Hoyer gives Ross vote of confidence amid skid

June 16th, 2022

CHICAGO -- When the Cubs endured the first of two double-digit losing streaks last year, it altered the front office's course of action. The team tumbled out of first place, and the priority suddenly switched to using the Trade Deadline to reset the direction of organization.

Things are different this time. The Cubs' 6-4 loss to the Padres on Thursday pushed the North Siders' losing streak to 10 games, but this version of the team is in a rebuilding process. Even with an eye on the future, there is a need to correct course in the immediate picture.

"All my focus right now is on right now," Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said. "I think I've talked a lot about [keeping a long-term view] in terms of planning and building something for the future. But I think when things are going sideways in the present, that's the focus."

In the hours leading up to Thursday's defeat -- one that dropped the Cubs to 23-40 on the season -- Hoyer met with reporters for more than a half-hour. Here are some highlights of the wide-ranging discussion about the state of the club.

1. Vote of confidence for Ross

Cubs manager David Ross has encountered a pile of challenges since taking the reins. He led his team through the pandemic-shortened 2020 season and then dealt with distractions and the aftermath of the franchise-altering Trade Deadline in '21. This season, Ross has been navigating through a trying transition year for the organization.

Hoyer showed his support for Ross during Spring Training, when the Cubs gave the manager an extension through '24 with a team option for '25. The front-office leader again backed Ross on Thursday morning, noting that injuries up and down the roster, plus a recent spiral by the bullpen, have impacted the recent slump.

"I don't see any issues with him whatsoever," Hoyer said. "I think all things considered, he's done a great job. He's frustrated. I'm frustrated. We sit there at night and talk through it, but all our conversations are really productive."

2. No time for timeline talk

The mantra since last season, when Hoyer traded a group of core players for a package of prospects, has been that he is trying to construct "the next great Cubs team." That has left one big question for Cubs fans: When will the team realistically contend again?

Hoyer said this was not the time for "global statements," adding that he would have a better gauge of where things stand later this season. At the moment, he is not prepared to stamp this rebuilding project with a specific, targeted future season.

"I don't know that," Hoyer said. "I'm aware that sometimes things speed up and sometimes things slow down, and I'm not smart enough to know which of those is going to happen. But I do know, and I have the ultimate confidence, I know we're going to be successful, just like I knew that same thing last time.

"That doesn't make the day-to-day any easier -- it doesn't. Like I've said, I have all the confidence in the world about the quality of the team that we'll build."

3. Expect the youth movement to continue

Setbacks to the planned Major League roster paved the way for promotions of highly touted prospects like Christopher Morel and Caleb Kilian, along with developmental success stories like Matt Swarmer and Brandon Hughes. In all, the Cubs have used 15 rookies this season.

With that approach come ups (Morel's leadoff homer Thursday increased his on-base streak at home to 18 games to start his career) and downs (Swarmer exited after allowing four runs in 3 2/3 innings). That is all part of the process of helping players develop at the Major League level.

"Most guys come up and at some point are going to have some struggles," Hoyer said. "Certainly, part of this year is allowing those guys to get experience. Hopefully they can contribute to wins now, but it's also getting the experience to build on over the course of the winter and into next year."

4. The Aug. 2 Trade Deadline looms large

Hoyer was unwilling to speculate on how the team's current play might impact the future of catcher Willson Contreras, who is putting up All-Star numbers and is poised for free agency. Contreras wants to win, the Cubs have an uncertain timeline and the team set a precedent a year ago by trading core players who had not been locked in with extensions.

"We were not going to compete for the postseason," Hoyer said of last season's Deadline approach. "And with that, we tried to take that bad situation and find something positive. So yeah, I think that is the case. But definitely, 100 percent, that's not where my mind is this morning."