Grading Jed Hoyer’s Chicago Cubs rebuild that can’t be referred to as a rebuild (sorry, Marquee) – The Mercury News

In a rare media appearance last week, Chicago Cubs President Jed Hoyer said it would be impossible to fully evaluate last year’s sell-off until well down the road.

“They’re probably going to be evaluated in 2027 for real, and I think that’s the way it should be,” Hoyer said of the flurry of trades. “I don’t think anyone should be looking at it as a passing grade at this point.”

That made perfect sense. Most of the top prospects Hoyer acquired in 2021 — from the Yu Darvish deal through the trade-deadline moves — will have made it to the Cubs by then or else been dealt or simply plateaued.

But when Hoyer mentioned 2027, my first thought was whether I’d still be here to provide an opinion about whether he deserved a passing grade. Five years is a long time in this business, and admittedly I’m probably as old as Tony La Russa’s Sunday shoes.

So to get ahead of the curve, I decided to grade Hoyer’s sell-off now, knowing it would stand up well in 2027.

Hoyer, of course, deserves an F.

Excuse me, I meant an A.

I just had what press box wags refer to as a “Marquee moment.”

The Great Sell-Off of 2021 will live in Cubs infamy and ultimately be judged by whether it helped them meet their goal of winning another World Series in the not-too-distant future.

We already know they couldn’t win another ring with Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant and Javier Báez. The Cubs didn’t win another playoff game with the three stars after 2017, and they deserve part of the blame for that failure.

We also don’t know whether the next group of prospects can win one. But that doesn’t seem to matter right now, which is why Hoyer deserves an A.

Hoyer correctly assumed an inferior product on the field would not significantly affect ticket sales and reducing long-term contractual commitments was more important than competing in 2022.

The Cubs might have downsized payroll and lowered expectations, but they’re still averaging 31,673 fans per game at Wrigley Field, eighth in the majors entering Thursday’s games.

Thousands of no-shows cut into concession and souvenir sales, and vendors say fans are not drinking as much beer with money so tight these days. But considering the team’s sub.-500 record, the mostly terrible spring weather and the lack of players to market aside from Willson Contreras and signees Marcus Stroman and Seiya Suzuki, the Cubs have to be satisfied with the crowd sizes.

With warmer weather on the way and schools letting out, attendance should climb this summer. The star-studded White Sox, in contrast, rank 18th in attendance despite back-to-back playoff appearances.

In spite of a 1.7% drop in average ticket price, the Cubs still rank fourth in the majors as $56.83, according to Team Marketing Report. In terms of Fan Cost Index, the Cubs are at $364.83 for a family of four, second highest behind the Boston Red Sox ($385.37). Going to Wrigley is still an expensive proposition during a rebuild that can’t be referred to as a rebuild.

But in the short run, the Cubs haven’t suffered economically from putting a subpar product on the field. The season is going the way most expected when the roster was completed after the lockout, and Hoyer can sleep well knowing he doesn’t have any long-term, nine-digit contracts to worry about when Jason Heyward’s deal expires after 2023.

On deck for Hoyer is another in a series of franchise-defining decisions: whether to keep or deal Contreras. If Contreras is dealt, the chances of contending seemingly would be prolonged by at least a year, perhaps two. If not, Hoyer risks losing Contreras to free agency after the season.

Either way, we’ll soon get our first taste of the next wave when Triple-A Iowa starter Caleb Kilian, acquired in the Bryant dealbecomes the first of the “Summer of ’21 Babies” to make his Cubs debut.

It won’t be next week, according to manager David Ross, but whenever it is, it figures to be quite a celebration, much like Rizzo’s Cubs debut on June 26, 2012.

That event was preceded by TV commercials touting the big game and full-page newspaper ads hyping the WGN-Ch. 9 telecast. Now that the Cubs have their own network, they could make a full-length documentary on Kilian’s debut if warranted.

Times have changed.

The clock on Hoyer’s “next great Cubs team” unofficially begins with Kilian’s call-up, just as Bryant’s arrival on April 17, 2015, started the clock on the previous rebuild. With Kilian, Justin Steele and Keegan Thompson in the 2023 rotation, the Cubs can show modest improvement before potentially contending for a postseason berth in 2024.

That would make 2025 the logical target date for Hoyer’s whatever-he-calls it, or one less year than Theo Epstein’s rebuild.

As for now, Cubs fans are counting the days until the annual summer fire sale.

They’re wondering who will go and who will stay but not obsessing as much as last summer when the Big Three were part of the daily conversation. They’ve learned to “embrace the suck,” as Joe Maddon once suggested in his ironic commentary on decades of low expectations on the North Side.

But this time they really mean it.

Plenty of Cubs teams have been irrelevant by Memorial Day. Somehow you managed to make it through the season. Remember, if you don’t have expectations, you can’t be disappointed. Just look at 2022 as a “Cubs Classic” season, like 1982 or 2012, and you’ll be OK.

Factoring the legendary resilience of Cubs fans into the equation is why Hoyer deserves an F for the 2021 sell-off.

Sorry, I meant an A.

Can we edit this part out and start over?

()

Related Articles

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Latest Articles