CHICAGO (AP) — Jed Hoyer insists this time won’t be like 2011 for the Chicago Cubs.
The team’s new president of baseball operations said Wednesday that Chicago plans to retool rather than bring out the wrecking ball the way it did nine years ago.
Still, this one will leave a mark.
In his first major deal since replacing friend Theo Epstein, Hoyer sent NL Cy Young Award runner-up Yu Darvish and catcher Victor Caratini to the San Diego Padres for pitcher Zach Davies and four young minor leaguers Tuesday night.
On deck: Willson Contreras? Maybe Kris Bryant, Javier Báez or Anthony Rizzo?
Nothing is off the table, though Hoyer was adamant: The Cubs aren’t following the 2011 plan. That was the year they hired Epstein and Hoyer, and the pair set the long-suffering franchise on a championship course by overhauling the farm system and revamping the front office. Along the way, Cubs fans endured a painful rebuild that included a 101-loss 2012 season.
“I’m not going to run the same playbook that we ran in 2011 and 2012,” said Hoyer, who was promoted from general manager when Epstein resigned in November. “I think that would be foolish. That playbook’s been copied so many times, it doesn’t work anymore.”
He said he’s trying to keep “one eye on the future” while remaining competitive in the NL Central. The Cubs won the World Series in 2016, ending a drought that dated to 1908, but they haven’t advanced in the postseason since the 2017 team lost in the NL Championship Series.
Still led by the 2016 core of Rizzo, Bryant, Baez and others, Chicago won the division in a pandemic-shortened 2020 season but was swept by Miami in the first round of the playoffs.
“We know that we’re coming to the end of this group of players — a wildly successful, franchise-changing run with this group of players,” Hoyer said. “As we come to the end of that, it’s really important to think about the future.”
He cited the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox as teams that benefited recently from “a small reset.” And he said the Cubs don’t want to fall off the way the San Francisco Giants, Philadelphia Phillies and Detroit Tigers over the past decade.
The Cubs also wanted to add to their minor league system, and the trade with San Diego was a beginning.
Davies, who was 7-4 with a 2.73 ERA in 12 starts, somewhat offsets the loss of Darvish. The 27-year-old right-hander can become a free agent after next season.
The four prospects the Cubs acquired — infielders Reginald Preciado, 17, and Yeison Santana, 20; and outfielders Owen Caissie, 18, and Ismael Mena, 18 — are likely years away from the majors. None were among the most prized in San Diego’s deep system. But Hoyer said they will boost Chicago’s.
“In a contracting financial market … I do feel like by definition people are going to hold on tighter to those close-to-the-big-leagues prospects because those are cheap, they’re talented,” Hoyer said. “As you cut back money, those guys become more important.”
The Cubs declined veteran left-hander Jon Lester’s option for 2021 in October, allowing the five-time All-Star to become a free agent, and they let outfielders Kyle Schwarber and Albert Almora Jr. go on Dec. 2.
The Darvish trade is by far Hoyer’s biggest move, but more major decisions loom.
Bryant, Báez and Rizzo can become free agents after next season. Hoyer said the Cubs have made “incredibly aggressive” offers for contract extensions and will continue to try to reach agreements with them.
“We haven’t gotten extensions, and as a result, there are contractual realities to how long we control some of these players,” Hoyer said. “I think we’d be foolish not to keep that in mind as we move forward.”
Another potential trade target could be Contreras. Hoyer called reports that the Cubs are shopping the two-time All-Star catcher “fictional.”
The Cubs have holes to address in their rotation behind Kyle Hendricks and Davies, with Lester, Jose Quintana and Tyler Chatwood gone to free agency. Darvish had three years and $59 million left on the $126 million, six-year deal he signed with the Cubs before the 2018 season.
“We know we have to add players through free agency and we’ll be looking to do that,” Hoyer said.
Roster issues aren’t all the Cubs have to address. There’s also an opening for a general manager.
Hoyer said that job probably won’t be filled until the summer, when he hopes to be able to conduct interviews in person rather than by Zoom. He said the next GM will “definitely” come from outside the organization.
“I feel like it’s really important for me to spend time with the person that we’re going to hire, to be able to have multiple dinners together, to meet their family,” Hoyer said.
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