SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Jed Hoyer took a risk and sent shockwaves around baseball by bringing in Craig Counsell, replacing the Cubs’ sitting manager David Ross with the hottest manager on the market.
Back during his end-of-season press conference in early November, the Cubs’ president of baseball operations called the September collapse “painful.” Tuesday at the GM Meetings in Scottsdale, Ariz., Hoyer said he still felt like the team “left wins on the table.”
His response was to go out and sign someone who’s widely considered among the elite managers in baseball, someone Hoyer hopes will help keep the Cubs from another ending like that.
But what exactly does this mean for the rest of the Cubs’ offseason?
Nine years ago, the Cubs made a similar move. With Theo Epstein in charge and Hoyer working as the team’s general manager, they fired Rick Renteria in order to bring in Joe Maddon to fill the manager position. They then traded for players like Miguel Montero and Dexter Fowler and signed players like Jason Hammel and Ross, with Jon Lester’s signing being the crown jewel in an offseason that turned into a special year in 2015.
That year, the Cubs brought in a high-profile manager and then spent big money to improve the roster. Is bringing in Counsell a sign that we’re in for a repeat?
“I don’t think that we signaled that we’re going to have some crazy, aggressive offseason,” Hoyer said. “But certainly, I really like our position. If there are moves, even big moves that will help us continue that trajectory, we’ll definitely do it.”
So, he’s not saying the Cubs are going to go all in for 2024. That tracks with what he’s said since the start of the rebuild process; they will take the necessary steps to get where they want to go.
To be fair, the Cubs did commit over $300 million to free agents last winter, so they have shown a willingness to spend. But even that only got them to 83-79 and outside of the postseason again. Would going all in now get them to the level of a World Series contender? Perhaps, but as we’ve seen with the Mets and Padres, it’s not a guarantee.
“I think we have a really good core of players on the big league team, I think we have a core of good arms, I think we have a really good farm system,” Hoyer said. “Do I think we are right now able to compete with the Braves or the Dodgers? No. We need to figure out how to get there. Do I think that’s a one-year process? Maybe, but it’s probably a multi-year process to get to that place. But that’s obviously the goal. “
That process is what Hoyer had to sell Counsell on. As with Dansby Swanson, who last year signed a seven-year, $177 million contract based on what the Cubs laid out for him, Counsell too had to be sold on how exactly Hoyer and his front office envision the rest of this process going.
“I’m really excited about our direction and where we’re going in our building process,” Hoyer said. “I certainly sold Craig on that really hard, not only the core players we have on the team but also the young players we have that are sort of mounted on the border, so to speak. And then I also feel like we have financial flexibility. I believe in that.”
Added Hoyer: “I felt like the sell job on the direction of the team and where we are, that was real. I felt like he asked a lot of questions about, ‘Talk about your plan, what is it?’ and kind of walking through it in real detail. So that part was kind of me selling me and the front office and what we have.”
Hoyer hasn’t publicly gone into much detail on what this offseason could look like. He hasn’t committed to going into the luxury tax or anything like that. But also he hasn’t rejected the possibility that he could be ready to be even more aggressive to improve the roster. And that possibility still has fans buzzing.
Will the Cubs will re-sign Cody Bellinger?
Are they going to reel in Shohei Ohtani this time around?
Could they make a major trade for Juan Soto or Pete Alonso?
Will any of the free-agent starting pitchers be on their way to Wrigley Field?
Only time will tell if Hoyer is willing to go those routes to bolster the roster. Certainly, fans are hoping for it, especially after Hoyer made the big swing to land Counsell. To many of them, the Cubs need to follow that up with a big offseason.
Hoyer doesn’t necessarily see it that way, because he has faith in where the Cubs are at right now and where he believes they’re headed. But if the right offseason moves to keep the team on an upward trajectory also end up being “big” offseason moves, then he seems willing to do them.
“I don’t think [hiring Counsell is] a signal that somehow we’re going to have the biggest and boldest offseason,” Hoyer said. “If we do, it’s because things lined up for us.”
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