Hoyer: Cubs won't force offseason makeover
Downplaying flurry of rumors, general manager seeking balance between free agency, trades
CHICAGO -- Even before Joe Maddon was hired as manager, the Cubs were rumored to be on the verge of signing nearly every free agent on the market. They do have money to spend, but that doesn't mean they're going on a shopping spree this winter.
"One of the challenges we have right now is that we're literally linked to every single free agent," general manager Jed Hoyer said Friday. "Some of that is agent-driven to try to connect us to everyone because they realize we have some payroll flexibility. We've said all along if the right things line up, we could have an active offseason. We're not going to force it.
"A lot of the reports we read make it seem we're going to have some kind of a super-charged offseason, and I think that's overstated."
The Cubs are in the market for starting pitching and are interested in upgrading other positions, including catcher. But Hoyer would neither confirm nor deny reports that they had met with free-agent catcher Russell Martin. Welington Castillo did well behind the plate in his second full season as the regular catcher, but he struggled offensively -- batting .237, which has prompted the Martin-to-Cubs talk.
"We want veteran leadership on the team, whether that's one person or three or four people, so if we can find that combination of attributes, that's something that would be appealing," Hoyer said. "All of that said, I don't think 'Welly' had his best year last year, but I think he's a good Major League catcher and showed in the second half of 2013 what he can do. Certainly we like 'Welly' as a catcher and as a person and as a potential leader down the road."
Hoyer will be in Arizona on Monday for the General Managers Meetings, and he will have the chance to not only go over issues such as pace of game, but also to see if anyone matches up trade-wise.
"It's always a really delicate balancing process," Hoyer said regarding acquiring players through free agency compared to making deals. "Sometimes there might be a better fit in trade than free agency, but you have to balance what you give up in talent and on your team to get that player you have to trade for.
"Sometimes that player you're trading for is much cheaper than the player in free agency, and that helps you justify it," he said in a conference call with beat writers. "But, candidly, if both of those players are exactly the same cost, and you have to give up talent to get one, and you don't have to give up talent to sign the free agent, I think that often tips the scales over the course of the winter."
The Cubs also feel the free-agent market isn't as deep in terms of overall talent, and it's tough to address a lot of holes on the roster that way. That could prompt more trades.
Hoyer and Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein did discuss with Maddon their offseason plans, and the new manager is on board with the team's goals, the general manager said.
Despite another last-place finish in the National League Central, Hoyer said the Cubs feel good heading into the offseason.
"We finished the season strong," Hoyer said. "Our farm system and young talent has gotten a lot of recognition. We had good momentum going into the offseason anyway, and people were starting to take notice. With Joe coming on board, it underscored that we had momentum and that we're a team that, while possibly not fully formed, is moving in the right direction and has a bright future. I think Joe's presence here underscores and illuminates that more than anything else."
Maddon has yet to finalize his coaching staff, although pitching coach Chris Bosio and hitting coach John Mallee are expected back. The staff was announced early last month, but that was before Rick Renteria was dismissed and Maddon was hired.