More Jed than You Can Shake a Bat At
ESPN Chicago radio's weekly Saturday Baseball gabfest, "Talking Baseball", found Jed Hoyer hitting the airwaves one more time. Questions covered Scott Baker's status, Scott Feldman's rotation status, Wrigley renovations, Hot Prospects (Soler and Baez), Cub interest in Michael Bourn, trading a certain reliever (Carlos Marmol) and what's life with Theo really like. Finally, Jed's comments as he faces off vs. Theo in the bunting contest. All that, plus a few post interview caller questions that hosts Bruce Levine and Fred Hubner try to field. Official Scorer: Bruce Levine need a catcher's knuckleball mitt.
A really full transcript after the jump.
Bruce: Lets start out with your pitching staff. One of the keys to your pitching staff may not be ready according to Dale Sveum, at the very beginning or may be a week or two behind, that's Scott Baker. How do you look at Scott's progress starting right now? I know we all watched the side session from him the other day, where do you think he's at, at this point?
Jed: I still think he's getting his legs underneath him. He's been throwing a lot, getting used to be back on the mound. We're trying to keep an open mind. Not putting dates on it. We feel really good about his progress. The rehab guys and trainers are doing a really good job with him. He feels great. All the reports every morning are very positive. We're not going to get married to any one date on the calendar. We're confident he'll have a really good season for us. We also feel like we'd rather have him miss a start early in the year and have him healthy at the end, as opposed to rushing him back. We're going to be patient. Luckily, we have the depth to be able to do that.
Fred: Was it surprising at all, Jed, that Dale made the announcement earlier this week that Scott Feldman is going to be in the starting rotation? Did it surprise Travis Wood and Carlos Villanueva?
Jed: Well no, we talked to Scott this winter and with Scott, one of the big things when we signed him, was that he wanted to go to a place where he was going to be in the rotation. He was confident that he would be a starting pitcher and not be bounced around. We signed him with that understanding that he would come in and be in the starting rotation. He's a guy we're going to put in the rotation and hopefully he'll have a lot of success there. It was one of those things where the announcement was almost common-sensical. People made a big deal out of it early in camp but you know what, those things have a way of working themselves out. There will be injuries. There will be guys who are slowed up and you never seem to have enough depth. So I'm not all that concerned about having too many guys.
Bruce: Jed, Tom Ricketts will talk about the renovations of Wrigley Field with the media after he talks with the team collectively tomorrow morning. From your perspective and from Theo's perspective of having the ballpark up to snuff to entice people to come to play in Chicago, how important is that to have the batting cages, to have the you know, bigger clubhouses, the weight room facilities, where a team actually feels like they are home when they are at home?
Jed: I think it's really important. Obviously, players love playing for the Cubs. The history here and the fans are a big enticement. I don't think we can take advantage of that forever. At some point when you are playing at a facility that's probably not as good as these guys played in at high-A or double A that becomes a challenge. Wrigley Field is a museum and it's a great place to play, the seating bowl is wonderful but going underneath, going into the clubhouse, the batting cage in RF are just not up to snuff. I can't imagine a reason why a team like the Chicago Cubs wouldn't have A+ facilities. We're building a brand new facility in the Dominican, we're building a great facility here in Mesa. We took a tour of that the other day and that's going to be fantastic for fans and for the players. I feel like the third part of that stool has to be renovating Wrigley. To me it's a must. I think they've pushed that project off 20 years by now. It's time to get up to what teams and players are used to. I think we can do that with a little bit of help.
Fred: Jed, we hear so much about this Cubs organization trying to build with their draft picks and we'll get to some of those guys because there are already people talking highly about Jorge Soler and comments that Dale Sveum made about him and things like that. How difficult is it for you as a GM to prepare for a season when, I don't know, maybe I'm stepping over my bounds, but you don't think you can win this year, win it all I mean?
Jed: Well you go into every single season knowing that probably 28-29 teams if things break right have a chance. I don't think there was a person who thought Baltimore was going to make the playoffs and take it to a division series 5 game last year. I don't think anyone gave Oakland a chance even as late as in June. I've been a part of teams that weren't expected to do well and had really good seasons. I kind of like it from a clubhouse standpoint because the players do get a chip on their shoulder when people say they can't compete. With that said, it's really exciting to be here and see our young players. You never want to take your eye too much off the present but it is nice to see the young players here in camp, get to know them a little bit. Obviously watching these guys take BP or ground balls, ultimately it's not baseball. We need to see these guys in games and have them develop. It's certainly nice to have them in one place.
Bruce: I get in trouble with people in my chats and sometime on these shows, people who tweet with me and things like that, I've told them that you and Theo pretty much insist on your hitters get 500 AB in AAA. They seem to think that's depending on the individual. Does it depend on the individual? Is that a hardened rule for you guys that your young players are that game ready to get to the next level?
Jed: I think it's important to take that last step and really finish a player off from the development standpoint. I'm not going to sit here and say there isn't an exception but that's certainly what we'd like to accomplish. I think you look at Rizzo, he really gained a lot from going back to AAA last year. It's hard not to imagine a hitter not gaining a lot from that last step. I don't know exactly how many at bats Mike Trout got in the minors but they sent him back down for awhile last year to get some seasoning. I do think that is an important step, important to finish these guys off. One organization that does a brilliant job of getting their prospects ready is Tampa. They never rush guys. They always make sure guys get plenty of at bats or innings pitched at the higher levels. They seem to step in and be almost seamless. That's really the goal is to step into the big leagues and have as seamless a transition as possible. If you rush guys through the upper minors it's hard to have that (seamless transition).
Fred: Now that he has signed with Cleveland. There are Cub fans and myself wondering how much you were trying to get Michael Bourn?
Jed: There was dialog with Scott Boras about that. I think Michael Bourn is a really good player. Great defender, great base runner. By all accounts he had a great makeup. Se he was a player we talked about. I would not classify the interest, we didn't get that far down the road. We didn't get that serious. But certainly given the quality of player he is we did have dialogue. To be candid, the draft pick was a strong consideration. We need to build from within. We need to have a robust draft this year given where we are picking. The money is really important with those draft picks. It wasn't the entire consideration but I've said in the past, we're not averse to giving up draft picks but it would be a lie to say it wasn't some kind of consideration when it came to the last free agents here on the market.
Bruce: Jed, how open will you guys be to trading and to being proactive If a Billy Beane or a GM comes to you and says " need a relief pitcher bad, my guy is breaking down". We're already seeing it in a couple of camps where closers are breaking down and you have a guy who you want as your closer but is in a free agent year. How much does that come into play and how open would you be to move a relief pitcher if you got the right young players back?
Jed: I don't want to answer that question specifically to Carlos. In general, we have to be open minded towards acquiring really good young talent. Talent that will be here for a long time. A lot of fans got used to and enjoyed watching Paul Maholm pitch and so did we. Getting 6 years of control of Arodys Vizcaino was absolutely the right move and if we have the chance to get really good prospects that could be here for a really long time and would be a part of the really great next Cubs team, then we'd have to be open minded to doing that.
Fred: Dale Sveum used the comparison being a right handed Cliff Floyd when he saw Jorge Soler taking batting practice. What were your thoughts when you first saw Soler and your thoughts on him now?
Jed: The first time I saw him was in the Dominican, I think it was right before Thanksgiving in 2011. He's an exciting player. Great body, incredibly strong, really good bat speed. He's got some work to do. He got some mechanical adjustments he needs to make. The tools are all there. Certainly, there is a willingness to be a really good player is there. It's hard. I'm sure Javy Baez will come in today to take BP and people will be really excited to watch him. He can put on a show in batting practice. While it is fun, we do have to temper our excitement realizing these guys have a lot more plate appearances in the minor leagues. They are really skilled, we are excited about them but we do have to temper our excitement about them watching them take batting practice.
Bruce: In closing with you, people ask me this all the time. What is the relationship like between Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer? Obviously, you've been friends a long time. You've worked together many years throughout your baseball careers. Are there days where you sit around talking about moving players or adding players where you have respectful disagreements and can that get to any level that you want it to?
Jed: Yeah, most days we have respectful disagreements. I think that's why we work together well. We've been doing this together for a long time. At this point, it's almost second nature, our dialogue, our way to get along. We disagree all the time. We are in complete lockstep about how we want the organization to go forward, where we want to take it, how we want to get there. From a philosophical standpoint, we're completely in agreement. From individual players, individual moves we'll disagree. A lot of times the other person will take the contrary side to make sure the person has though through it well. I think we play off each other well in that regard. It's really nice to have comfort with the person you work with closely. Any job, any profession, when you've worked with a person under pressure, you quickly learn how much you trust that person and with Theo we've been doing this so long together that there is complete trust. We've got a great relationship. That doesn't we don't disagree, doesn't mean you don't have some really heated debates.
Fred: Jed, will there be any trash talking today? If I'm not mistaken, you're going up against him (Theo) in the bunting contest today.
Jed: I'm sure there will be. This isn't the first time, playing pickup basketball or football or whatever. We've played a fair amount of sports against each other. It should be fun, this bunting contest. I'm sure Dale enjoyed pairing us off against each other in the first round. Hopefully, he'll get a good matchup out of us.
Bruce: My money's on you. You actually played.
Jed: Well we'll see. Hopefully, I'll make you some money.
Bruce: Jed, thanks for taking some time out on a Saturday morning, we appreciate it and we'll see you over at the camp. Thanks again.
Then there was the post-interview Cub discussion...
Fred: If the Cubs were closer to contending this year do you think they would have made a bigger push for Bourn?
Bruce: I think if he was 26 years old they would have signed him.
Fred: So you're worried about his last couple of years?
Bruce: Yes. He's 31. For the first time in his career, if you look at his stolen bases, they are down a little. He stole over 40 but his caught stealing was way up there, more than it ever had been. Those are tell-tale signs that a speed player might not be a speed player in a year or two. If that's the case, you don't want to be paying him for the 3rd or 4th year. When he's not the player you thought you were getting. A lead off man who can impact the game with his speed. If not impact the game on the bases but in the outfield where he lead all major league outfielders in putouts last year. Those are two key elements and I just think he was a little bit too old to offer him a long term deal. The year before, when Prince Fielder was around, if Fielder was around this year at age 27, I think they would have been serious players on him, because they are starting to identify some of they players they are looking at toward in the future now.
Fred: C'Mon. They have Dan Vogelbach. They are not interested in anybody else at first base.
Bruce: You can never have enough good players, right?
Fred: You can always move some.
Caller (Paul): Jed mentioned Michael Bourn had great makeup as a player. What do you think he means? AJ had great makeup. Soriano has great makeup but they are very different players.
Bruce: That's GM speak. A lot of it is hard to interpret. For instance on AJ, if you are talking about great makeup, you are talking about a guy who outworks everyone else, who has his head in the game and is one of the brighter guys in the game. When you are talking about Bourn, you are a good clubhouse guy. Also that he is a guy that would seamlessly fit into the Chicago Cubs because of the skills he's looking for as a person and as a player. I believe that's what they are talking about with Bourn. If he were 27-28, I believe they would have made a real strong run at him. At 31, you have to assume that the attrition will catch up to his legs sooner or later.
Same caller (Paul): Do you think Soriano has great makeup in the same way?
Bruce: I never heard it until last year. Then we all of a sudden hear the manager, the GM and the President of the team tell us what a fantastic guy he is. How impressive he is with his work ethic. We always knew he was tremendously liked by the other players, that was always a given. We never heard how hard he worked or how he improved so much.
Caller (Steve): The Cubs put together a roster of guys that they could trade. One year guys that all have something to prove. What if they prove it. What if they are within this extra wild card game when July rolls around? Will they dump everybody?
Bruce: What do you feel as a Cub fan, would you prefer that they start adding now before they feel they are ready to compete every year?
Same caller (Steve): My thoughts are you have to go for it if you are close to that extra wild card game. What we'd be giving up would get us five prospects. There would be 5-6 guys that we are looking to dump. Scott Feldman starts out great. Baker comes back. Soriano has another good year. Schierholtz, Hairston, DeJesus.
Bruce: It's a scenerio that certainly would disappoint Cub fans if they didn't try to hold on to them or add if they were competitive. Fred, my guess is they would not. These one year guys are just that. If they could continue to add players for the future. The only exception is Matt Garza. If he continues to pitch tremendously well and shows that he is over the elbow problem that he had last year, they would definitely consider at age 29, signing him to an extension rather than trading him. If that doesn't work out, he's gone, he'd be traded at the trading deadline.