Chicago Cubs: Jed Hoyer talks versatility, value within 2016 Cubs

Oct 19, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer during practice the day before game three of the 2015 NLCS at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 19, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer during practice the day before game three of the 2015 NLCS at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports /

670 the Score picked the brain of Chicago Cubs’ general manager Jed Hoyer. With Spring Training within reach, Hoyer hopes a successful offseason translates to a successful Summer.

Baseball is right around the corner and several players from the Chicago Cubs are catching some rays of the Mesa, Arizona sun before the team’s mandatory report date. The offseason is just about at its end and one-half of the Cubs’ front office dynamic duo joined the Mully and Hanley Show late last week to discuss a plethora of topics.

Among them included a certain 26-year-old who signed an eight-year, $184 million contract getting some early work in at Sloan Park. The year old complex was built with the hope it would become a prime destination for players due to its state of the art facilities and so far athletes are taking advantage.

It was no surprise to Hoyer that his new outfielder was among the early arrivals as he complimented Heyward on his professionalism. When asked about the gold glove right fielder’s position with the Cubs, Hoyer answered with confidence.

“Right now, with the way things are set up, Jason is going to play a lot of center field,” Jed Hoyer said, in the radio interview. “We have no doubt he’ll be good out there.”

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Heyward was slated to be the Cubs’ centerfielder from the get-go so this should not come as any shock. However, due to the versatility of the roster, Heyward will have several chances to roam around in right-field throughout the year.

Versatility, Hoyer says, is a major strength of this club and will be among the many aspects of expected success on the North side in 2016.

The Cubs’ general manager listed several key position players including Javier Baez, Ben Zobrist and the aforementioned Heyward as guys who will see time at different spots in the outfield this season, with Baez notably getting work in at center. He also touched on the strength of his pitching staff with guys like Trevor Cahill, Adam Warren, Travis Wood and Clayton Richard acting in key roles as both relievers and starters.

Access to interchangeable pieces makes this the perfect roster for manager Joe Maddon. Ben Zobrist is often described as Maddon’s main squeeze (I’m paraphrasing, of course) due to the utility man’s ability to play anywhere. However, Hoyer made it clear that Zobrist will have a set position with this team.

“At this stage of his career he’s perfectly willing to move to the outfield or move around the infield if we want him to, but I think he also wanted to feel like [he] has a position,” Hoyer said on the Mully and Hanley Show. The 34-year-old will be at second base – a position he’s played more than any other in his career.

Adding veterans like Zobrist, John Lackey, David Ross, and Miguel Montero is vital for many reasons. At the same time, Hoyer stressed the importance of cycling in young talent consistently for a franchise to maintain success.

“You want to have that drip of young talent coming into this system every so often,” Hoyer told 670 the Score. “You don’t want to just get to a point where you’re a contender and you start trading off all those guys and never break in any young players. There’s a real danger in that.”

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The Cubs farm system dropped from the top spot all the way down to 20, according to Baseball America, due in large part to the influx of top prospects breaking their way into the majors last year. Though farm system rankings don’t matter too much, I imagine the Cubs would bump up a few spots if Kyle Schwarber stayed down to work on parts of his defensive game.

Hoyer told the Score that if the Cubs were in a different position competitively, Schwarber could very well have spent more time in Triple-A to develop more as a catcher. However, the soon-to-be 23-year-old has exceeded expectations with his bat and thus find himself as a main contributor to the Cubs’ lineup.

The current makeup of this team offers legitimate optimism to a fanbase that is long overdue for a championship. With the roster essentially set, Hoyer was asked to comment on the reported speculation of a Dexter Fowler reunion.

The GM politely declined to comment on the free agent’s situation but offered his praise to a major contributor to last season’s success. Hoyer mentioned Fowler was a great teammate who brought energy to the club and thrived under the pressure in the playoffs.

For my money, I would say Fowler’s time with the Cubs is done. But the beauty of it all is that the Cubs don’t need Fowler. They are in a position that allows them to wait until July to decide whether or not to make any kind move.

Next: Cubs add several names to Spring Training roster

The Cubs are aware of the projections, the expectations and the heavy burden of 108 years without a World Series, but their mindset is not going to change. This talented Joe Maddon led club will go out every day and put in work.

By the end of the season, everything will fall into place as it always does after the 162 game grind. For the Cubs, that place has a strong chance to be at the top of the National League Central.