Chicago Cubs: Nico Hoerner’s future is clouded by a year of injuries
With the end of this season fast approaching, the Chicago Cubs are starting to shut down anyone who’s even remotely injured. In a season so brutal and forgettable, one of the more infuriating aspects of this season was all the injuries to players who really needed the playing time. No one player embodies this frustration more than Nico Hoerner.
Since coming back up to the Cubs on April 22, Hoerner has only managed to appear in 44 games. He missed all of June and August with other, shorter absences throughout and it’s possible he’ll be shut down for the rest of the season now. His three major injuries include a bruised forearm following a collision with Ian Happ, a strained hamstring and a strained oblique.
To say it’s concerning is an understatement. While David Ross stated that he’s not going to “label” Hoerner for his frequent ailments, it has to throw more uncertainty into his role going forward. Certainly, with a massive offseason looming in which Jed Hoyer plans for big-time spending, these injuries have to sway his thoughts.
Nico Hoerner’s future role on the Chicago Cubs is uncertain with injuries aplenty
Hoerner is the exact type of hitter the Cubs have needed for a long time, consistently hitting for average and getting on base at a high clip to set up for the big dogs in the lineup, but he needs to be relegated to a utility role for the time being.
Coming into 2022 with him in a committed starting role comes with major consequences if a competent player isn’t there to cover him. Moreover, Hoerner still lacks a proper extended look at the majors thanks to this mostly lost season. It’s for these reasons Hoyer merely sees him as a contributor rather than a carved-in-stone starter.
"“He’s going to be a significant piece of our team next year and going forward,” Hoyer said. “Exactly what position I think is sort of undecided, but that’s the beauty of it."
Some of the budget this offseason will likely turn to a solid utility player or two as coverage for the time Hoerner misses should these injuries persist. For all the merits adding a Carlos Correa or Javier Baez brings, Hoyer seems more committed to spreading the money intelligently to fill holes where needed. Chris Taylor, for example, represents the type of player that the Cubs can pencil in to cover absences just about anywhere on the field.
For the immediate future, committing to Hoerner at any position outside of a flexible utility role invites too many consequences. His promise warrants more playing time, but his health is not something the team can count on. He’s still young and can become a key contributor for the next great team on the North Side, but until he can stay on the field, the Cubs can’t be built with him locked in as a starter.