The Rundown: Risk-Averse Hoyer Could Be Stunting Competitive Window, Cubs and Bellinger ‘Would Love Reunion,’ Dodgers Staying Aggressive

Is Jed Hoyer a little too risk-averse when it comes to spending money or dealing prospects, and is it affecting his ability to build a competitive roster?

That seems to be the consensus on social media after Shohei Ohtani signed his record-breaking contract and after the Cubs were declared non-players for the services of Yoshinobu Yamamoto. That same group of fans also believes the hefty pricetag reportedly attached to Cody Bellinger will be too big a pill for Hoyer to swallow.

The truth is that for all of Chicago’s financial gravitas, the front office does tend to drive well below the speed limit. Hoyer and Tom Ricketts are never going to compete with the Dodgers, Yankees, and Red Sox for the game’s most expensive players. That’s not to suggest either is cheap, as contracts approved by Ricketts in recent years for Dansby Swanson, Jason Heyward, and Jon Lester indicate that the franchise will fish for something other than minnows if the right situation presents itself.

Chicago’s economic brain trust does express a painfully awkward form of conservatism and restraint considering the value of the franchise, the family’s holdings around Wrigley Field, and the city’s top-three market ranking. Hoyer also tends to move the goalposts a little too often, which explains his alleged interest in Liam Hendriks, and from what I have been told, Brandon Woodruff. It could be that the front office is targeting 2025 as its target competitive year since both players are injured and may miss the entirety of next season.

Let me pause for a second because we all know that Juan Soto will be next winter’s biggest catch. The Cubs will be rumored as a potential suitor, but the likelihood that Soto will come to Chicago is scant at best. Pursuits of Ohtani and Bryce Harper offer proof that Ricketts would rather avoid those types of landmark deals. As fans, we tend to still think of baseball as entertainment. The Ricketts family has always been about accumulating and protecting wealth, a view that hasn’t changed just because they own a major league franchise.

Ricketts is correct when he says no team can buy a championship, astute fans also know that to be true. Adding Ohtani might have prevented the Cubs from building around him, even with 97% of the contract deferred well into the superstar’s retirement years. The bottom line is that the cap-circumventing Ohtani was “available” to any team willing to take a $44-46 million dollar AAV hit. It was fun to speculate for a while, but that commitment is well beyond the organization’s comfort zone, no matter the potential ROI. I often joke that Chicago’s favored operations utility is not baseball analytics but actuarial science.

Fans often confuse terms like “risk averse” and “economically conservative” with being exceptionally frugal, if not downright cheap. I’m less concerned with the overall spending than I am with the pursuit of players like Hendriks and Woodruff. The Cubs have to make a push at some point, and protecting their prospects offers no guarantees. We’ve known all along that the team is expected to be more active in trade talks than free agency, and rightfully so considering this year’s inventory of available players. But the meatiest rumors have been a little too few and far between with much more gristle than your average prime offering.

Still, Chicago lacks impact players other than (possibly) Swanson. Then again, where would Hoyer be now if players like Bellinger, Justin Steele, Nico Hoerner, and Seiya Suzuki (for a red-hot two months) had not exceeded preseason expectations? We live in an era where instant results are demanded and expected, but Hoyer remains measured and deliberate. He’s going to have to rely on blind trust at some point or else the current rebuild will start to feel a little too perpetual.

The Reds, Cardinals, and Brewers have already improved their teams, at least marginally, and have outspent the Cubs. Hoyer still has to replace Bellinger and Marcus Stroman to field a team capable of sniffing the playoffs. That’s not something we should be concerned about considering the franchise is truly a financial behemoth, but that’s the way business is conducted at the corner of Clark and Addison. Yes, there are several moves still to be made, and I believe they are coming.

Let’s just hope Hoyer doesn’t stunt Chicago’s competitive window by talking himself out of necessary high-reward risks.

Cubs News & Notes

Odds & Sods

Is it just me, or could Tom Brady and Clayton Kershaw pass for brothers and battery mates?

Central Intelligence

Wednesday Stove

The Dodgers and Rays are discussing a deal that would send Tyler Glasnow and Manuel Margot to Los Angeles.

It’s concerning to me that the Cubs would be unwilling to beat the current proposal. Then again, Tampa Bay might just like those players a whole lot more.

The Dodgers are also aggressively pursuing closer Josh Hader.

Los Angeles can corner the market on impact acquisitions and is still very interested in Yamamoto.

The trade market will heat up considerably once Yamamoto signs.

Ohtani’s deal could start a new trend when it comes to signing the game’s elite players.

Chris “Mad Dog” Russo blasted MLB for allowing the Dodgers to defer $680 million of Ohtani’s contract.

The Royals have agreed to sign pitchers Seth Lugo and Chris Stratton.

Outfielder Jung Hoo Lee and the Giants have agreed on a six-year, $113 million contract. The deal includes an opt-out after four seasons. Lee’s signing may mean only two suitors remain for Bellinger: the Cubs and Blue Jays.

MLB could copy the NBA’s in-season tournament to spark midseason interest.

Apropos of Nothing

The Bears have quietly forced themselves into the NFC playoff picture as a contender or potential spoiler. That’s not enough to stop the Justin Fields trade rumors, however.

Extra Innings

We need a little optimism after my soul-crushing preamble.

They Said It

  • “I have opinions and I’m going to share them [with the Hoyer]. I think that’s healthy. That’s why I’m here, to try to help the Cubs win games. But you try to do that by making things better in every possible way you can.” – Counsell
  • “There’s a big cube farm with all of our R&D guys. I walked by and somebody was sitting there with his glasses and hat on. I was like, ‘Who’s our new R&D guy?’ And it was Craig [Counsell]. He was on the computer sitting next to our analysts and fitting in perfectly.” – Carter Hawkins
  • “He was wearing a hoodie and Jordans. He had glasses on, and I thought it was an R&D guy for a second. It was awesome. He played 17 years in the big leagues.” – Hoyer

Wednesday Walk-Up Song

Hoyer hasn’t done much of anything since the season ended. Somebody wake him up, please and thank you.

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