Cubs’ Jed Hoyer: ‘I expect to be aggressive this winter’
This year’s ‘‘Field of Dreams’’ game serves as a reminder that the large-market Cubs, with an international following, have every advantage in courting top free agents
It was clear the direction the Cubs were headed when Major League Baseball announced last year that they would face the Reds in the second Field of Dreams game. But the rebuilding club claimed the marquee event regardless. And they’re heading to London next summer, facing the Cardinals in another big-ticket game.
“That’s why I’m thankful to be a Cub,” right-hander Marcus Stroman said with a smile. “The Cubs have an extremely deep, historical fan base, slash, it’s worldwide. It’s not just the city of Chicago – which, it’s incredible the city of Chicago – but you see Cubs references in big-time movies. Everybody knows who the Cubs are, even if you don’t watch baseball.”
Zoom out from the pastoral nostalgia of this year’s Field of Dreams game, and it serves as a reminder that the large-market Cubs, with an international following, have every advantage in courting top free agents to build the “next great Cubs team.”
If you build it they will come, right?
“When players sign here, they know that they’re going to have maybe a little more perks than other places,” said lefty Drew Smyly, who threw five shutout innings and recorded a season-high nine strikeouts against the Reds in the Field of Dreams game Thursday. “And I think that’s probably one of the reasons, one of the demands, that players see when they’re free agents to [make them want to] come here. They know how awesome it will be, how well the organization [treats] the players from top to bottom.”
Now, the question is whether the Cubs can put those advantages to use this winter. As the rebuild rolls on, each free agency season is magnified even more.
“I expect to be aggressive this winter,” president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said this week. “There’s no question. We’ll have some money to spend. Certainly, we want to invest that money wisely. Our goal is to build something special, and trying to do that too quickly, or trying to do it all at once can be a mistake. But certainly, there are going to be good players on the market. And I’m sure we’re going to be involved in those discussions.”
Hoyer said something similar last year. Then, with their most high-profile signings, the Cubs inked Seiya Suzuki to a five-year, $85 million deal and Stroman to a three-year, $71 million contract. They also added a wave of veteran pitchers, including Smyly, on short-term deals.
In his own free agency this winter, Smyly weighed his familiarity with the organization. He spent the 2018 season with the Cubs, rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. But they traded him that offseason, before his full return from the injury.
“I’ve been on a lot of teams,” Smyly said. “And I think players know the Cubs are a good organization to be a part of. I don’t think that’s like a secret by any means. When players go from other teams to here, we all talk.”
Former Cubs pitcher Yu Darvish’s input was a strong factor in Suzuki’s decision to sign with Chicago this spring.
The Cubs have that reputation, the city, and their supportive fan base to leverage in free agent talks. But the way they carry out that “aggressive” offseason plan, and the way they spend that money Hoyer says they have available, will speak volumes about the direction of the club.
Top free agents also care about a commitment to winning. They talk about that, too.
Regardless of which free agents join the Cubs over the winter, the team is headed to London in late June. Stroman is set up to check off a city on his bucket list. Smyly, who has a mutual contract option for 2023, doesn’t know yet if he’ll be there.
“I know everyone’s super excited for that London Series and have already been talking about it,” said Smyly, adding that he’s never been to Europe. “Hopefully I can be back and take part in that next year. That’d be really cool.”
Perks of being a Cub.