From the Pages of Vine Line: Q&A with GM Jed Hoyer (Part 3)
(Photo By Stephen Green)
For the April issue of Vine Line, MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat sat down with Cubs General Manager Jed Hoyer to talk about the 2013 Cubs, the differences between this season and last, and what to look for as the organization moves forward.
In the final part of our three-part interview, Hoyer discusses the foundation for the club’s future success. With rebuilt staff, new players and minor league acquisitions, the Cubs aim to make significant progress from a year ago. The club established a more of a core this offseason, with the hopes of getting big results from those players while maintaining a level of success throughout the system.
Vine Line: You and Theo Epstein talk about sticking to a plan in building the Cubs. Do you feel you’re making progress?
Jed Hoyer: I think there’s been a lot of progress. There’s a lot more talent in that clubhouse than there was a year ago. But the only way there’s real progress is if we say the same thing next year and the year after that and keep building on that. There’s no way you can speed the hands of the clock. We have to let these guys develop. There’s only one draft a year, there’s only one trade deadline a year, and there’s only one area for free agency. We know it’s going to take some cycles of that. To do it every year, we have to come in here and say, “Whoa, we have a lot more talent.” If we keep doing that, eventually we’ll get to that critical mass when you say, “Hey, this is a really good team.”
VL: Some of your minor league additions—such as field coordinator Tim Cossins, pitching coordinator Derek Johnson and hitting coordinator Anthony Iapoce—didn’t make headlines, but they were key acquisitions.
JH: No question. A lot of the things that happen that the fans don’t see are just as important as what they do see. The tip of the iceberg is the major league team, and that’s the most important thing. We added a lot to the minor league system. Certainly, there are first-round guys who are brimming with talent, but there are organizations who continually find guys below the radar who people say come out of nowhere. A lot of that is good teaching in the minor leagues, and all of a sudden, these guys really develop. That’s what we’re looking for, and I think we have really good teachers leading that, and we have a lot of good coaches below them.
Every year, we want to feel better and better about the continuity—the best organizations have a lot of continuity. We want to develop that. We’re not there yet. We’re still making changes, but we want to get to the point where everyone knows how the Cubs teach and who’s teaching it.
VL: What’s your feeling on Dale Sveum heading into his second season as manager?
JH: The 101 losses [last year] are on Theo and me. We felt like Dale kept the clubhouse together. We had a 101-loss team with no brush fires at all. Guys really respect him. They play hard for him. Our goal is to make sure we have a really talented team that’s playing hard for him. I think Dale has done a great job. He’s a really good teacher, he’s well respected, and we’re looking forward to year two with him.
VL: Sveum doesn’t want players to limit themselves and be content with a .500 season. Do you have a winning percentage you want to see this year?
JH: I don’t really put a number on it. The biggest thing for me, and the thing that probably frustrated me the most a year ago, and the thing we have to change before we’re a good team, is we didn’t control the strike zone very well. We walked too many guys pitching-wise, and we didn’t get on base enough offensively. That to me is what really has to change. Hopefully, there are guys on our team who can change that, or we’re going to have to change personnel in order to do it.
VL: You did improve the pitching, but looking at the projected lineup, there haven’t been many changes. Why should fans watch the 2013 Cubs?
JH: I think the fans are starting to see what we’re trying to build—at first base with [Anthony] Rizzo, at shortstop with [Starlin] Castro, and certainly [Jeff] Samardzija. We’re hoping some more guys push their way into that group, whether it’s Welington Castillo or Nate Schierholtz. We like the addition of Nate and think he’s a guy who will benefit from a change of scenery. Darwin Barney had a fantastic year, and we think he can build on it offensively. We have a deeper pitching staff than we did a year ago.
We’ve been really honest to the fans, and I don’t think at any point we’ve misled them on what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to build something that every year they know is a playoff-quality team. That’s the goal. It doesn’t happen overnight, and we’ve been really honest about that. But I do think fans deserve to start seeing the fruits of our labor, and I think you’re going to start to see that coming together now.