Nico Hoerner’s 3-year, $35 million extension was a small step into the Chicago Cubs’ future – The Denver Post

The Chicago Cubs have signed second baseman Nico Hoerner to a three-year, $35 million extension, according to multiple reports — a small but important step toward the team’s future.

The deal with Hoerner, who averaged .281 and 10 home runs in 2022, buys out two years of officiating and the first year of free agency.

Cubs president Jed Hoyer had yet to sign a multi-year contract before free agency, a strategy that many other big-market teams have adopted to gain cost certainty while rewarding players they see as part of their future.

While that pales in comparison to deals such as the eight-year, $100 million extension Ronald Acuña Jr. signed with the Atlanta Braves four years before he was eligible for free agency, was the Cubs’ first multi-year signing of a prospect since David. Five-year, $15 million extension from Bote in 2019. Hoerner was deemed talented enough to take a short-term risk, but was unproven to land a mega contract.

Hoerner, who moved up to No. 2 after signing shortstop Dansby Swanson to a seven-year, $177 million deal, agreed to a $2.5 million deal in 2022, avoiding arbitration. The extension takes him to 2026, which means the Cubs have a double-play combination set in stone for four years.

A first-round pick from Stanford in 2018, Horner was rushed to the majors from Double-A Tennessee in September 2019 when shortstop Javier Báez suffered a thumb injury and Addison Russell was hit in the face with pitch. After impressing the Cubs on his debut, Horner slumped in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, hitting .222 in 44 games and was dropped from the roster at the start of the following season despite scoring .364 in practice. spring.

2022 was his first full non-pandemic season, and Hoerner posted career highs in home runs and RBIs (55) while posting a .736 OPS after replacing Báez on short notice. Báez finished the season with a .671 OPS after signing a six-year, $140 million contract with the Detroit Tigers.

Hoerner moved into second place to accommodate Swanson, dropping from his preferred and natural position. The transition went well this spring, with Hoerner saying he had no qualms about the change.

“I think it’s a bit simpler without the change,” Horner said. “A lot of times that’s where the real communication of playing out of position comes in. It’s going to be more like baseball as we knew it. I really believe that if you can play short, you can play anywhere on field.

Hoerner and Ian Happ were considered the two main candidates for an extension this spring. Although negotiations can continue throughout the season, an opening delay has been the norm since Theo Epstein became Cubs president in 2011.

Happ, who will be a free agent in November, had not received an extension Monday night when he and most of the other team members flew to Chicago to prepare for Thursday’s season opener against the Milwaukee Brewers at Wrigley Field.

Hoyer declined to comment on Happ’s situation on Monday, citing the team’s stance on not discussing contract issues. News of Hoerner’s extension broke Monday night.

Cubs president Tom Ricketts alluded to Hoerner and Happ when he spoke to the media at the start of spring training about the player lockdown.

“Obviously we’ve got a few guys we’d like to extend, but if it doesn’t work out, that’s okay too,” Ricketts said. “I appreciate that they prefer to test the market. It’s up to Jed to decide.

Happ has seen several teammates go through their walking seasons and deal with trade rumours, so he knows what to expect if he doesn’t get an extension.

“Each experience prepares you,” he told the Tribune earlier this spring. “It set you up for last year watching the guys who went through it in 21. It’s part of the game and you don’t really know how you’re going to feel until you’ve experienced something like that .

“But once you’ve experienced it a few times, you have an understanding of it.”

If Happ remains unsigned, he’ll likely go through the same storyline Willson Contreras went through last summer, including several goodbyes to Wrigley.

Hoyer also wouldn’t address that possibility or anything about Happ’s future. But he praised Happ for dealing with the distractions of trade rumors.

“Last year he set up what we expected,” Hoyer said. “Last year he really put it all together from start to finish and was incredibly valuable. He worked really hard on his defence. Obviously deserves a gold glove and he won one. To do that despite these (commercial) rumors were really impressive.

Happ made no secret of his desire to remain a Cub and developed a close bond with the left field bums, who gave him an autographed ball in July when they thought he might have played his last game. with the team.

“They’ve been there every day, no matter the weather, from April to now, and they care so much,” Happ said afterwards. “It was really meaningful.”

But Happ knows it’s a business.

And after watching many friends leave the Cubs, he’s ready for anything for the start of the 2023 season.


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