Jim Squared and Jed
Not trying to step on Rob's post so my apologies for the dueling TCR writeups.
I'm providing a hand made transcript of the XM Front Office Radio show, hosted by former GM's Jim Bowden, (Reds GM 1992-2003 and Expos/Nationals 2004-2009) and Jim Duquette (aka, "Duke", the Mets GM 2004). Their program airs every Sunday morning. They interviewed Cubs GM Jed Hoyer (preceded by interviews of Mets Sandy Alderson and followed by Rangers Jon Daniels) and there was some post-interview Cubs chatter by the two hosts. Just some decent hot stove talk on a late January AM.
Bowden: You had a very busy offseason here. Can you break down moves...Edwin Jackson, Scott Baker, Carlos Villaneuv-er, Scott Hairston, Kuji Fujikawa?
Meatballs, mashed potatoes and Lumpy Gravy after the jump...
Here's an audio link exerpt of a few of the questions from the XM Jed Hoyer interview.
Jed: 2012 was an unsuccessful season, we lost 101 games, a big part of that was a lack of pitching depth. Right away our focus was to improve pitching depth and we got Scott Feldman and Scott Baker. Right away our focus was to get two guys then build up other areas of depth, we think we did a good job of that. We still have a way to go as an organization and that will take a lot of drafts. At the big league level, we've added a lot of depth and that will help to get us through the season.
Duke: You were looking to upgrade the bullpen, Fujikawa's impact. Tell us about him.
Jed: Looking at his numbers he's been completely dominant in Japan both as a setup guy and a closer the last few years. We looked at the conversion of Japanese relievers to the big leagues, and that group has had best success of all the positions. He throws strikes, He has fastball that gets up to 94 and has good carry on it, and seems to miss barrels. He has a good split and breaking ball. He can throw for strikes. A different look from the sinker, slider relievers. It's nice to have a guy with a 4-seam fastball and a split, a different look for hitters. Attacks the zone. We expect a transition phase but we were really impressed when we met him.
Bowden: (he references recently concluded interview with Mets GM) We just interviewed Sandy Alderson...he's still in on Bourne, are you? or Lohse?
Jed: We're still in touch on a number of free agents, wouldn't say we are done. You never know when something is going to happen but it's pretty likely we go to spring training with what we have right now. Never say never but it's unlikely we do anything significant before spring training.
Duke: How about the trade front. Soriano? Is he likely to be with Cubs in spring training.
Jed: Yes, it's likely Soriano is in spring training with us. Since we got to Chicago, Sori brings 30/100, improved defense with coach Dave McKay, good clubhouse presence. We are looking to get younger as an organization and we did entertain some discussions but nothing ever really got all that close. We excited for him to play LF and to bat 4th for us.
Bowden: I love Soriano's work ethic and how hard he works in the weight room and how much he loves the game.
Bowden: 2-3 Twitter questions about... Junior Lake, Brett Jackson. Do you envision Cubs Infield over time to include Rizzo, Barney, Castro and Baez?
Jed: Junior Lake, had a very good winter ball performance. Great Athlete, really physical. Can play all CF and side-OF positions, plus 3B, SS. Has big power. Played for Dave Jauss this winter who I've known for a long time and gave us great reports from winter ball. Some work to do like plate discipline but he's going to be a really good player.
Brett Jackson is going to be a really good player. Only missing link is contact. Intangibles are there. He's worked hard on revamping his swing this winter. Excited to see him in Mesa.
That infield of the future, that sounds pretty good. Of that group, Baez obviously has some work (to do). Rizzo, Barney, Castro have established themselves. Baez has got a ways to go. Exciting talent, incredible bat speed. He can play SS, if he ends up playing 3B it's because we have two good shortstops.
Duke: Garza status, health? Do you expect him to be ready to go at the start of spring training?
Jed: He should be ready to go, he's excited about the way he feels and has gotten full clearance from doctors. Should be a full go, going into ST.
A couple of guys had Tommy John surgery. Baker and Arodys Vizcaino might be a little slower because of TJ surgery.
Bowden: Garza's a free agent after the season, how do you handle that?
Jed: Our focus is on Garza being in the rotation. When he's on the mound he can be dominant, can throw a shutout at any time. We still are focused on gathering assets for the future. We don't have him signed beyond this year. Matt's been really good for us. Excited to get him healthy and get him into the rotation. .
Duke: Starting rotation: Samardzija, EJax, Garza, Feldman, Villaneuva, Travis Wood, Baker. Who has the inside track?
Jed: We have 7 guys who could be in the rotation, it never ends up that way, we're happy to have that depth. Villaneueva has pitched out of the bullpen more than Wood in the past. We needed the depth last year. Need the depth to be strong.
Bowden: ...Cubs before your (Jed Hoyer's) arrival. Started with Starlin Castro as a piece. Now Barney, Rizzo, Samardjiza. Are you on track? What other pieces do you have to turn this organization into a contender?
Jed: That's how we look at it. We only had one piece (Castro) when we got here. Glad Samardjiza forced his way into that group. Jeff has something to prove. Barney has some work (to do) to get on base more. His hand eye coordination is so good, he almost puts the ball in play almost too much. Once he lays off some pitches he's going to be really good. We're hopeful that Soler, Almora, Baez can be there. Our goal is to add more pieces to the core each year. That's what the best organizations have, usually 6-10 really young "core" players in their system. That's what we hope to accomplish. Those best organizations (mentions the Braves and Cardinals) have those pieces.
Duke: What about the 2013 Draft?
Jed: There are some good college pitchers for sure, hard to assess high school players now. Some 18 year olds mature. Teams drafting #2 have historically done well and gotten core pieces there. We need to hit on a core piece there. Whether it's a college pitcher, high school pitcher or position player we don't know that. Wrong to set choices this early or pick what subset to go after . Nice to draft #2 to work on the players we want to focus on. Don't want to ignore some really good players. Not one of the stronger draft classes but picking #2 won't make that matter much.
Bowden: World Baseball Classic impact. Is it disruptive?
Jed: For better or worse, we don't have a lot of guys involved. Rizzo is on team Italy. Not many Cubs involved this year. It is disruptive but it's a good thing for the game. Not unhappy starting pitchers (Garza, Shark) not involved. Not as much an issue when position players are involved. Spring training is about getting your pitchers ready to go. Position players can figure it out in 40-50 at bats. Would be a lot more nervous if we had a lot of pitchers involved.
Bowden: Professional working relationship with you and Theo. How involved is Theo in day to day operations. How does it work? A lot of GM's do it differently (Cleveland and Atlanta front office mentioned).
Jed: It's always evolving depending upon where we are as an organization. We picked projects. He did one, I did the other. Was a lot of work to do initially. Sometimes it depends on relationship with agents as to who does a project. We divide up responsibilities which helps accomplish a lot more work, how that evolves into the future, I'm not sure. We are not territorial about it. The common thread is the trust that has been built over years. The trust allows us to work really well with one another without feeling like we're infringing over territories.
Jim Bowden and Jim Duquette then discussed the Cubs, post interview.
Duke: Thanks to Jed Hoyer. A couple of things stood out, one of them is Soriano, very likely, he will stay with Cubs. You know him (to Bowden), you've traded for him, you know his work ethic and what a good clubhouse guy he is too. He's not prefect in the 4 hole spot for a contending club but it's a good spot for him with the Cubs. The fact that they haven't been able to move him, I'm not surprised. I still think there are some teams that will try to hit them up in the spring. Is the asking price too high from the Cubs right now?
Bowden: If they get the right prospect, they'd be willing to eat the right amount of money. When you perform as Soriano has there is value for the Cubs. People say he's not going to be there when they are ready to win. His value is in the clubhouse, his value is work ethic, I want young players, I want Starlin Castro to understand how hard Soriano works. If you take the power out of that lineup, it's not the same lineup. That being said, if he (Hoyer) could have gotten the right deal...Soriano for Dominic Brown was talked about, yeah...you get a young player that might be something that makes sense. But Ruben Amaro got Delmon Young and decided to hold on the him (D Brown), which I think we both understand. The other point is Soriano doesn't want to DH. So he doesn't want to go to the Orioles where your cousin is the GM. There is not a lot of contending teams that have a need for what Soriano brings to the table and if they do have a need they don't want to spend the money, like the Yankees because they are trying to stay at $189M (payroll tax limit). I believe Soriano's going to stay with the Cubs and Vernon Wells is going to stay with the Angels and both of them will be able to contribute.
Duke: One guy I don't think at the deadline is going to stay with the Cubs is Garza. You (to Bowden) asked the question and you have to wait because of his health issues early on, so he will pitch for the Cubs at least the first month or two to show that everything is OK with the elbow. I thought they were going to trade him last year. The price tag was high, probably not quite as high this year but if he's pitching as well as he normally does, they could get some pretty good pieces for him at the deadline. Do you think he's gone or do they try to sign him to a multi-year deal? They are trying to build around pitching and build up pieces and he's a pretty good piece to have.
Bowden: We've both been in that seat. You've got to look at it this way. One, get him healthy because if he's not healthy you don't have a choice to make and then get him on the mound and see what he is. If he's the Matt Garza that's a 15 game winner and he wants to stay in Chicago and you can sign him for a deal similar to what you game Edwin Jackson, I think you sign him. Especially, if you can stay away from a no-trade clause. Then you sign him because it's too hard to get top of the rotation starters. I say that on one hand, but on the other hand you have to do your due diligence. Talk to 29 other teams and see what kind of offers are out there. If you could have gotten a Will Meyers from the Royals like Tampa Bay got for Shields, based on where the Cubs are you just go make that deal and you have a conversation at another time because their job is to get as many young good players to build around as they can. That being said, Garza's young enough that he helps you in the rotation and you are going to have to trade for a package that's worth more than that...if he stays healthy. It's complicated and what Jed conveyed to us, which is what you and I would do, is lets leave all the options open. Healthy first, then start studying the options to make the best decisions for the Cubs.
Duke: I'm curious about the Cubs fan base and their patience level this year. They are going to struggle again this year but it's similar to what you hear about the Mets fan base. A high percentage of their fan base is accepting of where they are. There are some who cover the club that feel their fans are going to lose patience here if they are not looking like they are improved. I think they are better but I think they are still a 90 loss team.
Bowden: They are better but they are not ready to contend. I feel there is not a more faithful fan base in America, in any sport, than the Chicago Cubs fans. I went into Wrigley Field for years when they had terrible teams and the place was packed every night. They were having a great time, giving them standing ovations. They were down 8-0 and would score 3 and they were standing on their feet like they just won the World Series. I don't know about you Duke but when I went into Wrigley Field, I call it a love affair with the fans of Chicago. I loved staying in line getting a hot dog with them. I loved leaving the game with them on the streets. Chicago is one of those special parks, special fans and winning or losing, they just love baseball. That being said, the fans want to win. Fans are smart enough that when you see teams like the Mets and the Cubs that are rebuilding and they are doing it the right way, and they are transparent about the process...I think fans will give you more time and more patience because they get what you are doing.
Duke: I agree with you on that. In Chicago, I really do feel like they are going in the right direction. The question that you asked about their relationship (Jed/Theo) they've worked together for a long time, that trusting relationship. I think it's one of the smartest front offices there in the game. So, I have a high degree of confidence they will get this going in the right direction. I just don't think it's going to be in the middle of this season.
Bowden: I think there is a way to go before Jed becomes the full time GM in that structure because Theo is the one getting paid more money than any other GM in the history of baseball and this is his fingerprints, this is what he has got to do. So Jed and Theo are doing this together. Jed's the GM but Theo is involved. You look at some other scenario's...look at the Marlins. Larry Beinfest (President), Mike Hill (GM)...Beinfest is literally the GM and Hill is an assistant GM. Some would argue that owner Jeffrey Loria is actually the GM and Beinfest the assistant to the GM with Hill the assistant to the assistant. Then you have Atlanta, where Frank Wren is legitimately the GM and John Schuerholz is the president and they go through normal chain of command processes. There is total separation there. Then you go to Cleveland with Mark Shapiro and Chris Antonetti and it's more of a collaborative situation like the Cubs are doing. In fact, the Terry Francona influence has been a really important part of what they have done this offseason. Every structure is different. The thing I love about the Cubs structure, and we didn't talk about Jason McLeod, he's going to be a GM someday. He's a real stud too. They have 3 GM's there in Theo, Jed and Jason McLeod. They are great baseball guys. They all get along and have great relationships and trust each other and they work together like Bosch, Wade and Lebron James (author comment: yuck, ugly analogy).
Duke: You are right about Jason McLeod, we didn't talk about him. He's one of the top evaluators in the game. His track record in the draft has been hard to match.