There’s no doubt Hoerner has answered the questions that surrounded him heading into 2022, namely defensively, racking up 4.5 bWAR in 128 games. He’s one of the best bat-to-ball guys in the entire league, an elite defender and has a growing leadership presence in a young Chicago clubhouse.
And, despite all this, the Cubs should still move him off the position this winter.
Cubs can’t bet on Nick Madrigal being healthy for an entire season
That’s not a knock on Hoerner, but rather an acknowledgement that this team desperately needs to add some offensive firepower – and the best position players available in this free agent class play shortstop. Assuming Xander Bogaerts and Carlos Correa both opt out, they’ll join the likes of Trea Turner and Dansby Swanson on the open market.
Now, the Cubs could go in a variety of directions as far as how they rank these guys – but assuming they add their preferred option, odds are Hoerner would slide back to second base, where he was a Gold Glove finalist just two years ago.
The fact we already know Hoerner can more than handle the position defensively assuages any fears about having him move off shortstop after the stellar year he’s had. More importantly, it takes the pressure off Nick Madrigal, who really struggled in his first year on the North Side, battling a myriad of injuries.
The former number 4 overall pick out of Oregon State batted just .249/.305/.282 in 228 plate appearances. He pulled the ball and hit it on the ground more than he ever has – the former of which is bad news for a guy with virtually no power. Madrigal is at his best when he’s using the entire field, something he’ll look to get back to in 2023.
So, rather than heading into next year – a season where Chicago should, at least in theory, be competitive again – betting on Madrigal to be back at 100 percent and be the answer at second on a nightly basis, going with a Hoerner + Turner/Correa/Bogaerts/Swanson combination is definitely the preferred option.
That’s not to say Madrigal can’t or won’t play an important role for the Cubs. He himself has admitted this offseason is essentially a make-or-break if he wants to play a big role with the team long-term.
"“It’s gonna be the biggest offseason I’ve had the last couple years,” Madrigal said. “I’m gonna be doing some major changes. Obviously my body’s out of whack right now, just with all these injuries popping up. I’ve been talking to some people that are gonna help and just excited that I know we got the rest of this year, but it’s gonna be a big offseason.”"
I’m not anywhere close to writing off Madrigal. This guy has hit at every stop along the way – with the 2022 season being the outlier. I think he’s a great depth piece, capable of making contact either off the bench or in a spot start to keep guys fresh. But you can’t bet on him being healthy for an entire year. The Cubs have already learned that lesson the hard way, thankfully in a season that was ticketed for disappointment from the start.