How to label Cubs rebuild? Jed Hoyer says ‘that’s your decision’

Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer is going to get the question plenty in the coming months and years: Is this a rebuild?

Fans and media members already know the answer.

“If you want to label it that, that’s your job,” Hoyer said before the Cubs beat the White Sox 5-1 on Saturday at Guaranteed Rate Field. “My job is to tell you what our plan is.”

He’s right, that is our jobs as journalists, analysts or pundits.

It is, by definition, a rebuild. The Cubs tore down their last championship team — leaving only Willson Contreras, Kyle Hendricks and Jason Heyward on the roster this year — and are building anew.

Whether or not this transition qualifies as rebuilding, retooling or something else is a silly debate. They’re all the same thing, really, describing varying degrees of the same process. What we’re really trying to pin down is how long is it going to be before the Cubs are competitive again? Or, do the fans deserve better after sitting through something similar a decade ago?

A label doesn’t answer those questions.

Just as silly is Hoyer’s reluctance to utter the word, except to say he doesn’t know what a rebuild is.

Maybe that’s because he knows how charged the word is, not just describing a step in a process but implying a whole host of other things about an organization’s budget and priorities. Free agents and current players are listening.

So is the Cubs’ fan base, which is experiencing deja vu from the early years of the Theo Epstein/Hoyer era. At that point the promise of the lovable losers climbing into championship contention sounded sweet. But those teams — winning a World Series and making the payoffs in five of six years — also raised the bar.

“I think what we achieved was it burned incredibly bright, but it was probably for a shorter amount of time than we had hoped,” Hoyer said. “And we ended up trading those guys away and getting assets that we’re really excited about for our future.”

Cubs fans have every right to want more from their large-market team. And Hoyer doesn’t have to call this a rebuild for fans to see what it is.

Before Saturday’s game, Hoyer was introspective on the subject.

“If people don’t feel like we’re being as transparent [as in 2012], I have to own that, and I have to think about our messaging,” Hoyer said.

To be fair, Hoyer’s nowhere near the first sports executive to shy away from the word “rebuild.”

Citing competitive reasons, Hoyer’s outline of the Cubs’ plan forward has its limits. But so far it also has been entirely accurate.

When he said the Cubs were keeping one eye on the present and one on the future, they didn’t go for what amounted to a one-year deal for top free-agent shortstop Carlos Correa. Instead, their biggest deal brought in outfielder Seiya Suzuki for five years and $85 million (before the posting fee).

Hoyer stands by his assertion last year that this process wouldn’t be 2012 and 2013 all over again — the same blueprint probably wouldn’t work twice. But there are similarities.

“When [making moves for the present and future] are in conflict, we are going to look towards the future,” Hoyer said. “I think our goal is to build something really special, just like it was last time. And I think sometimes to do that you have to take a long view.”

He added: “How you guys choose to label that, I think that’s your decision.”

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