Levine: Are Ian Happ, Nico Hoerner extensions a priority for Cubs?
With a group of some new players coming to Clark and Addison in 2023, the attention this weekend for the Cub Convention wasn’t necessarily on the players who had a big impact in 2022.
Both Ian Happ and Nico Hoerner had breakout seasons for the Cubs last year. The smart money is saying they both could be rewarded with multi-year contracts.
In the case of Happ, he can become a free agent after the 2023 campaign. He featured a new swing and the ability to make hard contact from both sides of the plate. However, it wasn’t just about the offensive turnaround for the 28-year-old Pittsburgh native. Happ was also became entrenched as the everyday left fielder and won a Gold Glove in the process of establishing himself in the role.
Signing a 1-year deal of $10.6 million to avoid arbitration Friday may be a small step toward signing a long term deal with the Cubs.
“I’ve loved this organization” Happ said from the Convention after the Opening Ceremonies Friday. “It’s a really special place. The city is special. The fanbase is special. All those things are the only things I’ve known in the game.”
Hoerner, a first-time arbitration eligible player, became a standout shortstop for the Cubs this past season. With the addition of Dansby Swanson, he is likely to become a Gold Glove contender again at second base (he was a Gold Glove finalist in 2020 at the position).
Hoerner was able to stay on the field in 2023 and show outstanding contact skills and an ability to produce runs in bigger moments.
Signing to avoid an arbitration hearing Friday night, Hoerner is under club control through 2025. The question might be: Is this the right time to sign him and Happ to a long term deal?
“I can’t tell you where those talks stand,” president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer acknowledged on Friday. “I can tell you we have interest in both guys, keeping them long term. We have started the process, I would say, with both. We have had dialogue with the agents.
“Where we are in the process or what the offers are, I would never reveal. Certainly there is a real desire on our part. We have had meetings with both Nico’s and Ian’s representatives.”
Happ at this point may want to roll the dice and see how much money is out there for his services in full blown free agency. The fact that the organization is very deep in blue chip outfielders in the minors could alter the front office view of how many years and how much cash they may be willing to offer Happ.
“On the other side of all that, there are 29 other teams that are competing and you earn the right to become a free agent.” Happ said about maybe waiting the process out until November. “That is a special thing too. I have said it before: I’d love to stay here, but you don’t have control of those things.”
Hoerner is in a bit of a different situation for the team. He is the starting second baseman but will have real value at both shortstop and second base if he hits the open market in a few seasons.
“The focus today was on arbitration and it’s nice to get that finished.” Hoerner said. “As far as a long term deal, I prefer to keep that stuff private for sure. We will see where that goes.”
The Cubs have not given an extension to a rostered player since they extended Kyle Hendricks to a 4-year $55.595 million contract on March 26th of 2019. The Cubs had not been able to get a deal done with former All-Stars Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant or Javier Báez before trading them in July of 2021.
According to industry sources, the Cubs had offered longer contract extensions and for higher annual average salaries to all three players than the ones they eventually signed elsewhere.