There was some good news tonight about a Cubs fan favorite.
Second baseman Nico Hoerner and the Chicago Cubs are in agreement on a three-year, $35 million contract extension, sources tell ESPN. Deal buys out one year of free agency, but Hoerner still will hit the market at 29. Final two arbitration years priced ~$15M and FA year at ~$20M.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) March 28, 2023
Hoerner, the Cubs’ first-round pick in the 2018 MLB Draft, had previously agreed to a $2.525 million deal for this year, his first year of arbitration. This deal buys out his second and third years of arbitration and what would have been his first year of free agency. So this deal keeps Hoerner with the Cubs through the 2026 season, but still allow him to enter free agency before his 30th birthday.
Hoerner made his major-league debut late in 2019, the first player of the 2018 draft to do so. He played well in limited action that year and but struggled during the COVID-shortened 2020 season, hitting just .222/.312/.259 in 126 plate appearances.
But Hoerner adjusted to the majors after that. Although his 2021 season was plagued with injuries—he suffered a hamstring strain and a oblique strain that put him on the injured list twice—Hoerner hit a productive .302/.382/.369 over 44 games.
After Javier Báez was traded in 2021, Hoerner moved from second base to shortstop for the 2022 season. He also had a breakout season, announcing himself as one of the better young players in the game. An ankle sprain cost Hoerner about two weeks last season, but he managed to play in a career-high 135 games and he hit .281/.327/.410 with career highs in doubles (22), triples (5) and home runs (10). He also stole a team- and career-high 20 bases, which tied him for ninth in the National League.
Hoerner produced those numbers with strong bat-to-ball skills. Hoerner struck out in just 11 percent of his plate appearances last year, which was a major selling point to a Cubs team looking to put the ball in play more.
Of course, no discussion of Hoerner’s value can ignore his stellar infield defense. Whether playing at shortstop or second base, Hoerner has proved to be among the best in the game. When you added in his defensive value at shortstop last year, Hoerner was rated as a 4.4 Wins Above Replacement player by baseball-reference and a 4.0 WAR player by Fangraphs.
Hoerner also draws strong raves for his baseball intelligence and clubhouse leadership. Such things aren’t easily measured in wins and losses, but it certainly doesn’t hurt his value and most likely helps it a great deal. Hoerner gladly moved back to second base after the signing of Dansby Swanson to a seven-year deal this winter.
This deal means that the Cubs get cost-certainty and avoid arbitration with Hoerner over the next two seasons. They also get to delay his free agency by one extra year at a reasonable price of $20 million, or reasonable assuming that Hoerner continues to play at around the same level that he did in 2022.
For Hoerner, he gets life-changing money and insurance against a turn for the worse in health or fortune in his career. Even though it delays his free agency by a year, he will still be young enough for a huge payday in four years if he continues to play at an elite level.
Dansby Swanson and Nico Hoerner will now form the Cubs’ double-play combination for at least the next four seasons. The Cubs are betting that their combination of elite up-the-middle defense and productive hitting are the solid foundation of a championship-level team.
Nico Hoerner’s extension?
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Editor’s note: Tonight’s scheduled BCB After Dark will run tomorrow night as this is the big news story that everyone will want to discuss this evening.