Did Cubs, Nico Hoerner lay the groundwork for an even longer deal?
By Jake Misener
It might not be the 10+ year deal we saw multiple top-tier free agent middle infielders land this winter, but seeing the Cubs finally get an extension done with a homegrown player in Nico Hoerner felt pretty great regardless.
Prior to Opening Day, Chicago signed Hoerner to a three-year, $35 million extension that covers what would have been his final two trips through arbitration and his first year of free agency, which would still allow him to hit the open market ahead of his 30th birthday.
"So happy that we were able to come to terms and that it’s here. It’s an incredible thing to experience. And I hope it’s not the last deal with this team. This is where I want to be. "- Nico Hoerner, via Sun-Times
That means that, for at least the next three seasons, Cubs fans will enjoy Hoerner and Dansby Swanson handling as the team's double play combination - giving Chicago the best middle infield tandem not only in the Senior Circuit, but all of baseball. But will that pairing last past the 2026 season?
According to a report from the Sun-Times, both Hoerner and the front office have expressed interest in potentially re-visiting longer-term talks - a promising sign after years of failed talks with the former core and, now, Hoerner's teammate Ian Happ, who looks likely to hit free agency at season's end after talks went nowhere this winter.
"We could never really get to the place where, on a longer deal, both sides felt like it was the right amount of money. We may well revisit it at some point, but it’s nice to get that free-agent year in to extend our time with him a little bit. And hopefully that leads to a later extension where we do it for a lot longer. "- Jed Hoyer, via Sun-Times
Hoerner played in a career-high 135 games last year, not only answering lingering questions surrounding his defensive abilities at shortstop, but establishing himself as an elite presence there - while also showcasing premier bat-to-ball skills at the dish. In 2020, the former first-rounder was a Gold Glove finalist at second base, where he'll now call home moving forward.
There's cause to believe he's just scratching the surface of what he's capable of. But the Cubs are also well aware last season marked the first time in his career he'd exceeded 100 games - and a checkered injury past is also a concern.
Even so, the potential is tantalizing and the thought of Swanson and Hoerner up the middle for the length of the former's seven-year, $177 million contract should remain the goal for everyone involved.