Chicago Cubs

Chicago Cubs can thank former GM Jim Hendry, staff for Javy Baez, Willson Contreras

All-Stars are products of former GM’s regime

The Cubs' Willson Contreras (left) is congratulated by Javy Baez after scoring on a wild pitch against the National during Game 5 of the 2017 National League Division Series on Oct. 12 in Washington. Conteras and Baez recently were voted as All-Star Game starters.
The Cubs' Willson Contreras (left) is congratulated by Javy Baez after scoring on a wild pitch against the National during Game 5 of the 2017 National League Division Series on Oct. 12 in Washington. Conteras and Baez recently were voted as All-Star Game starters.

Just as baseball is passed from generation to generation, a couple of Cubs All-Stars have been passed from baseball regime to baseball regime. 

Infielder Javy Baez and catcher Willson Contreras will start Tuesday’s
All-Star Game at Nationals Park in Washington. Both are longtime members of the Cubs organization, having been drafted and/or signed by the previous baseball management team, headed by former general manager Jim Hendry. 

Baez was the final first-round pick of the Hendry regime, in 2011, and Hendry worked tirelessly to sign Baez even as Hendry knew his days with the organization were coming to an end. 

The scout who gets credit for signing Baez – along with then-scouting director Tim Wilken – is Tom Clark, who still is with the organization, as are many scouts from the Hendry regime. 

Contreras was signed as a 17-year-old free agent out of Venezuela in 2009, with scouts Hector Ortega and Julio Figueroa being credited. Both of those scouts also still are with the Cubs. 

In 2012, after the Theo Epstein-led baseball team took over, Contreras made the transition from infielder to catcher. He had spoken to and been encouraged by former player-development chief Oneri Fleita about moving behind the plate. 

“I’m thankful for Oneri,” Contreras said Sunday when he was named an All-Star. “I’m always thankful that I switched my position. But I wanted to catch. I wanted to be there. I think that was part of my priorities. Now that I’m behind the plate, I have to take care of my team and teammates first.”

To Epstein’s credit, he always has been generous with crediting Hendry, Fleita, Wilken and the scouts for obtaining and helping to start the development of Baez and Contreras. 

The current baseball-operations people also did not prejudge Baez and Contreras simply because they were procured by the previous people in charge. Of course, it helped that both players possessed prodigious raw talent back then. 

“Jim Hendry and his lieutenants did a great job finding those guys,” Epstein said during the 2016 World Series, when both Baez and Contreras were bursting upon the scene. “They were both in (Single-A) Boise when I got here. The talent was obvious. Like any other player in the low minors, some of the tools stand out and some of the challenges are there in the development path. It was obvious a lot of people would have to touch them along the way and help bring them along.”

Missing Ken Ravizza: The Cubs were hit hard by the recent death of sports psychologist Dr. Ken Ravizza, their mental skills coach. 

Ravizza and others, including Cubs manager Joe Maddon, did much over the past two decades to destigmatize players seeking psychological coaching and assistance. 

A welcomed figure in and around the Cubs clubhouse, both at home and on the road, Ravizza would walk around the room to talk with players and stop to chat with media members about how they were doing as well. 

Ravizza was 70. 

Top pick moving up: Shortstop Nico Hoerner, the Cubs’ first-round draft pick this year out of Stanford, has been promoted from short-season Single-A Eugene to South Bend (A) of the Midwest League. 

Hoerner began his pro career in the Arizona Rookie League, going 3 for 12. At Eugene, he went 7 for 22 (. 318) with a triple and a homer.

Loading more

Digital Access

Digital Access
Access nwherald.com from all your digital devices and receive breaking news and updates from around the area.

Home Delivery

Home Delivery
Local news, prep sports, Chicago sports, local and regional entertainment, business, home and lifestyle, food, classified and more! News you use every day! Daily, weekend and Sunday packages.

Text Alerts

Text Alerts
Stay connected to us wherever you are! Get breaking news updates along with other area information sent to you as a text message to your wireless device.

Email Newsletters

Email Newsletters
We'll deliver news & updates to your inbox. Plan your weekend and catch up on the news with our newsletters.