Theo Epstein (President of baseball operations for the Cubs) and Jed Hoyer (GM of the Cubs) did an interview at a forum that I was at. Below is the complete interview. Enjoy!
How have you been holding up with the last few months?
Jed Hoyer: Super proud, super impressed. About how these guys have worked. We had to do the draft remotely, so it was pretty strange. There were glitches. Pro scouting is a grinding way of recreating baseball games virtually. Our staff has been amazing. At this point we just want baseball-every person that works in the game feels the same. We just want to play.
Theo: We’ve all gotten a chance to spend time with our families-it’s a treat. Two, we’ve spent a lot of time together virtually working on business. It’s a time of closeness. Working on matters big and small at the Cubs-from the draft to the pay cuts that have happened at the Cubs and the collective sacrifice, and it’s a small sacrifice compared to what other people are going through. It ended up bringing the organization together. We’ve had time to reflect on what’s important to us-in addition to our family, the Cubs family. We miss the smells, the stadium, the fans. We miss the ups and downs of the game and the crowd. The relief of the joy of a win and even the feeling of a loss. We miss baseball and we miss you guys. It’s been so painful to be not able to give you baseball. We all think it’s extremely important from stewards, caretakers of the game-we need to give you baseball. We will tackle our obstacles. We all miss baseball so much.
Could this be a little bit of an advantage for a new manager?
Jed Hoyer: The fact that our guys know David (Ross) so well is good for us. If we had a new manager that the players didn’t know then it would be difficult. But David has been staying super busy-he’s actually been playing a simulated season. They’ll go through a game, play the game out, and then talk about the decisions he made.
Did you play Strat-O-Matic?
Jed: No-I never played those tabletop games.
If the season started tomorrow who would hit leadoff?
Jed Hoyer: Kris Bryant. David’s excited hitting Bryant first and Rizzo second. The one challenge leading off a guy like Kris is the pitcher (Bryant wouldn’t have anyone one base regularly).
How does the DH Change how you go about?
Theo: We didn’t fill our team with the DH in mind, but our depth will help us a lot. We have a lot of OF who are deserve regular playing time. You know, that’s players like Happ and Almora and Steven Souza. On top of that, in the infield we have people like David Bote. Certainly there would be AB for him. And of course
(Willson) Contereras and (Victor) Caratini. It’ll be a nice challenge for the coaching staff to mix and match.
Jed: Days off will help. It’s all about keeping players happy and rested.
Tell us about Ed Howard and tell us about how scouting was this year?
Theo: It’s a great story about him being from the Chicago area. But we made that selection based of the talent. He’s mature, intelligent, and grounded with a great work ethic. His defense stands out, and he can cover a lot of ground, plus above average throwing arm. Offensively he has a nice swing and he hits the ball very far. He’s going to add more strength. We think he’s got a chance to make an impact with the bat. He can keep pitchers honest. He has a long road ahead of him. He has work ethic and character.
How is player development going to work in 2020?
Jed: The challenges that they are facing are amazing. You have to work around the circumstances. We have to work around what guys have access to. People have had to make do. We’ve had some velocity game days for pitchers. We likely will not have a minor league season this year. But we can gain an advantage over our opponents. Hitting is more complicated. It’s a lot of tee and strength work. If you’re not facing real pitching then it’s a lot more difficult. The pitchers are going to be ahead of the hitters.
How big of a challenge will the health protocols be?
Theo: Our pitchers are routine oriented with the timing and the rhythm. It will present a challenge, but the attitude we’re trying to take is to not compare baseball in 2020 to what has come before in past seasons. We’re trying to take something new that’s challenging and build it up to something great. We will all remember the attitude and the challenges, and we’re not going to be in this situation again. If people can overcome challenges like they are now, then we can too.
Have you had any continuing discussions with the core players?
Theo: We’ve had discussions with all of our players-but that has to do with the business of baseball. The baseball business has been in crisis. Revenues have gone from insignificant to almost gone. Because of that, everyone is taking a step back-trying to care of their health and waiting to see how the economic situation will unfold. Hopefully we can resume negotiations, but now is not the time.
What do you do during games?
Jed: Every single year I tell myself that I’m going to be calmer during games, and that I’m going to do my work. And then by the third game of the season that’s out the window, I’m just too emotional. During a typical game we’ve got 5-6 TVs on watching minors and majors games. I miss that as much as anything. Occasionally I get too mad.
Theo: I do nervous eating. It’s bad for the waste line. Jed gets emotional and salty with his language. We tend to wallow the things that go wrong more than we celebrate things that we do right. We’re always thinking about roster moves. And we sometimes just flat out beg for runs. At Fenway they have this unbelievable chocolate cake. Sometimes we get on a roll when we eat that chocolate cake. We pounce on that chocolate cake. We would request cake when we needed a boost, and it always worked.
Why did you guys take Jordan Nwogu in the third round?
Jed: He hits well, and he’s a terrific kid. He’s got an unusual swing, but our hitting guys like where he is at certain points in his swing. We were thrilled that he was there for us in the 3rd round.
Do you try to abide by the next best player philosophy in the draft?
Theo: Just about every player needs years of development in the minors, although (Burl) Carrway has a chance to move quickly. The normal is to draft the best player available.
Did you align your undrafted sales pitch to that of a college coach?
Jed: You’re selling that your the organization that can develop that player like no other organization. It got competitive. It’s the most like I’ve felt like a college recruiter. I hope it doesn’t happen again. I hope. I thought that we rallied well to sign some good players.
Have you gotten guidance from the league on traveling?
Theo: We got a first draft from the league on how many guys can travel, I don’t believe that’s public yet. There’s a premium on efficiency. We’re looking to combine roles where we can be as sufficient as possible. We’re trying to be creative. You’ll see a smaller traveling party and fewer people in the clubhouse.
How do you look at the idea of every game meaning a lot more?
Jed: It’s a hard balance because if we play 60-70 games then every game has that much more importance. However, you can’t treat it as a dead sprint. It has time for ups and downs and we have to be aware of the condition that our players are in.
How do you retain the core long term?
Theo: It’s really put us in a situation where there is no certainty. We don’t know how to fit into the next collective bargaining agreement. We have to prepare for the unknown. 2021 is going to be a lot like 2020 unfortunately. We’re trying to stay nimble and light on our feet. There’s a financial component to that as well, and right now we’re trying to get a better feel for baseball as a whole.
Do you look at this as an opportunity for the organization? Will the shortened season be a disadvantage for the Cubs?
Theo: This is an opportunity to define ourselves in a unique circumstance, and I think we’re well positioned with David Ross. We’re ready to run through a wall for him. Now that we’re facing emotions in a shortened season-hopefully we can gain momentum. We have to make that happen. We have to earn it.
Will you have an opportunity to have some minor leaguers with the Cubs?
Jed: We don’t know yet. It’ll be likely that we will have a pool of about 60 players. If we have extra spots then it would be a good opportunity to develop prospects. There will be a risk of injury-so depth will be important.
Could (Burl) Carraway make a contribution in the major league pen?
Theo: Yes, because you’re looking at expanded rosters.
In terms of guys who throw triple digits-are we getting to a point where 107 MPH is possible?
Jed: It seems crazy, and I remember when Chapman hit 105. We’ve seen that from a number of guys like Jordan Hicks and Michael Kopech. Whether you can do that and stay healthy is the real question. We’ll see some 107 at some point, but whether that’s sustainable is the question.
Theo: Nothing would make us happier than a return to baseball. Hopefully we will a season of some sort in 2020.