With Bryzzo now a thing of the past, there is a new nickname for the core of the Cubs

The Chicago Cubs' double play duo "Nickle and Dimes" have only taken a year to become the beating heart of the team.

Milwaukee Brewers v Chicago Cubs
Milwaukee Brewers v Chicago Cubs / Michael Reaves/GettyImages

A look through Chicago Cubs history shows no shortage of great duos. From Ernie Banks and Ron Santo to Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, fans have been fortunate enough to watch some incredible partnerships that became the team's beating heart during their tenures. As the 2024 season approaches, two players have already defined themselves as the soul of the operation for the new era of Cubs baseball - "Nickel and Dimes."

Nico Hoerner and Dansby Swanson became a double-play duo for the first time last year after Jed Hoyer inked Swanson to a 7-year, $177 million deal to man the shortstop position for the foreseeable future. In that time, the pair won matching Gold Glove awards at their respective positions and nearly helped power the Cubs to their first playoff berth since 2020. Now, they've given themselves a new nickname like "Bryzzo" before them.

Admittedly, "Nickel and Dimes" could not come at a worse time. Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts made a rare comment on Tuesday about the team's payroll to paint their current situation - $205 million, $28 million under the first luxury tax threshold - as a "natural place" for the foreseeable future. Sharing that nickname on social media a day after those quotes broke, naturally, set the Cubs up for some (deserved) jokes. On a more positive note, however, it's yet another indication of how Hoerner and Swanson have made this team their own.

Hoerner and Swanson define the modern Chicago Cubs

Swanson was Hoyer's choice of the four big shortstops ahead of the 2023 season thanks to his silky smooth glove and the team's approach toward pitching and defense. By Statcast's Outs Above Average (OAA), he'd consistently ranked highly among qualified fielders, topping out in the 100th percentile with 15 OAA in 2022 and 2023. FanGraphs also likes his glove, as he posted 18 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) last year, contributing to an Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) of 5.9.

Coupled with Hoerner, who placed in the 98th percentile with 14 OAA, 12 DRS, and a 1 UZR at second base, this gave the Cubs arguably the best middle infield defense in the league. What helped make the pair stand out, however, was how easily they passed the eye test. Highlight reel plays are a regularity for Swanson and Hoerner - even in Spring Training - setting them apart as two of the most entertaining players to watch on the field. It's easy to point to them as the faces of the Cubs and their current philosophy for building another contender.

They also stand out as leaders thanks to their position as members of a new core four on offense alongside Ian Happ and Seiya Suzuki. Hoerner and Swanson are both fine offensive players with a 102 and 104 wRC+ respectively and a combined 9.6 fWAR. As veterans of the game, however, they'll play a vital role in welcoming the next wave of Cubs around them, including guys like Michael Busch and Matt Shaw who could establish themselves in the infield positions beside them. Hoyer, to his credit, identified Swanson not only as a good teammate who would push his peers, himself, and even the executives above him to do better. Hoerner, having learned under Rizzo, Bryant, and other members of the Cubs pre-2021, is now in a position to guide the team's up-and-coming stars too.

The Cubs still have to prove they're willing to win now by re-signing Bellinger and/or another of the big four Scott Boras clients. How committed they are to spending year after year will remain a constant question until the status quo changes. Whoever is (or isn't) added, though, this team will be defined by "Nickel and Dimes" for their consistency, leadership, and showmanship in the field.

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