Intelligent spending. Thoughtful decisions. Processes. If the Chicago Cubs baseball organization was broadcasting a motivational symposium, they’d have the undivided attention of middle managers and assistant VPs all across America. But is this the best way to run a major-market sports franchise that should trail only the Dodgers and Yankees when it comes to spending?
The Cubs introduced new general manager Carter Hawkins to the Chicago media yesterday and the high praise he and Jed Hoyer had for each other proved the tandem should work very well together. The deliberate, frugal nature the two executives displayed is bound to make chairman Tom Ricketts a happy man, too. Hawkins arrived after spending 14 years with the Indians/Guardians, an organization that has had consistent success despite a limited annual baseball budget.
At least the new GM admitted that many baseball executives were more impressed with Hoyer’s moves at the trade deadline than Cubs fans were.
“There is no secret sauce,” Hawkins said during yesterday’s presser. “Everything we do has to come back to winning at the major league level. I know that it can happen here for two very good reasons. One, it has happened here. And two, it is happening here.”
Welcome to Carter’s Ted Talk.
Despite all of the inspirational comments and a few jokes between Hoyer and his new sidekick, the event came across as very low-key. Hawkins promised the front office would be working every day of the year, so I’m guessing the 37-year-old executive promised he’d accept zero paid time off to get the deal done. Maybe Hawkins is simply dedicated to perfection in his work ethic in a Dick Vermeil kind of way.
That’s a good thing, because fixing the team’s broken rotation may take a 24/7 commitment from the team’s newest executive. The Cubs rotation was ranked No. 25 in all of baseball with a 7.5 WAR per Fangraphs. Cleveland has been historically better, though their rotation struggled a great deal this year, too.
“The secret [to] developing pitchers is that there is no secret,” Hawkins added. “What the Indians were able to do really, really well was to take all the information that’s available out there and synthesize that into digestible information that the player could be on board with, the staff could be on board with.”
In this year’s draft, the Indians took pitchers with 10 of their first 11 picks. Half of their picks in 2020 were pitchers, too. Cleveland has had great success in developing pitching over the last 14 years, starting with Corey Kluber (acquired in trade) and Mike Clevinger (now with the Padres) to current pitchers Shane Bieber, Aaron Civale, Zach Plesac, and Triston McKenzie.
Kluber, 35, will be a free agent this year and is coming off his best season in four years. Despite missing three months, he was better than every Cubs starter except Kyle Hendricks. Maybe he’ll be the Jon Lester-like impact signing everyone thinks the Cubs need to make. He should come pretty cheaply and on a one-year deal, too. Welcome to Cleveland West.
Hoyer, who was obviously impressed with Hawkins, has found the yin to his yang.
“The way I came up in the game was kind of more on the player procurement, player acquisition/transaction side than it was on the player development side,” the Cubs’ president of baseball operations said yesterday. “For me, knowing what my areas of expertise are, I think he balances [those] really well.”
We’ll find out soon enough, as both men have a lot of roster holes to fill if they intend to make the Cubs a competitive team in 2022.
Cubs News & Notes
- Last year, Hoyer said he wanted his new GM to be a diversity hire. Hawkins doesn’t match that description.
- It’s likely that a focus on developing pitchers may have altered Hoyer’s plan. The new GM has quite the pedigree in that respect.
- Hoyer and Hawkins interviewed for more than five hours before the decision was made to offer a contract to the ex-Indians assistant GM.
- The Cubs made some procedural moves yesterday in anticipation of what will be a busy offseason. INF David Bote, OF Nick Martini, RHP Tommy Nance, C Austin Romine, and LHP Brad Wieck were all reinstated from the injured list. C Erick Castillo and C Tyler Payne were designated for assignment, and OF Johneshwy Fargas, RHP Joe Biagini, and INF Tyler Ladendorf were returned to Triple-A Iowa.
- Jim Bowden of The Athletic proposed a trade idea that would send Willson Contreras to the Yankees for catcher Gary Sánchez and minor league pitching prospects Deivi García and Yoendrys Gómez.
- Chicago’s next move should be replacing Anthony Iapoce with a new hitting coach.
From the Front Office
“There’s a reason that the best organizations are generally built from within, and they’ll use free agency to sort of finish off a club. I think building a club through free agency is really challenging. So, I think when you talk about ‘intelligent spending,’ I think that’s ultimately how I see it. You have to be really careful. If you use free agency as the way to build the team, you’re probably going to get yourself in trouble because you’re committing too many dollars to decline-phase players.” – Hoyer
Odds & Sods
If thoughtful decisions are going to be the driver this winter, can we please get a do-over on Kyle Schwarber?
Kyle Schwarber Crushes Baseballs. pic.twitter.com/caVwzOQ3nd
— OBVIOUS SHIRTS® (@obvious_shirts) October 19, 2021
Championship Series News & Notes
When Schwarber hit his grand slam — the third of the ALCS for the Red Sox, all in the last two games — it set a postseason series record. J.D. Martinez and Rafel Devers both hit bases-loaded home runs in Game 2.
The Red Sox could be this year’s team of destiny. Meanwhile, the Dodgers are really on the ropes and will play a must-win game tonight.
Morton has unassumingly gone from journeyman starter to postseason ace.
The Dodgers have dominated the Braves at Chavez Ravine. Los Angeles was 58-23 at home during the regular season, which included wins in their 15 final home games.
Last Night’s MVPs
- Schwarber – His one hit was huge and he is starting to look a little more comfortable playing first base.
- Martinez – He’s a .310 career hitter in postseason action and went 2-for-3 with a home run and two RBI last night.
- Eduardo Rodríguez – It’s the starter’s time to be a star. Rodríguez held the high-powered Houston offense to three runs on five hits, with seven punchouts to boot.
How About That!
The Mets are really struggling to find a president of baseball operations. Theo Epstein and Billy Beane, have both reportedly passed, the Brewers will not allow David Stearns to interview, and Dorian Boyland would prefer to run his car dealerships than squeeze juice from that lemon of a franchise.
Is it Martini Time?
Carlos Correa in Game 1 vs. Eduardo Rodriguez in Game 3 ⌚
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) October 19, 2021
They Said It
- “[David Ross] seems ridiculously open-minded, growth-minded. He wants to get this thing right and wants to help this organization continue to grow. He wants to learn himself as a manager. And that’s the type of personality and mindset that leads to a lot of success.” – Hawkins
- “This could be a partnership, and a friendship, that could really work well. A long way to go, obviously. [Jed] and Theo [Epstein], I would not even want to think that we would even come close to that type of relationship. But if we can get a 10th of that, maybe we’ll be okay.” – Hawkins
Tuesday Walk-Up Song
Welcome to Paradise by Green Day – Patience is a lot to ask of Cubs fans, and Hawkins will have a short grace period. Hoyer’s lasted for less than a month and ended once he non-tendered Schwarber and traded Yu Darvish.