"Usually at this time of year, you're sort of wrapping up your offseason," Hoyer said on the Bernstein & McKnight Show on Friday. "For us, I think -- not that we haven't been doing a lot of different things behind the scenes, but as far as the kind of moves that fans notice or get excited about, we've been quiet on that front. I guess I would just say I feel like our offseason isn't just ending right now like it usually would be. It's sort of like kind of just beginning. We will certainly be active leading up to the season. Yes, I think it's fair to say this offseason for us has pushed back a little bit. We're sort of just getting things started on some of the things we want to do."
Several factors have played into the Cubs' inactivity as they come off an 84-win season in which they missed the playoffs for the first time since 2014. Outside of adding a few players on minor league deals, the Cubs have sat out the free-agent market because of self-imposed financial restrictions, as they already carry a payroll over $200 million and want to stay under the luxury tax.
The Cubs also haven't made any big moves on the trade market -- perhaps because of their asking prices and perhaps because star third baseman Kris Bryant's contract situation remains unresolved. A prime trade candidate if the Cubs really wanted to author a shakeup, Bryant is currently under contract control through 2021 but is awaiting a ruling on a grievance that contends the team manipulated his service time back in 2015. If Bryant wins the case, he'd be eligible for free agency after 2020.
While the expectation is Bryant loses the case, interested suitors would want clarity on the matter before potentially trading for him.
As for any hope of the Cubs still signing Bryant to a long-term deal, that's basically non-existent.
"Have we attempted? Absolutely," Hoyer said. "We try not to comment on our discussions with players. We try to keep those things quiet, so I'll respect that. But it's no secret that we've engaged in those discussions. So I guess by definition, the fact that we've engaged in those discussions, it's possible. But ... we obviously haven't reached a deal. I guess beyond that, I wouldn't comment, but certainly, it's something that we've attempted in the past."
Bryant, first baseman Anthony Rizzo, shortstop Javier Baez and outfielder Kyle Schwarber are among the Cubs set for free agency after 2021. Catcher Willson Contreras is eligible for free agency after the 2022 season.
The Cubs have tried to keep that core together by previously offering extensions, to no avail. And while Baez remains a logical candidate to sign a long-term deal, there's little hope for the greater group sticking together, judging by Hoyer's words.
"We had this young group that came through the farm system, that came up at the same time," Hoyer said. "We offered all those guys extensions. We tried hard to really keep this group together for as long as we can. I think there are certain realities where we are not going to be able to keep this group together forever. It may be by them leaving through free agency. It may be by us trading some of them. We might be able to extend some of them. But I think in all honesty, we passed the point of being able to extend all those players. I think we had a moment in time where that might have been possible, and then we passed that. And so the reality is we've kept this group together for a long time by baseball standards. We hope to continue to be able to keep it together, but when you look at it, a lot of these guys hit free agency after 2021. We have to think about not only this year's team, but we have to think about how we're going to field a really competitive team beyond that group's free agency after 2021."