For the next four or so months, we’re going to be talking about the likely influx of new faces when looking at the Chicago Cubs. The trade market and free agency will both be busy fronts – but we can’t overlook the role of some key returning players, such as Nico Hoerner.
There is no denying this season’s free agent market is stacked with shortstops, including the likes of superstars Corey Seager, Marcus Semien, Trevor Story, Carlos Correa and Javier Baez. Francisco Lindor would have been another addition to this star-studded list, but he signed a mega-deal last season in the Big Apple. Speaking of the Big Apple, last summer, the Chicago Cubs traded their soon-to-be free agent shortstop Baez to the New York Mets, where he played second base for half of the year.
Keeping this in mind, it is clear that the Cubs are in the market for an everyday guy at short. If we’re being honest, this is the perfect year to be searching for a shortstop. Free agent classes like this are few and far between. However, whether or not Chicago will target any of these elite talents is anyone’s guess. Besides free agency, the Cubs farm system is indeed rich with shortstops. But these guys are young, raw and are nowhere near ready for the big leagues.
With that being said, there is one more direction the Chicago Cubs could take: and that could be looking in-house. That is where Nico Hoerner comes in. Hoerner has what it takes to play short, but the Cubs have also been looking at him as an everyday utility guy to play multiple positions in 2022 since he has experience at second base and shortstop.
Chicago Cubs: What positions could we see Nico Hoerner playing next season?
Like I said before, Hoerner already has garnered experience at both second and short, two positions that Nick Madrigal is penciled in for. Madrigal was acquired from the Chicago White Sox before last year’s trade deadline but has yet to play a game with his new club due to a hamstring injury.
Unfortunately, Hoerner fell victim to injuries as well, considering he found himself injured four times. Last season, the former Stanford standout played a total of 44 games – which has led to questions regarding his ability to stay healthy or even play everyday. Both of these players and their injury histories show precisely why it is ideal for both of them to be versatile.
Hoerner plans to work at both middle infield positions and in center field, which will provide even more versatility. Moving forward, the Cubs could use Hoerner exactly how they used another former first-rounder in Kris Bryant: in both the infield and outfield as the team’s needs change. Besides Hoerner and Madrigal, Patrick Wisdom, Ian Happ and Willson Contreras all move around a bit themselves and are somewhat versatile.
Whether the Chicago Cubs decide to test the shortstop free agent market or stick with their in-house options, it will be fascinating to see how things pan out and where Hoerner finds himself playing next season.