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'Jed's on top of it': Hoyer prepared for helm

November 17, 2020

CHICAGO -- It will forever be listed among the greatest trades in Cubs history and be noted as one of the best moves by Theo Epstein. Jake Arrieta was acquired from the Orioles via trade in July 2013 and then developed into an ace, Cy Young Award winner and World

CHICAGO -- It will forever be listed among the greatest trades in Cubs history and be noted as one of the best moves by Theo Epstein. Jake Arrieta was acquired from the Orioles via trade in July 2013 and then developed into an ace, Cy Young Award winner and World Series champion.

Epstein smiled on Tuesday while discussing that deal, which sent Scott Feldman and Steve Clevenger to Baltimore. During those negotiations so many years ago, it was Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer who insisted that Epstein try to get more from the Orioles in the now-famous trade.

"Jed kept on pounding the table that we could get a throw-in," Epstein said. "And that it had to be this guy named Pedro Strop."

For every franchise, the top front-office executive receives the credit (or the blame) for the transactions that occur on his or her watch. The Theo Epstein Era with the Cubs has plenty of those moves, but Hoyer was at his side for all nine years. Now, Hoyer will be moving to the role of president of baseball operations after Epstein officially steps down on Friday.

Up next for Theo? 'I need a new challenge'

The Cubs are currently in the process of negotiating an extension with Hoyer, whose contract runs through 2021. It is not yet clear if the now-vacant GM role will be filled with an internal or external candidate.

During a Zoom chat with reporters on Tuesday, Epstein explained his reasons for the transition and why it was time for Hoyer to move into the top job in the Cubs' baseball operations department. One of the reasons being that, while Hoyer was at Epstein's side, he was very much a driving force behind the scenes.

And as Cubs fans can tell you, Strop went on to become one of the best relievers in the franchise's long, storied history.

"If it weren't for Jed," Epstein said, "we wouldn't have gotten Stropy in the deal -- let alone maybe complete the deal. And then, without Jake Arrieta, all of the history here is different."

Hoyer joined the Cubs prior to the 2012 season to be Epstein's GM, following two years in that same role for the Padres. Before that, he was in the Red Sox organization from 2002-09, working in player development, scouting and analysis, and helping Epstein lead Boston to World Series triumphs in '04 and '07.

With the Cubs, Epstein and Hoyer took on a daunting rebuild, which resulted in a World Series title in 2016 and five postseason berths in six seasons from '15-20. Epstein noted that Hoyer has played a key role in the Cubs' efforts to "change and to modernize" their operations from top to bottom in recent years.

"I'm confident that, even though he's been here, the Cubs are getting the benefit of fresh eyes, so to speak, and that he'll be a force for continued progress and change within the organization," Epstein said. "The last couple years, he's really jumped in and and enhanced his efforts to be a central part of every discussion in the organization."

Epstein smirked Tuesday when asked how it was to negotiate with Hoyer back in 2010, when the former Padres GM landed Anthony Rizzo as part of the package that sent Adrian Gonzalez to Epstein's Red Sox.

"He was tough," Epstein said. "He wanted Rizzo and I kept trying to give him Lars Anderson instead. And I can mention this, because Lars is a good friend. But Lars Anderson would admit he's no Anthony Rizzo. So, we're trying to try to give him Lars instead, but Jed wouldn't take Lars Anderson.

"He wanted Anthony Rizzo. And so he did a great job of getting someone who would -- luckily for us -- go on to be a cornerstone of the Cubs when we acquired him a couple years after that.

"But [Hoyer] can butter you up with the easy conversation and the small talk and the pleasant demeanor. But in the end, he knows what he wants and has a way of being able to get it."

Those negotiation skills could be put to the test this offseason, given that the Cubs are facing financial losses in light of the pandemic. Chicago may be looking for ways to trim its payroll, which could mean trading from the Cubs' core group that helped deliver the 2016 World Series.

As the Cubs face decisions with potential long-term consequences, Epstein said he did not think it was fair to stay on for one year and be looking over Hoyer's shoulder. With Hoyer at the helm for the next several years, Epstein and Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts both expressed that starting the transition now made the most sense.

What’s next for Schwarber, Bryant, Báez?

"I think Jed knows that these are going to be interesting and uniquely challenging years," Ricketts said. "There's a lot of variables. But with respect to that situation, I think Jed's on top of it. I think he's extremely well qualified and ready to go. And we'll just work through it together."

Jordan Bastian covers the Cubs for He previously covered the Indians from 2011-18 and the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian.