Nico Hoerner stepping into spotlight as next Chicago Cubs leader

Mar 4, 2023; Mesa, Arizona, USA; Chicago Cubs shortstop Nico Hoerner (2) bats against the Los
Mar 4, 2023; Mesa, Arizona, USA; Chicago Cubs shortstop Nico Hoerner (2) bats against the Los / Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Life is good for Chicago Cubs' starting second baseman as he is on a trajectory toward becoming one of the best middle infielders in all of Major League Baseball and that is placing him in a prime position for a contract extension with the team.

The Cubs have not been shy about their feelings for Hoerner as he has emerged as a leader for the Major League club and while speaking with Patrick Mooney of The Athletic, Hoerner expanded upon his role with the team.

"“Leadership comes in a lot of different ways,” Hoerner said. “It’s a constantly changing thing and I’m figuring out what that means for me. I appreciate when coaches have asked for more from me. Honestly, it’s nice to have that feedback. What I bring on a daily basis is not going to be as vocal as some people. But I do take a lot of pride in knowing my teammates and playing hard. It’s really not that complicated. It’s not coming from a place of, ‘Man, I got to really be a leader today.’ It’s just take care of your business, treat people well along the way and go from there.”"

Nico Hoerner via The Athletic

Hoerner slashed .281/.327/.410/.736 in his first full season at the Major League level with the Cubs and proved that he is capable of playing an elite level of defense at the shortstop position. Hoerner does not reach free agency until 2026 but there has been an expectation from both sides that an extension would be of interest sooner rather than later. Given the money that was handed out to shortstops this offseason, Hoerner may want to cash in before his data set transitions to being an everyday second baseman.

Much like the Cubs are going to need to show a willingness to set the market for a top free agent in a coming offseason, the team is going to need to show a willingness to reward their homegrown talent with a contract extension.

The Cubs' inability to sign the 2016 World Series winning core to a contract extension outside of Kyle Hendricks has undoubtedly left a sour taste in regard to how the team treats their players. While the likes of first baseman Anthony Rizzo, third baseman Kris Bryant, and shortstop Javier Baez all speak to the Cubs in a respectable light, the same can not be said for catcher Willson Contreras.

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As the Cubs put together their next contending core, Hoerner should be in the middle of the foundation. Given the commitment that the team has made to shortstop Dansby Swanson this offseason, there should be a similar urgency to put Hoerner on the same timeline.