Cubs: Nico Hoerner, Ian Happ could be offseason extension candidates
Despite being at very different point in their respective careers, Cubs standouts Ian Happ and Nico Hoerner both head into the upcoming offseason as two likely extension candidates.
Everyone thought Happ, a first-time All-Star this year, would get traded at the Aug. 2 deadline, but Jed Hoyer and Carter Hawkins held onto their switch-hitting outfielder. Unlike with Willson Contreras, who is a free agent at season’s end, Happ has one more year of team control remaining – so, should the two sides fail to agree on an extension, he could, theoretically, be traded next summer instead.
For his part, Happ remains open to talking about a new deal this winter – one that would keep him in Chicago for years to come.
"“Right now, I have no expectations of what will happen,” Happ told 670 The Score this week. “We still have games to play, and I must concentrate on finishing the season strong and being a good team player. We will see what transpires when it’s over. I have another year of arbitration to go through. If there are any discussions we have, I am hoping we can get into it in the offseason.”"
This will be an interesting scenario for the front office. Happ has been a key piece of the team’s offense here in 2022, posting an .801 OPS on the year. But looking long-term, Chicago has a boatload of outfield prospects on the rise, including the likes of Pete Crow-Armstrong, Brennen Davis, Kevin Alcantara, Alexander Canario and Owen Caissie.
Do the Cubs want to commit to Happ over these prospects? We’ll have to wait and see – but if they choose to let things play out in his final year of team control, it’s a decision that’s fairly easy for the team to defend given the organizational depth in the outfield and the inconsistencies Happ had shown at the plate prior to this season.
Cubs: A Nico Hoerner extension could solidify the team’s infield picture
Hoerner, meanwhile, has established himself as en elite defensive infielder, earning Gold Glove finalist status two years ago and ranking as one of the top shortstops in all baseball this year.
He’s still got three years of team control left, so there’s no rush to hammer something out. But now could be the perfect time to lock up a young player long-term, similar to how the Atlanta Braves have built a sustainable, controllable core in recent years.
The former Stanford standout carries a 111 OPS+ on the year to go with his outstanding glove work, good for a 4.5 bWAR. If you’re thinking that a long-term deal could alter the organization’s plans in free agency – don’t. Hoerner has shown the ability to handle whatever is thrown at him, so sliding him back to second for someone like Trea Turner is hardly going to be an issue.
Heading into the offseason, we’re all rightfully focused on who the front office will add to this team. But locking someone like Hoerner, or perhaps Happ, up long-term could also help clarify the Cubs’ vision moving forward.