While the Cubs still are seeking some offseason improvements, including bullpen help, I couldn’t help wondering why Jed Hoyer & Co. haven’t signed Cubs infielder Nico Hoerner to a contract extension.
This is especially true after the Boston Red Sox bought out the upcoming free agency of Rafael Devers by signing him to an 11-year, $331 million deal.
Devers, interestingly, is only one year older than Hoerner, but has quite a bit more MLB time — 2,958 plate appearances to 895 for Hoerner. That’s largely due to injuries for Hoerner. Devers has five full MLB seasons (including playing 57 of the 60 games in the 2020 pandemic season), while 2022 was Hoerner’s first true full season, which turned out quite well for Nico. He posted 4.5 bWAR and set career highs in several categories.
With the signing of Dansby Swanson, Hoerner will move to second base, where I believe he’ll immediately become a Gold Glove candidate — in fact, he was a Gold Glove finalist there in 2020, when he started exactly half of the 60-game season at that position.
The Cubs haven’t done well with long-term extensions for star players, as you know. It’s arguable whether they should or shouldn’t have signed the World Series core to such extensions. But the point of this article isn’t to lament that past, it’s to say that Hoyer ought to not make the same mistake going forward when he’s got someone (Hoerner) who could be part of the so-called “Next Great Cubs Team.”
Last August, I wrote this article suggesting the Cubs should sign Hoerner to a long-term extension.
In that article, I suggested a deal along these lines:
2023: $4 million
2024: $6 million
2025: $8 million
2026: $12 million
2027: $14 million
2028: $16 million
2029: $20 million team option, $4 million buyout
2030: $20 million team option, $4 million buyout
That’s a six-year, $68 million deal (including the buyouts), or an eight-year, $108 million deal if the options are exercised. For a talent like Hoerner, this would likely be much cheaper than having him go through arbitration for the next three years and then try to retain him in free agency after that. He’d hit free agency at 29, if not signed long-term, still young enough to be productive after that.
Given the sorts of contracts that have been handed out this offseason, that probably isn’t going to be enough.
So what if $2 million were added to each year of that proposal as well as the buyouts?
That would make it a six-year, $84 million deal if it got bought out after 2028, or an eight-year, $116 million deal if the team options were exercised.
The Cubs need to start making statements about keeping their young talent around, as the Atlanta Braves have done. When the next round of young players graduates from the system (Pete Crow-Armstrong, Brennen Davis and others), presuming they begin to perform at the level everyone hopes they do, the Cubs should lock them up early, as has been done by Alex Anthopoulos in Atlanta.
Jed Hoyer hinted that an extension with Hoerner would be discussed this winter way back when he had his season-ending news conference in October. Would a deal like the one above get it done?
A Nico Hoerner contract extension...
This poll is closed
... the deal proposed in the article would get it done
... the Cubs should do it, but it would cost more in dollars or years or both
... the Cubs should not sign him to an extension
Something else (leave in comments)