This offseason crushed the Cubs' hopes of team-friendly extensions

St Louis Cardinals v Chicago Cubs
St Louis Cardinals v Chicago Cubs / Matt Dirksen/GettyImages

This winter, many of the free agent pacts inked by top talent exceeded market expectations to the point it was almost a relief when the Cubs landed Dansby Swanson for only $177 million. That turn of events will undoubtedly factor into Chicago's hopes of extending Ian Happ and/or Nico Hoerner this winter - all but guaranteeing any sort of team-friendly deal won't be in the cards.

Cubs will have to pony up to extend Ian Happ and Nico Hoerner

Happ, who many expected would be traded last summer, is heading into his final year of team control on the heels of the best season of his career. The switch-hitting outfielder slashed .271/.342/.440 with a career-high 42 doubles and 72 RBI en route to the first All-Star selection and Gold Glove of his career. It was a remarkably consistent showing for Happ who, for much of his Cubs career, rode waves of extreme highs followed by chasmic lows.

His work from the right side of the plate, in particular, showed noted improvement. After posting a .653 OPS against southpaws the year prior, Happ slashed .305/.350/.438 against them in 2022, good for a .788 OPS. This dramatic improvement at the plate paired with his work in left field has him in prime position to be one of the marquee free agents in next winter's position player class.

As for Hoerner, the 25-year-old infielder was a key piece of the puzzle for David Ross, playing his usual elite defense at shortstop while batting .281/.327/.410. Of course, with the addition of Swanson, he'll shift back to second base in 2023, a position he was a Gold Glove finalist at back in 2020. Off the field, he's repeatedly demonstrated a team-first mentality, as well, only bolstering his standing in the clubhouse and with fans.

A Swanson-Hoerner double play combination will give the Cubs one of the best defensive tandems in the league, but getting an extension done with Hoerner won't be an easy task given what this year's shortstop class wound up netting in free agency. You can bet he'll want to build on his strong 2022 with an eye on hitting the open market following the 2025 season.

Of the two, though, Hoerner is - hands down - more likely to sign an extension with Chicago. Given he still has three years before he's a free agent, there's far more uncertainty looking long-term. Happ, meanwhile, knows if he performs like he did last year in 2023, he's in for a serious payday this winter.

Next. Former Cubs have aided the team's offseason. dark

If the Cubs come in with an offer in the neighborhood of what the Pirates just offered Bryan Reynolds (six years, $75 million), Happ is as good as gone. It's going to take something in the nine-figure range to lock up the former first-rounder and Hoerner won't come cheap, either. After failing to extend any of the previous core, it remains to be seen if Jed Hoyer's front office can buck the trend, get a little uncomfortable and get some deals done.