Jed Hoyer’s voice strained. It wasn’t clear if it was sentiment or exhaustion tugging at his vocal cords. The Cubs president of baseball operations had spent much of the past few days – and nights – on the phone with potential trade partners.
“The decisions we have to make in this game sometimes are really difficult,” Hoyer said on a Zoom call with reporters in Washington on Friday. “And I hope that people don’t ever think that there’s not real emotion that goes into doing that. Those guys, they’re icons here.”
He was talking about Anthony Rizzo, Javy Báez and Kris Bryant. Over the past 24 hours, Hoyer and his team had traded all three for a haul minor leaguers.
In all, the Cubs have traded away nine players since the All-Star break. But Hoyer had watched those three championship core players bloom from prospects into the MLB stars they are today.
“I couldn’t be more proud of what we built,” Hoyer said of a run that included a World Series and five playoff appearances in six years. “And it was really difficult to have those conversations.”
Hoyer at least got to break the news in person to Rizzo on Thursday that the Cubs had traded him to the Yankees. Hoyer has known Rizzo the longest, and their player-executive relationship spanned three different organizations. Red Sox. Padres. Cubs.
“I remember sitting with his parents in his suite in Boston when he was diagnosed with cancer,” Hoyer said. “I remember hearing his voice when I was in San Diego and I traded for him, and he was kind of crushed to be traded from the Red Sox to the Padres. And that was a humbling thing to hear, how crushed a prospect was to be traded to a small market. I’ve been with him forever.”
When Hoyer called Bryant on Friday, the Cubs president reminisced about flying out to Stockton, California to see Bryant in a college tournament. Hoyer, then-Cubs president Theo Epstein and then-senior VP of scouting and player development Jason McLeod met Bryant in a hotel lobby.
“He was so impressive,” Hoyer said. “And he was just a 21-year-old kid that was tearing up the college baseball world. Seeing how he’s grown since then, in a meeting in California and hoping we could draft him.”
The Cubs traded Bryant to the Giants on Friday.
Then, of course, there’s Báez, who the Cubs traded to the Mets at the deadline.
“I remember Javy, when we’d have meetings with him, and he wouldn’t even look up from his shoes,” Hoyer said.
Báez was part of the outgoing regime’s last draft class when Epstein and Hoyer came in to rebuild a team that hadn’t been in the playoffs for three years. The No. 9 overall pick was shy.
“Now, he’s El Mago,” Hoyer said. “He owns the room.”
Báez said the communication from the front office was “really good” at the deadline.
“They talked to us straight up and they told us what the chances were,” he said. “We obviously understand the business side, and it happens. Hopefully it happens for the best of the organization.”
Hoyer has seen some of the video tributes and broken-hearted tweets fans posted in the wake of Rizzo, Bryant and Báez’s trades. He empathized.
“Did we decide as a group to not have them play the last two months here? We did,” Hoyer said. “But I love those guys. And I hope people understand that, that what we created was really special.”
Gordon Wittenmyer contributed to the reporting of this story from Washington, DC.