It took some time for Chicago Cubs President Jed Hoyer to flee the lengthy shadow of Theo Epstein.
Hoyer rejoined his Boston Red Sox previous mentor in Chicago in 2011, leaving his common supervisor place with the San Diego Padres to play second fiddle to Epstein through the Cubs rebuild.
“There are some places in baseball where if you can help make it happen, the sense of accomplishment is going to be shared across a wide spectrum,” Hoyer advised the San Diego Union-Tribune upon taking the job. “Boston is one of those places. The Chicago Cubs is one of those places. The Cubs are well-positioned to have a run of success.”
That “run of success” started in 2015 and peaked with the 2016 World Series. But the blueprint for sustained success hit a wall, and after the Cubs’ third straight season with no postseason win, Epstein departed in 2020 and left Hoyer because the inheritor obvious.
Hoyer was compelled to do the soiled work, making choices he knew could be unpopular, like non-tendering Kyle Schwarber, buying and selling stars Yu Darvish, Javier Báez, Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant in an unprecedented sell-off in 2021, then letting Willson Contreras depart as a free agent after the 2022 season.
Whether Epstein would’ve made the identical choices we’ll by no means know. But if he did, we all know he wouldn’t have been second-guessed as a lot as Hoyer has been the final two years.
But now it’s Hoyer’s time. He enters his third season as Cubs president with a revamped crew — and larger expectations.
If the Cubs achieve 2023 and make the postseason, it ought to present Hoyer with candy vindication. If they’ve one other sub-.500 season, it ought to result in widespread criticism.
“It does feel different, the third year in this role,” he mentioned Monday. “The first 12 months clearly (we have been) coming off of (the COVID-19 pandemic) and that complete group of gamers that have been pending free brokers, I feel that was definitely the hungover spring.
“And final 12 months we hoped to be aggressive and realized it was sort of a puncher’s chance-type deal. It’s much more enjoyable. I like the make-up of this group. From a character and teammate standpoint, I feel it’s superior.
“We must play clear baseball. I feel our protection can be actually good, our pitching depth is there. We can grind out at-bats. There are loads of causes to be optimistic. Now we have now to exit and carry out, and finally that’s the underside line.
“You can have that optimism and you have that hope, but you have to be able to do it. I do like this group. There’s been a great vibe in camp.”
Most specialists have projected the Cubs as a third-place crew within the NL Central, so a .500 end wouldn’t be a shock. Several of Hoyer’s acquisitions have been accessible as a result of their final golf equipment determined they have been higher off with out them, together with veterans Cody Bellinger, Eric Hosmer and Trey Mancini. Hoyer’s most essential free-agent signing — $177 million shortstop Dansby Swanson — solely turned a free agent as a result of the Atlanta Braves didn’t attempt to re-sign him.
Even the Cubs’ greatest returning hitter, Ian Happ, appears ready to check free company come November, until Hoyer indicators him to an extension within the subsequent few days — which seems unlikely. Hoyer declined to remark Monday on Happ’s standing.
Either approach, it’s a crew filled with gamers with one thing to show, led by a supervisor in David Ross who must be judged a lot in a different way than he was the previous two seasons.
Starter Jameson Taillon, who threw 5 shutout innings Monday in a 6-6 tie with the White Sox, mentioned afterward there have been some similarities to his former crew, the New York Yankees.
“We’re going to play a different brand of baseball than the Yankees,” Taillon mentioned. “With the Yankees, we typically performed a bit of little bit of that bully ball, simply homers and walks and three true outcome-type of baseball. Here at this time, you noticed some motion on the bases, some sac flies, you noticed Dansby with a homer, so I really feel like we’re going to do loads of various things effectively.
“You have guys here who expect to win, which is nice. That’s something in New York that I really appreciated. It’s ‘How can we win a baseball game today?’ I think a lot of the veteran guys we brought in share that mindset.”
Sacrifices needed to be made. Instead of giving Christopher Morel an opportunity to construct on his rookie season, the Cubs optioned him to Triple-A Iowa. Nico Hoerner, a top quality, younger shortstop, was moved to second base to make approach for Swanson.
Hoyer’s rebuild that couldn’t be referred to as a rebuild formally is over.
It’s win-or-bust time once more.
Kyle Hendricks, the final remaining Cubs participant from the unique rebuild, believes the sport plan will begin paying dividends.
“Everything goes in cycles,” Hendricks mentioned. “I’m so excited to be on this part we’re in proper now. You can see with all people we introduced in, however it actually began with the younger expertise and them proving themselves and creating these alternatives and benefiting from them.
“That set us as much as exit and get these guys and complement the crew. And now, as you’ve heard from ‘Rossy,’ it’s anticipated successful.
“That’s it. ‘Just win.’ That’s the mode you want to be in. That’s the kind of team you want to be on.”
Whatever occurs, Hoyer will get all of the credit score or all of the blame.
The shadow that may’t be referred to as a shadow is gone.