Pondering terms on a potential Cubs, Nico Hoerner contract extension
By Jake Misener
Nico Hoerner has done everything the Chicago Cubs have asked of him - and more - since making his big league debut back in Sept. 2019. Right out of the gate, he stepped into an everyday role at a shortstop position decimated by injury, batting .282 down the stretch as the North Siders' postseason hopes faded and the Joe Maddon era drew to an unceremonious end.
In 2020, Hoerner struggled immensely at the plate, but drew rave reviews for his glovework at second base, where he was named an NL Gold Glove finalist at the position. Injuries cut his 2021 season short, but he managed a .302 average in 44 games, setting the stage for a very strong 2022 campaign, where he silenced his doubters, playing elite defense at shortstop and emerging as a new leader on the field and in the clubhouse.
Now, with the Cubs' prized additon of the offseason, Dansby Swanson, cemented at shortstop for the next seven years, Hoerner will once again change positions, sliding back over to second base for the 2023 season. His defensive versatility, paired with strong bat-to-ball skills, make him a wildly valuable presence in the Cubs lineup - and a logical extension candidate, as well.
Now, unlike with teammate Ian Happ, who is set to hit the open market at season's end, Hoerner isn't a free agent until 2026 - so there's plenty of time to get a deal done. But we've seen a trend across the league in recent years of locking up young players before they become household names, and it's worth wondering if Chicago will take a similar course of action with Hoerner.
Cubs: Nico Hoerner could bet on himself - and win big - in free agency
Early Monday morning, The Athletic's Sahadev Sharma (subscription required) penned a piece on Hoerner's leadership role on this up-and-coming ballclub and touched on a potential extension deal comp in the Seattle Mariners' JP Crawford - and even floated a six-year, $70 million mark to the Cubs infielder.
Of course, Hoerner steered clear of commenting openly on the comparison, other than praising Crawford and saying that comps like that work better in arbitration than in extension discussions, also saying he was in a 'good place' with the Cubs right now.
As that piece from Tim Britton rightfully noted, Hoerner's got a much higher ceiling than Crawford - and if he builds on his 2022 performance this year, thriving alongside Swanson and elevating his offensive game, you could see him start to think about a nine-figure deal to stay on the North Side. If Hoerner wanted the safe money, that $70 million offer might get it done.
But given the fact he's got some runway left before free agency that aligns with the team becoming competitive again (thus giving him a bigger stage to prove himself on), I'm guessing he bets on himself instead of taking an extension before Opening Day.