From the Pages of Vine Line: Q&A with GM Jed Hoyer (Part 1)

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(Photo by Stephen Green)

The end of Spring Training marked the beginning of Year Two for Cubs General Manager Jed Hoyer. Besides knowing his way around Wrigleyville a little better, he also comes into 2013 with a much improved feel for the organization, at both the major league and minor league levels.

The 2012 Cubs had their share of on-field struggles, so Hoyer spent much of his second offseason with the organization finding ways to improve on last year’s meager win total. But Hoyer has a plan, and he doesn’t want to deviate from it. His focus was on finding players who fit what the Cubs are trying to do.

Part of that plan included making the new front office’s first big free-agent splash, adding 29-year-old right-handed pitcher Edwin Jackson, who the team signed to a four-year, $52 million deal in January. Other notable acquisitions included low-risk, high-reward signings like right-handers Scott Baker, Scott Feldman and Carlos Villanueva, and outfielders Nate Schierholtz and Scott Hairston.

For the April issue of Vine Line, MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat sat down with Hoyer to talk about the 2013 Cubs, the differences between this season and last, and what to look for as the organization moves forward. We’ll post some of the quotes here on the blog in the next few weeks. To read the entire interview, pick up the April issue or subscribe to Vine Line today.

Vine Line: Coming off a rough year in 2012, what was your top priority this offseason?

Jed Hoyer: As an organization, we’re still not where we want to be from a pitching standpoint. I think that probably the biggest weakness when we got here was depth in pitching, especially at the upper levels. Ideally, you want to home-grow all of your pitching. We don’t have that luxury right now, so we actively sought out a lot of starting pitching. We brought in four guys we see as starters: [Edwin] Jackson, [Scott] Feldman, [Scott] Baker and [Carlos] Villanueva. We’ve had some injuries and setbacks this spring, but we feel we can weather that storm. That was certainly a priority for the offseason.

VL: Jackson’s contract—four years, $52 million—surprised some fans because of the length and amount.

JH: The biggest thing with him is his age. He’s been really durable. He’ll pitch this year at 29 years old. Our goal is to create a really good, young team. At some point, we know we’ll have to delve into free agency. You can’t wait and do it all at once. Signing a 29-year-old pitcher to a four-year deal, we felt, was the right thing to do. Getting him at this age, we feel he still has some upside left and that it was a prudent decision. We’re excited to have him.

VL: Ian Stewart struggled last year and was sidelined by a wrist injury. Why did you decide to bring him back?

JH: We’re not really sure we saw the best of Ian last year. He had the wrist injury, and he never felt 100 percent. We had a lot of discussions about that in the offseason and decided to bring him back, given he had the wrist surgery. We felt he’d be ready to go. Unfortunately, he had a setback early in the spring. I still feel the wrist was an issue with his hitting, but we don’t know how much it affected him last year. We thought the right thing to do was bring him back. It’s hard to find third basemen in today’s game. He’s a really good defender, he’s a left-handed hitter, he has power. There’s a lot there, and hopefully we can unlock it.

VL: How different was this spring compared to last year?

JH: It’s a lot different. I went through the same thing in San Diego when I went there in 2010. I felt so much more comfortable in 2011. Your first year is a blur. Theo and I talk about that all the time. Every face is new from a player standpoint, coaching staff, media, staff. Now you know people, so you feel more comfortable. Even with the players, that’s the biggest thing. It’s a lot different spring in a good way. We hope not to make any changes any time soon and hope to become part of the fabric of the Cubs going forward.

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