Chicago Cubs: Two Extension Candidates this offseason

Cincinnati Reds v Chicago Cubs
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Nico Hoerner
San Francisco Giants v Chicago Cubs / Matt Dirksen/GettyImages

Player number two to deserve a contract extension after clearly proving themselves this year with the Chicago Cubs is Nico Hoerner.

Yes, the Cubs are looking to potentially land a star shortstop this winter. No, that has absolutely nothing to do with Hoerner as he can also play second base. Before we get into Hoerner's bat-to-ball skills, I think it's just as important to recognize his defense in the field. Hoerner recorded 13 outs above average, good for a second-place tie with Francisco Lindor among NL shortstops behind Dansby Swanson who won the Gold Glove this year. Safe to say, that's pretty elite company to be in conversation with.

After his first season batting over .300 in 2021, albeit in just 44 games, Hoerner recorded a line of .281/.327/.410 in 2022 in 135 contests in 2022. Where injuries have been a worry for Hoerner, he remained pretty healthy last season as his only IL stint came in May due to an ankle issue that only saw him miss a minimum of 10 days. His .281 batting average led all Cubs last season.

What I love personally are the improvements Hoerner made in his ability to hit to all fields this year. Though the shift will be banned next season, which is going to spike batting averages across the league anyway, being able to go opposite field when you need to is a key skill more players need to hone in on.

Nico Hoerner has emerged as a start in the Chicago Cubs infield.

Hoerner's 11% strikeout rate in the majors last year ranks as fifth best in the entire league. For the National League only, Hoerner ranks 2nd behind only Jeff Mcneil by less than 1% for the best mark in terms of K percentage. His 4.5 fWAR recorded on the season, though due to shorter seasons in the past (pandemic in 2020, injury in 2021), was still far and away his best mark to date.

For Hoerner, it's all about staying healthy. For the Cubs to have the luxury to move him to second base next year if they land a shortstop would be a dream come true for the front office. Having a top-notch, up-the-middle defense is one thing that helped the Cubs achieve so much success in 2016.

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For somebody with incredible defense and elite ability to put the ball in play, Hoerner and Happ are your two players that need and deserve to be around long-term. They are two core pieces that will help the Cubs find success as they look to launch themselves back into the realm of contention.