DENVER – Jed Hoyer was the bad guy in his own house on trade deadline day.
“Trying to explain the business side of baseball to them,” the Cubs president of baseball operations said Tuesday of his kids, “and the difficult decisions is hard. Because they've got their jerseys on the wall. Rizz (Anthony Rizzo) has known Beckett since he was born, and he plays around with him all the time in the clubhouse and stuff like that.”
A few yards away, Hoyer’s son sat at the dugout fence, looking out at a team full of new names. Hours later, that cobbled together group would lose to the Rockies 13-6.
At his first trade deadline as the head of baseball ops, Hoyer traded away championship core stars Rizzo, Javy Báez and Kris Bryant. Even in households of Cubs fans who understood a new phase was coming, Hoyer was no hero entering the weekend.
He praised the scouts and assistant general managers behind him for managing the trade deadline “Jenga game” of balancing trades involving seven different Cubs in the final two days.
“Yeah, I was the guy on the phone,” Hoyer said, “but they did a terrific job of evaluating all the players, ranking everything, having a really good strategic sense of, ‘OK, we need to move on this right now because if we don't, this other thing might come up.’ … It was something I think probably could have felt chaotic, and it never actually was.”
From a public standpoint, Hoyer wasn’t just the guy on the phone. He’s also now the guy responsible for communicating the front office’s vision to a bereft fan base.
When Hoyer insists, “this is not going to be a 2012, ‘13 situation in any way,” he means it’s not going to be a drawn out rebuild. But his own role this time around has also changed.
Last teardown, Theo Epstein was the head of baseball operations, Hoyer his right-hand man, and the Cubs hadn’t won the World Series in a century.
Only after Epstein stepped down in November did he start calling out Hoyer’s specific role in negotiations, crediting him for “pounding the table” for Pedro Stop to be a throw-in with Jake Arrieta in 2013. They’d been careful to present a united front while working together.
When he resigned, Epstein also handed over the responsibility of breaking up the Cubs’ championship core and explaining why.
“I never want to be misleading when it comes to what we're going to present to the fans,” Hoyer said.
So far, that’s meant not defining the path forward, with the uncertainty of MLB’s Collective Bargaining negotiations looming. The current CBA expires after this season.
What has Hoyer made clear about this offseason?
The Cubs won’t just continue stockpiling future assets over the winter. They will have to add a major-league impact player.
The details become murkier from there.
“The long-term goal is to build the next great Cub team,” Hoyer said, “but certainly in the short term, I believe we're going to be very competitive.”
Cubs fans will have to wait months longer to find out exactly what that looks like.