Chicago Cubs Rumors: Extensions for Nico Hoerner and Ian Happ?
With free agency in full swing, It's good to hear that the Chicago Cubs not only are being active in the free-agent market but are also looking to extend some of their current core this winter. Sahadev Sharma and Patrick Mooney of The Athletic reported that extension talks will take place this offseason between the Cubs and both Nico Hoerner and Ian Happ.
With Happ being on a contract year this season, let's dive into him first as his deal is probably a little more urgent to get done.
After a career year both at the plate and in the field, Happ earned his first All-Star nod and Gold Glove award in 2022. He recorded a career-best .271/.342/.440 slash line with 17 home runs and 72 driven in, accumulating a 4.4 WAR in the process. As I've stated in the past, Happ's consistency really dates back to about the second half of August 2021, so to see a couple of months at the end of last season, followed by a crazy offseason last winter, and then a full consistent season this year, I'm pretty confident Happ turned the corner and is ready to be a key piece of the Cubs moving forward.
In regard to Hoerner, who amassed a line of .281/.327/.410, he's a no-brainer for a contract extension given his elite defense in the middle infield. Hoerner was tied for 2nd place among NL shortstops with 13 Outs Above Average this season. He was also 2nd place among SSs in Runs Prevented. His 4.5 WAR in 2022, like Happ, was the best mark of his career. Where fans are still somewhat sour about the moving on from players like Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, and Javier Baez, it sounds like history may not be doomed to repeat itself here.
Jed Hoyer himself went on record stating he wants to get going on extension talks sooner rather than later this winter. He knows it's smarter to have these talks before ramping up for a full season and above all else, it can cause tension and affect a player's psyche as he's trying to focus on Spring Training.
The Chicago Cubs should want to extend Nico Hoerner and Ian Happ.
The Cubs aren't looking to be sellers in 2023 the way they were in 2022 and 2021. If the Cubs were another year from trying to compete, I could see the argument of trading Happ rather than extending him. Obviously, if you are trying to compete, you make no headway by selling off your best assets before the season even begins. Keeping both Hoerner and Happ long-term now, especially after the latter has turned the corner in his career, makes the most sense.
Looking ahead, the Cubs will need another two bats at least in free agency. You'd love to see them really get aggressive and land one of the big four shortstops and slide Hoerner to second base, but it doesn't have to be a necessity to compete in 2022. There are other avenues such as trading or signing an elite starting pitcher that can also help the Cubs get into contention.
The priority right now is landing pieces that open up the eyes of other free agents.
Having Ian Happ, Nico Hoerner and Seiya Suzuki locked up moving forward is a great place to start if you're looking to compete. That, in itself, will show players on the market that they are serious about winning now. Extending Happ, Hoerner, and adding in another couple of bats starts to give you real optimism when you start creating the hypothetical lineups in your head. It's time to lock up this new core and get back to the playoffs.