The nature of teams’ calls to Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer has shifted over the past couple weeks.
“Eleven days ago, we were fully on the buy side of this transaction (period), and everyone was calling about that,” Hoyer said Thursday. “And obviously, people are now calling to see which players are available.”
Hoyer stopped short of saying the Cubs’ 11-game losing streak dropped the club’s status to trade-deadline sellers – “I would never count these guys out.” But opposing teams’ reaction to the Cubs’ plummet down the standings said plenty.
The Cubs finally snapped their skid Wednesday against the Phillies, but they still entered play the next day at third place in the NL Central, 8 ½ games back of the division-leading Brewers. The trade deadline is three weeks away.
“When you're in this moment, and your playoff odds get into single digits at this time of the year,” Hoyer said, “you have to keep an eye on the future and think about what moves you can potentially make that could help build the next great Cubs team.”
The end of an era was inevitable entering the season. Core players Anthony Rizzo, Javy Báez and Kris Bryant were all in contract years, with extensions for all three likely out of the budget. What wasn’t clear was whether this group would make a final playoff push together.
Instead, the Cubs’ extended losing streak has cleared the way for the retooling – or restructuring, or whatever you want to call it – to start at the trade deadline.
Just don’t call it a rebuild around Hoyer.
“People talk about rebuilds when you’re doing what we did in 2012,” Hoyer said. “We are going to have roster turnover. … Starting with me, and then working down, we have to build a roster that we feel goes into the season as a favorite year after year. It’s going to take some turnover to do that.”
There's plenty of room, however, between "turnover" and "teardown."
Though the recent 11-game losing streak was the team’s longest since 2012, the Cubs aren’t the “lovable losers” that they were when Hoyer and his predecessor Theo Epstein took over the baseball operations department a decade ago.
In five of the past six seasons, the Cubs have played in the postseason. They won a World Series just five years ago.
“We're in a different situation now that we were in 2012,” Hoyer said. “And so, the decisions we're making, the process that we're going through, are completely different.”
Hoyer also isn’t coming in from the outside to break a century-long curse this time. His promotion this winter gave him the opportunity to put his stamp on the organization, but Hoyer is as connected to this closing era of Cubs baseball as anyone.
The team that went on a season-defining skid the past couple weeks was one he’d helped put together, building around star players that he’d seen grow up in the organization.
“To lose 11 straight games in all sorts of different was really painful,” Hoyer said, noting the team’s talent level and the frustration each player must have felt during that skid. “And especially when you look out and know what you’ve been through with these players and know how much they’ve accomplished.”