Hoyer talks 'painful' end to '23, offseason plans

October 3rd, 2023

CHICAGO -- There is a way to zoom out and look at the big picture and view the 2023 Cubs season as a success. Given the way the team faded down the stretch in September, president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer was not about to paint that kind of picture on Tuesday.

In his season-ending press conference at Wrigley Field, Hoyer focused on the disappointment felt by not completing the push to the postseason. He acknowledged that the ballclub is in a great position to have a better ‘24, but understands that frustration is the prevailing feeling for the team and its fans alike right now.

“Painfully, we did not finish the race,” Hoyer said. “And you can't call something that falls short of your goals a success. Ultimately, we have to live with that. I know it'll motivate me all winter, and I know talking to our players and coaches and front office, I know it's going to motivate them.”

Here were four highlights of Hoyer’s wide-ranging conversation with reporters ahead of the North Siders’ offseason:

1. Continued support of Cubs manager David Ross
Ross is under contract through ‘24 with an option for ‘25 and the manager has garnered vocal support from the players, front office and ownership in the wake of this 83-win season. That continued on Tuesday, when Hoyer reiterated his backing of Ross and how the turbulent campaign was handled.

Hoyer: “Yeah, I was very pleased with Rossy this year. The things I mentioned before, coming from being 10 under and sort of maintaining not only just the competitiveness, but also never having the team focus on individual stuff. It was always about the team. We never lost that. Creating that type of culture is incredibly difficult and he does a fantastic job of that.”

2. The future of
Hendricks returned in May following a 10-month comeback from a right shoulder injury, and the veteran was steady and productive for the Cubs’ rotation. Chicago has a $16 million (pre bonus) team option on Hendricks, and chairman Tom Ricketts said Sunday that “I would see him coming back” in ‘24. Hoyer left open the possibility of maybe considering an extension.

Hoyer: “He's been one of my favorite Cubs players to be around since we got here. It's hard to imagine a better teammate. He redefines low-maintenance. He just does whatever the team needs and it's just a joy to have him around. Obviously, I'm not going to negotiate anything with you guys right now, but certainly we want to keep them in as a Cub for next year and beyond.”

3. Is re-signing a priority?
Bellinger was a top priority last winter for the Cubs, who needed a center fielder and felt he was a prime comeback candidate after a few injury-marred seasons. Bellinger, 28, hit .307 with 26 homers, 29 doubles, 20 steals, 97 RBIs and 95 runs in 130 games on a one-year deal worth $17.5 million guaranteed. Bellinger is set to hit the open market, but expect Chicago to try to keep him in the fold.

Hoyer: “You're always trying to sell free-agents on what it's like to play in Chicago. There's nothing better than having a guy experience it for a year and openly say he loves it. And I think that certainly gives us a shot. We don't have to recruit him very hard. I think he knows what this place is all about and I know he loved it.”

4. On Cubs’ chances of making jump to World Series contender in 2024
After a swift two-year rebuilding phase, this ‘23 season was viewed from the jump as a stepping-stone year to a true window of sustained contention. The Cubs were one of baseball’s best teams from early June through the start of September, but they lost 15 of the final 22 games to fall out of the race. Hoyer was asked if he can sell free agents on the idea that the ‘24 club will be a World Series contender.

Hoyer: “The key is to build a team that we feel like gives us a good chance to make the postseason. When you get in the postseason, anything can happen, which is part of why it's going to be really painful to watch games this [postseason], knowing that we had the ability to to have that chance and we didn't finish the race. And I think that has to be the goal. It takes steps to get to the place where those [elite] teams are at. It's not going to be one offseason to make that leap.”