’s arbitration-eligible players and the payroll flexibility (or lack thereof) that he expects to have as he looks to put together next year’s roster. Asked specifically about the possibility of non-tendering or trading Kris Bryant, Hoyer declined to answer, instead speaking more broadly about the service-time-driven realities that he and the rest of the front office will have to face this winter.
While the newly minted president of baseball ops didn’t mention specific names, the obvious inference is that each of Bryant, Javier Baez and Kyle Schwarber possesses five-plus years of service time, thus placing them on track to become free agents next winter. Bryant ($18.6MM), Baez ($10.7MM and Schwarber ($7.9MM) all possess rather sizable projected arbitration salaries — a particularly tricky scenario for Hoyer & Co. to navigate given Bryant’s poor showing at the plate in 2020. There’s already been plenty of rumors surrounding a possible trade of Bryant — as has has been the case for the better part of two years — and the fact that Hoyer was even asked about the idea of non-tendering the former NL MVP speaks to the difficulty of the team’s looming decision.
Of course, for as much talk as there’s been of trading Bryant, there’s been as much or more talk about extending Baez. Any efforts on that front — or with regard to Bryant, Schwarber, Willson Contreras or any other Cubs player — seem to be on hold for the time being. Hoyer plainly acknowledge that there are no ongoing extension talks at this time, although he did add that there are “players on this roster that we’d love to have here for a long time.”
All of the uncertainty surrounding not only the Cubs arb-eligible regulars but even some of the team’s pitching — Yu Darvish and Kyle Hendricks have both been speculated upon as trade candidates — will lead onlookers to wonder about the possibility of a rebuild, but owner Tom Ricketts suggested otherwise. “I don’t think anyone is tearing anything down,” he said.
Hoyer, however, conceded that given the service time of some Cubs stalwarts, he might have one eye on the future a bit more than in other offseasons. He also indicated that he believes the Cubs should be able to field a playoff-caliber roster on a yearly basis, citing a goal of winning the division in 2021. Clearly, the upcoming offseason will be a bit of a balancing act, although that’s been apparent for some time now.
Just as predecessor Theo Epstein did prior to stepping down, Hoyer suggested that “the offense will look different next year.” The paths that the Cubs can take to realize that change are of course countless, and there are elements that are out of their control that still need to be factored into the equation. Notably, the Cubs and other National League teams are still uncertain as to whether there will be a designated hitter in the National League for the 2021 season. To this point, Hoyer said, it’s not clear when a firm resolution on that potential change will be in place.
As for just what sort of resources he’ll have at his disposal while striving to meet that goal in 2021, it’s not yet clear. Ricketts acknowledged that uncertainty regarding what levels of fan attendance would be permissible in 2021 have clouded the team’s budgetary outlook. Wrigley Field was recently granted National Historic Landmark status, as covered by Fran Spielman of the Chicago Sun-Times, but Ricketts indicated that the associated federal tax credits won’t have an impact on player payroll.
It’s worth highlighting, too, that the Cubs have work to beyond the roster and the front office. Will Venable’s hiring as the Red Sox’ new bench coach leaves a gap on the Chicago coaching staff. Hoyer said he’ll begin a search in the near future to fill Venable’s role as a base coach and outfield instructor. The organization’s decision to part ways with assistant hitting coach Terrmel Sledge left another vacancy, but they’ll stay in house to fill that void. Former big league infielder Chris Valaika, who has spent the past couple seasons as the Cubs’ minor league hitting coordinator, will join the Major League staff and take over Sledge’s prior role.
The Cubs have signed new president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer to a five-year contract that runs through the 2025 season, per a team announcement. Hoyer, the team’s longtime general manager, was promoted to his new post last week when Theo Epstein stepped away from the role.
A new contract for Hoyer doesn’t register as much of a surprise. While he was only promoted to this new post last week, he was entering the final season of a five-year contract as the team’s general manager. There’d be little sense in promoting Hoyer to the top of the baseball operations food chain but leaving him on a one-year deal and having him enter the 2021 season under lame-duck status.
Promoting Hoyer, as owner Tom Ricketts put it last week, offered the organization a “combination of continuity and a fresh perspective that will serve us well as we look forward to another period of sustained success.” That comment certainly indicated that the club planned for Hoyer to be at the helm for the long term, and today’s contract extension solidifies the matter.
“Jed was a key baseball operations leader as we built a team that made the playoffs five of the last six years and won the World Series,” Ricketts said Monday in a new statement announcing the extension. “My family and I believe he is going to be an incredible baseball operations president, and Cubs fans have one of the best in the business leading the team to continue our commitment to sustained success.”
Notably, this won’t be Hoyer’s first time heading up a baseball operations department. He served as the Padres’ general manager from 2009-11 before being hired by Epstein, his former colleague with the Red Sox, to hold that same post within the Cubs organization. Epstein, Hoyer and current Cubs senior vice president of player personnel Jason McLeod all came up through the ranks together in Boston and have all played integral roles in the Cubs’ rise to a perennial playoff contender in recent years.
The Cubs signed five players to minor-league contracts earlier this week. Outfielder Rafael Ortega, right-hander Jake Jewell, catcher Taylor Gushue and left-hander Jerry Vasto are all joining the organization, relays Chris Hilburn-Trenkle of Baseball America. (Marc Delucchi had previously reported Vasto’s signing). Additionally, outfielder Ian Miller has re-signed with Chicago, as noted by MLB.com’s transactions tracker.
The pair of outfielders are probably the most notable players involved. Miller was once a decently-regarded speed/defense prospect in the Mariners’ system. The 28-year-old has logged 18 MLB plate appearances between the Twins and Cubs over the past two seasons. Ortega has seen big league time in four seasons, picking up 447 plate appearances between the Rockies, Angels, Marlins and Braves. The 29-year-old has a career .229/.287/.290 slash line.
Jewell tossed 28.1 relief innings for the 2018-19 Angels. He got knocked around for a 6.99 ERA/6.67 FIP despite mid-90’s velocity. The 27-year-old made it into the Giants’ 60-man player pool in 2020 but didn’t see any MLB action. Similarly, Gushue got to the Nationals’ alternate training site this summer but never made the majors. The former fourth-rounder has a career .240/.309/.396 line in six minor-league seasons. Vasto, 28, pitched in six MLB games with the Rockies and Royals in 2018. He hasn’t seen any game action since, having spent all of 2019 on the minor-league injured list.
The Nationals are exploring their options on the infield market, as MLB Network’s Jon Paul Morosi reports (Twitter links) that Washington has interest in free agent second baseman DJ LeMahieu and Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant. While it can be assumed that the Nats are looking at both big names and smaller names, the fact that they’re open to adding higher-salaried players such as LeMahieu and Bryant gives us some hints about the team’s spending capability this offseason.
LeMahieu would be the more expensive of the two, of course, as he is projected to land a lucrative multi-year deal in free agency (MLBTR has him projected for four years and $68MM). The Nats would also have to give up a second-round draft pick and $500K in international bonus pool money to sign LeMahieu, since he rejected the Yankees’ qualifying offer.
This all being said, the Nationals haven’t shied away from making big additions in free agency in the past, and Morosi notes that the Nats also had interest in LeMahieu the last time he was a free agent back in the 2018-19 offseason. (Washington instead signed Brian Dozier to a one-year, $9MM deal to handle second base, a deal the Nats probably don’t regret considering they won the 2019 World Series.) Though players like Juan Soto and Trea Turner will continue to get expensive through arbitration, the Nationals have quite a bit of money coming off the books after 2021, so LeMahieu wouldn’t put much of an extra burden on the payroll.
Bryant would be a shorter-term add, since he is only under contract through the 2021 season before hitting free agency himself. MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projects Bryant to earn $18.6MM in his final year of arbitration, so while the former NL MVP isn’t inexpensive, some of that salary could be covered by whatever the Nationals would send back to the Cubs in a trade. For what it’s worth, Bryant is represented by Scott Boras, whose solid working relationship with the Lerner family is well-documented; on the current Nationals roster alone, Soto, Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Seth Romero are all Boras clients.
Chicago is reportedly open to moving just about any of its higher-priced veterans, though Bryant is something of a tricky trade candidate considering he hit only .206/.293/.351 in 147 plate appearances during an injury-plagued 2020 season. That down year will surely factor into what the Nationals or any other team would be willing to give up in a trade, yet the Cubs obviously also don’t want to sell low on a former All-Star (unless forced into such a move due to payroll constraints). Signing LeMahieu is more expensive but also carries fewer question marks, plus Washington wouldn’t have to give up any young talent in a trade to land LeMahieu.
Looking at the Nats’ roster, either LeMahieu or Bryant would help an infield that is pretty unsettled beyond Turner at shortstop. First base is wide open, Starlin Castro will play every day at either second base or third base, Carter Kieboom will look to break out after a tough rookie season, plus Luis Garcia and the re-signed Josh Harrison provide depth. LeMahieu would slot right into an everyday role, probably at second base, but Washington could move him around to see action at both first and third base depending on situations or how players like Kieboom or Garcia develop. Bryant has some similar versatility, as he would likely play mostly at third base, but could also be shifted to first base or a corner outfield spot.
The Cubs have added a pair of right-handers, Cory Abbott and Keegan Thompson, as well as infielder Christopher Morel to their 40-man roster, Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune was among those to report. Their roster now includes 37 players.
Abbott, 25, was a second-round pick of the Cubs in 2017 who rose to the Double-A level in 2019 during the most recent minor league season. He impressed there with a 3.01 ERA/3.51 FIP and 10.19 K/9 against 3.19 BB/9 over 146 2/3 innings. Abbott now ranks as the Cubs’ 12th-best prospect at MLB.com, which writes that he could develop into a useful back-end starter in the majors.
Thompson, the Cubs’ 26th overall prospect at MLB.com, first joined the organization as a third-round pick in the same class as Abbott. The 25-year-old only threw 10 innings in the minors in 2019, but Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs wrote over the summer that Thompson’s “a very stable fifth starter/swingman piece” who’s almost ready for the majors.
Morel, whom the Cubs signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2015, grades as their 11th overall prospect at MLB.com. The 21-year-old made his Single-A debut in 2019 with a .284/.320/.467 line, eight home runs and nine stolen bases in 278 plate appearances. Although Morel has been a third baseman/shortstop in the pros so far, he could wind up as an outfielder if he makes it to the majors.