Cubs hope Nico Hoerner can be their next Ben Zobrist-type utilityman

(Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images)
(Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images) /
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Ben Zobrist / Chicago Cubs
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A Ben Zobrist-like career is a goal every Cubs player should embrace

At the end of the day, he’s got two World Series rings to show for it – one with the Royals and one with the Cubs. The former sixth-round pick played critical roles on both of those teams and was beloved by Joe Maddon, both in Chicago and earlier in his career in Tampa Bay as a member of the Rays.

The bat needs some work. That’s a given. But after the team non-tendered a trio of outfielders early this month, having a guy like Hoerner who can move around the diamond on a daily basis, filling holes and giving you ‘plus’ defense is huge.

He could earn the second base job in 2021. Or the Cubs could roll with David Bote at second, relying on Hoerner as a backup infielder or potentially the everyday center fielder. We saw Ian Happ there a lot in 2020 – but with Kyle Schwarber gone, Happ could slide over to left and Hoerner  could see more time in center given his athleticism and high baseball IQ.

"‘‘I think we’ll probably continue to work on his versatility,” Cubs president of baseball ops Jed Hoyer said. “I think he can absolutely be an every-day player at one position in the big leagues, but I also think, at his age and given our roster, it makes sense to continue to encourage that [versatility].’’"

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Here’s the thing. I don’t think Hoerner will be that guy in 2021. He needs – no, desperately needs, to finish developing his bat in the minors. But long-term, he’s certainly got the tools to be the team’s do-it-all guy, stepping up when called upon all over the diamond.