Jed Hoyer says the Cubs will compete in 2021. Actions suggest something else.
Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer held a press conference Wednesday to discuss the team’s decision to send Yu Darvish and Victor Caratini to the San Diego Padres in exchange for right-hander Zach Davies and a host of prospects.
The starting rotation was already shallow heading into 2021. Now, the Cubs are without their ace (Darvish), a guy who was the runner-up for the National League Cy Young Award and projected well in the net few years due to an uptick in velocity.
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Despite this, Hoyer said Wednesday he expects the club will be “really competitive” in 2021.
You can sell me on Davies being an adequate replacement in the rotation. He had a 2.73 ERA in 2020 and a 3.55 ERA with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2019, which also indicates some familiarity with the NL Central. There is no question it is a tall order and a tough sell, but – pending the Cubs adding another arm – Davies can at least provide quality innings.
However, we have to address the rumors the Cubs are also dangling Willson Contreras.
This should not come as a surprise, seeing as Contreras’ name has been used on multiple occasions, and multiple teams would welcome the opportunity to land one of the best catchers in the game.
Hoyer said Wednesday teams have indeed been calling the Cubs about Contreras, though he denied the team is shopping its star catcher. He also indicated Chicago will focus on finding a backup to Contreras, rather than relying on top prospect Miguel Amaya.
Still, the fact Hoyer did not flat-out say they would not be trading Contreras is a bit troubling.
On the one hand, it is good to keep options open. Hoyer stands by Theo Epstein’s line of thinking in terms of having zero untouchables. Plus, Contreras would probably net a strong return. Then again, trading Contreras would run directly counter to the notion the Cubs will be competitive in 2021.
Put aside the fact Contreras is one of the team’s top offensive contributors and one of the best players at a premium position. Chicago’s inclusion of Caratini in the Darvish deal would mean – if Contreras were dealt – the Cubs would have to go out and spend money on a free agent catcher. That hardly seems like a winning solution, both due to the shortage of quality backstops available as well as the team’s concrete needs in both the pitching staff and outfield.
Hoyer can say all he wants the club plans to be competitive in 2021. But this feels like a team without direction, and there is still palpable uncertainty with Kris Bryant, Javier Baez and Anthony Rizzo all becoming free agents next winter.
If Chicago still hopes to field a strong roster in 2021, then fine. But Hoyer and Co. need to start being more aggressive in addressing needs and making moves, and dealing Contreras should not be one of those moves.