Hoyer, Epstein maximizing production in Dallas
Pujols, Fielder decisions won't hold up Cubs executives
DALLAS -- Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have divided the workload at the Winter Meetings, which Hoyer said has helped them be more productive. And at least one of them has apparently talked to representatives for free agents Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder.
Where Pujols and Fielder go isn't holding up the Cubs, but the two sluggers are the top topic at the Hilton Anatole.
"There's a curiosity factor, for sure," said Hoyer, the Cubs' general manager. "They're two superstar-level players, but I don't think those guys have to sign somewhere to break some kind of logjam. I think that's already been broken. I think it's a mistake if you're waiting around for that.
"Obviously, they're two players we're involved in, but to wait around for things to happen, you can miss out. We're working on a lot of fronts."
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Tuesday that the Cubs made a "qualifying bid" for Pujols. Epstein, the Cubs' president of baseball operations, did meet with Pujols' agent Dan Lozano on Monday, but Epstein said those discussions were about pitcher Rodrigo Lopez. The Post-Dispatch reported it had confirmed the Cubs did submit a bid for Pujols, but more in the five-year range, and it would include a full no-trade clause.
Hoyer would not comment on specific players. However, he did say Tuesday that no-trade clauses are to be "avoided."
Fielder would make more sense for the Cubs than Pujols if they did want a big slugger. Although Fielder would still require a major financial commitment, it most likely would not be a 10-year contract, which is what Pujols was being offered by the Marlins. Plus, Fielder would be reunited with Cubs manager Dale Sveum, who was his hitting coach in Milwaukee.
"He's one of those special guys who comes around once in a while, once in a lifetime," Sveum said.
"There's rumors out there and all that," Sveum said of the Cubs and Fielder. "I don't see that we've started any talks or anything like that. ... We're not in any kind of process talking to him or anything like that."
Hoyer and Epstein, president of baseball operations, have split the teams and agents each is talking to this week.
"It actually makes us a lot more productive in a way," said Hoyer, who was Epstein's assistant in Boston, but a general manager in San Diego for two years. "We can not be together for two, three hours and get a lot of work done and then come together and discuss stuff. So far, it's been really effective, especially now, because we have so much to learn and so much to do in our first offseason. It's worked well."
A lot of this week has been spent going over the Cubs' 40-man roster. Some teams, naturally, have asked how much the Cubs would be willing to pick up contract-wise with some players. For example, Alfonso Soriano is owed $54 million over three years.
"We've had inquiries on a lot of our players," Hoyer said. "In general, I think eating money on a deal -- if the return is right -- then sometimes it can make sense."
Besides Pujols and Fielder, the Cubs have inquired about the top free-agent pitchers on the market.
"We're also smart enough to realize you need to focus right on down the line from those guys all the way to guys who sign Minor League deals," Hoyer said.
But Epstein and Hoyer are covering all the bases.
"Pitching's hard to find," Hoyer said. "Ideally, you need to develop your own. If you look at where pitching comes from, it's not always the biggest names signed at the Winter Meetings. A lot of times, it's guys like Ryan Vogelsong last year, Brandon McCarthy. There's a lot of guys who have impact. You can't just focus on the big guys. Some of the best seasons can come from guys who aren't being discussed here in the lobby this week."
Epstein and Hoyer have stressed how much they want to build a foundation, but they are not averse to a long-term contract for specific players.
"You only do long deals for great players, and you want to make sure you're paying for future and not for past," Hoyer said. "It's pretty simple. If you're talking about a long deal, it better be a great player, an elite talent."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter@CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.