The Cubs look to be concluding their search for a new general manager, as The Athletic’s Brittany Ghiroli, Patrick Mooney, and Sahadev Sharma report that Chicago is closing in on a deal with Cleveland assistant GM Carter Hawkins. The two sides “are still in the final stages of the hiring process” and it isn’t known when the news will be officially announced, as the playoffs are still ongoing.
Though Hawkins is only 37 years old, he already has 14 years of experience working in Cleveland’s front office, working his way up the ranks from an internship to being the team’s player development director in 2014, and then a promotion to assistant GM in 2016. He would join a Cubs organization that has made no secret of its desire to upgrade its farm system and player development operations, and Ghiroli/Mooney/Sharma note that Cleveland’s consistent ability to find and develop pitching was of particular interest to the Cubs.
To that end, it perhaps isn’t surprising that both Hawkins and Cleveland VP of player development James Harris were each on Chicago’s reported short list of GM candidates. Rays VP of player development/international scouting Carlos Rodriguez and Twins assistant general manager Jeremy Zoll were the other names known to be on the Cubs’ radar.
Chicago’s GM position has been open for almost a year, since former general manager Jed Hoyer was promoted to president of baseball operations in the wake of Theo Epstein’s departure. Hoyer said last winter that the team would wait to fill the GM role as the circumstances of the pandemic made a proper interview process more difficult at the time.
Hawkins would step in as Hoyer’s chief lieutenant as the Cubs begin what could be a fascinating offseason. After a fire sale of veterans at the trade deadline, Chicago now has a younger and less expensive roster, though it isn’t yet known if the Cubs plan to use this available future payroll space to make an immediate splash for 2022. Hoyer has stated that the team intends to “spend money intelligently” this winter, but the Cubs will also be “really active in free agency.”
Measured offseason spending is nothing new for Hawkins, as Cleveland has a longstanding model of building through trades and homegrown prospects rather than major free agent signings. Of course, the Cubs have a much larger revenue base than Cleveland, and a drastic cut in spending doesn’t (or shouldn’t) seem feasible considering that the Cubs have regularly approached or surpassed the $200M payroll mark in recent years.
This isn’t to say that the Cubs will immediately zoom back up to the $200M threshold this offseason, but the plan seems to be for Hoyer, Hawkins and company to remodel the team’s minor league pipeline to the point that Chicago will have a steady run of young talent ready to augment whatever higher-priced veterans are on hand.