With Major League Baseball free agency beginning today, it's safe to say that things are going to be pretty chaotic in the Chicago Cubs front office. While Cubs fans alike anticipate the club looking to spend big and land a couple of big names available on the market, it is important to remember that there are at least two players whose contributions this past season have deemed them worthy to be locked up long term and could be looked at as just as vital of a move as a free agent signing would be. Let's first take a look at an obvious candidate in Ian Happ.
Happ had the best season of his career in 2022. He slashed a consistent .271/.342/.440 with 17 home runs and 72 RBIs. Happ earned his first all-star nod and was awarded a Gold Glove in the process. Slashing an impressive .308/.383/.467 at Wrigley Field this year, it was nice to see a huge chunk of his production come playing at home. He also improved mightily from the right side of the plate with a .305/.350/.438 slash to go along with a 123 wRC+ in 128 at-bats against southpaws.
When Happ began playing the outfield permanently, there were questions if we would be able to improve and the Gold Glove honor has silenced that doubt. One key adjustment Happ made this season was to simply hit for contact more than consistently swinging for the fences as hard as he could.
Ian Happ has solidified himself as a member of the next core for the Chicago Cubs
In 2022, his ISO, a stat to determine a player's raw power, sat at .169 and was down 40 points from the .209 he recorded in 2021. On the flip side of that, Happ's batting average was 46 points higher than last year as well. Though Happ was able to stay consistent for the entirety of 2022, his consistency really began to take off in the second half of 2021 when he slashed .268/.350/.536 over 235 ABs.
Really, it's been about a year and a half now of Happ's resurgence. Considering Happ didn't have much superstar power protecting him in the lineup, it makes me wonder how much higher his numbers can be if he consistently had a Carlos Correa or Jose Abreu batting behind him. Ian Happ is now one of the longest-tenured players on the Cubs. At age 28, there is still plenty of production in that bat and something has clearly clicked for him. It's time for the front office to finally lock up one of their all-stars.