With the heavy lifting of the Chicago Cubs' offseason completed and the team approaching the start of Spring Training next month, the focus for the team's front office has turned to attempting to sign left fielder Ian Happ and second baseman Nico Hoerner to contract extensions. Cubs' president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer confirmed over the weekend that the team has begun the process of talking about a new contract for the two members of the Cubs' current core.
"“I can’t tell you where those talks stand,” president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer acknowledged on Friday. “I can tell you we have interest in both guys, keeping them long term. We have started the process, I would say, with both. We have had dialogue with the agents. “Where we are in the process or what the offers are, I would never reveal. Certainly there is a real desire on our part. We have had meetings with both Nico’s and Ian’s representatives.”"- Jed Hoyer via Marquee Sports Network
Happ is quickly rising the ranks of potential position player free agents next offseason. The prize of the ball next offseason will undoubtedly be Los Angeles Angels superstar Shohei Ohtani but after Ohtani it would likely be Manny Machado if he decides to opt out of his contract with the San Diego Padres. If Machado declines to opt-out, then Happ could easily be viewed as the best true position player on the market next offseason. The five-year, $75MM deal that Andrew Benintendi signed with the Chicago White Sox this offseason will likely serve as the base of Happ's next deal but if he has another All-Star caliber season in 2023, the idea of Happ getting six years for $90MM could be more realistic.
The Cubs have some time with Hoerner as he does not reach free agency until 2026 but it would be smart for the team to sign their starting second baseman to a long-term deal now. Hoerner, who proved during the 2022 season that he is capable of playing the shortstop position at a high level, stands to benefit from the money that was spent on free-agent shortstops this offseason. That number is only going to climb in the seasons ahead and the Cubs may want to avoid waiting until the last minute to extend Hoerner. Buying out the remainder of Hoerner's arbitration years is certainly the goal but the team should also look to add another two to three years of team control after that and put Hoerner on the same timeline as shortstop Dansby Swanson.
At some point, the Cubs are going to have to show a willingness to extend their homegrown talent. In the case of Happ and Hoerner, the Cubs have two players that are climbing toward the top of Major League Baseball at their respective positions and would serve as anchors to the team's next contending core. There is no time better than now for the Cubs to extend both players.