Two days after the Cubs’ first losing season since 2014, team president Jed Hoyer and Carter Hawkins went out to dinner, taking in the American League Wild Card Game between the Yankees and Red Sox.
At one point, Hoyer looked down at his watch and it was after midnight. He and Hawkins sat down around 7.
“That’s a pretty good indicator that the conversation flowed easily, we were totally engaged in that,” Hoyer said. “That’s incredibly important.”
Said Hawkins: "The guy who was supposed to pick me up went home because he thought the restaurant had closed.
"It felt more like Eli Manning and Peyton Manning breaking down the Wild Card Game than talking and doing an interview."
Whether that day or during other hours, Hoyer came to a comfort level of the “balance” Hawkins brings to the Cubs front office. He introduced Hawkins as the 16th GM in franchise history on Monday.
Hawkins, 37, joins the Cubs after 14 years with Cleveland, starting as a scouting intern in 2008 and eventually moving up to assistant general manager in 2016.
His background working for a Cleveland organization with a strong track record in player development stood out to Hoyer.
In fact, it was a point of emphasis in Hoyer's search process. He wanted whomever he chose as GM to have an area of focus.
“With his expertise on making players better, whether it’s through player development or high performance, that seemed like a really natural fit,” Hoyer said.
“What you want in that role is a partner, and I think you want a partner who also has an area of expertise like he has.”
Cleveland has especially had success in developing pitching over the last 14 years, from Corey Kluber (acquired in trade) and Mike Clevinger to current pitchers Shane Bieber, Aaron Civale, Zach Plesac and Triston McKenzie.
Position players they’ve developed in recent memory include Jason Kipnis, Yan Gomes, José Ramírez and Francisco Lindor.
“The way I came up in the game was kind of more on the player procurement, player acquisition/transaction side than it was on the player development side,” Hoyer said. “For me, knowing what my areas of expertise are, I think he balances [those] really well.
“He’s obviously been involved in trades and negotiations. But the main area he’s focused on has been player development, which is a really nice balance for my skill set.”
The Cubs added young talent to their farm system when Hoyer broke up their All-Star core at the trade deadline this summer. But many of those players are several years away from the big leagues, as are other Cubs top prospects like Ed Howard and Cristian Hernandez.
Hoyer called player development the “single most important thing” the Cubs will do over the next three to five years.
“It’s the most important thing to do to lead towards major-league winning,” Hawkins said. “But it’s also one of the hardest things to do. It is so easy to skip steps, it is so easy to take the path of least resistance."
It's a process Hawkins will play a big role in, and he's looking forward to getting things started alongside Hoyer.
"This could be a partnership, and a friendship, that could really work well," Hawkins said. "A long way to go, obviously. He and Theo [Epstein], I would not even want to think that we would even come close to that type of relationship.
"But if we can get a 10th of that, maybe we'll be okay."