Cubs general manger Jed Hoyer joined David Kaplan on WGN Radio Thursday night for the "David Kaplan Show" to discuss a number of topics, including the team's top prospects, an update on trade talks and much more.
Despite the team sitting towards the bottom of the standings in the NL Central, Hoyer likes the direction the Cubs are headed in, but believes you can never be comfortable.
"I still think we have a lot of work to do, but we have a lot more young talent than we did before," Hoyer stated. "I think there's a lot of momentum and I feel good about where we are. I don't think you ever feel comfortable and sit back and relax and feel like you have it made. You always have a lot more work to do. We still have so much ground to gain on teams like the Cardinals, Reds and Pirates. If we can get a lot of those factors hitting at the same time, we can have a really special year here in Chicago."
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One of those factors came to fruition Thursday night after the Chicago Planning Commission gave their final approval for Wrigley Field renovation plans. Hoyer was happy to see the last hurdle cleared.
"It's really important for us to start renovations," Hoyer said. "The more revenue, the more money we have to spend on players. We can make dramatic improvements. It's a great day for the organization. It's been a long process."
With the extra revenue, the Cubs will have the ability to sign top tier free agents, but Hoyer is happy with the development of some of their younger players and weighed in on the approach he wants to see the hitters take at the minor-league level.
"It's certainly something [taking walks] we're aware of and something we talk about all of the time," Hoyer said. "Unfortunately, on-base percentage gets so often connected with Moneyball. People focus too much on walks. One thing guys do have to work on is getting on base, it's something we preach all the time.
"I think Soler is going to wind up being a guy that's going to be a pretty high on-base guy. We feel the same way about Bryant. I think Baez and Almora will continue to develop their on-base skills. They may never be high walk guys. We're certainly hoping get to that average walk rate, if we blend them with the rest of the guys in the lineup it will be okay."
One of their top prospects will get his first taste of the big leagues in Colorado. The team called up outfielder Junior Lake Thursday afternoon. Hoyer discussed what Lake brings to the table.
"He's playing real well in Triple-A. He's really a toolsy player and has a good upside and is very versatile," Hoyer said. "The biggest thing for Junior is he's missed quite a bit of time with injuries. We feel his development isn't quite done yet. We thought this was a good time for him to get his feet wet.
"I think it will be a fairly short stay for Junior. He'll probably go back when David [DeJesus] is healthy. He's going to play against lefties for us. It should be a good time for him to get his feet wet. Dale is definitely going to play him against lefties. Like I said, he's an exciting player, development is not done yet, but I think he can help us for this short stretch."
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Lake joining the Cubs doesn't mean a Matt Garza deal is imminent, but Hoyer gave an update on trade talks.
"I think it's premature to make any comments about his start on Monday. It's been a busy four days, a lot of phone calls about Matt and other players. It's a good thing you have players that teams are interested in."
Two players that don't expect to be going anywhere in the near future are Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo. Hoyer wants to see the two cornerstones of the franchise become leaders in the clubhouse when the Cubs start competing for a World Series title.
"You always have to have to have that blend of veteran leadership and also want those guys to still have their skills and not diminishing before your eyes," Hoyer told Kaplan. "Our hope is those guys can be young veterans that show those guys the ropes and take a leadership role. The challenge right now is both guys have scuffled at times during the first half. Those guys are worried about their own game right now, it's hard to be a leader when you're focused on your own performance and your own standing in the game. Hopefully, those guys will establish themselves here over the next couple of years and once they get to that point they will be able to be leaders for the club."