Nico Hoerner is "Expected" to Be Extended by the Cubs This Offseason?

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Nico Hoerner is “Expected” to Be Extended by the Cubs This Offseason?

Chicago Cubs

Shortly before the end of the regular season, I wrote about how it was a virtual lock that the Chicago Cubs would try to extend shortstop Nico Hoerner this offseason.

The prediction that the Cubs would TRY to extend him isn’t too hard to make from where I sit:

Hoerner, 25, has emerged this year as an above-average bat, capable of playing multiple positions, including excellent shortstop. He’ll be arbitration-eligible for the first time for 2023, with two more years to follow. It’s just a very, very natural time for the Cubs and Hoerner to have the conversation: hey, want to lock in some guaranteed money in exchange for letting us extend you through a couple of those free agent years?

The other reason for the Cubs to be very willing to extend Hoerner right now is that you know that doing so is really not going to preclude you from doing anything else over the next several years, positionally or financially.

We got into it a lot on the latest ‘Onto Waveland’ podcast, but my general point was this: if you believe in Hoerner’s ability to be (1) a steady bat, and (2) capable of playing almost any defensive position if necessary, then there’s absolutely no reason not to try aggressively to extend him. No matter what version of the team you formulate for 2024, 25, 26, 27, etc., it’s highly likely that you’ll be able to use a Nico Hoerner in one way or another.

And in the meantime, you get in a cost-certain AAV on a five or six-year deal, at a very digestible level since he’s only just now reaching arbitration.

Also? The guy is 25, is already a leader, has gotten better with time in the big leagues, and probably has upside from here. Extending good players is, generally speaking, a good idea.

Simple enough. Obvious enough. And Cubs President Jed Hoyer suggested this week that the team has started the process of approaching guys they will want to talk to about extensions. (The question came within the context of talk about Hoerner, though I suppose it’s important to note that Hoyer did not explicitly name Hoerner as a guy the Cubs have talked to yet.)

Again, all to say: I am not a psychic for predicting that the Cubs will TRY to extend Hoerner this offseason. It’s just sensible.

What I do find VERY interesting, though, is this slightly different language from Gordon Wittenmyer on the topic of Nico Hoerner and Cubs extensions (NBC):

Hoyer believes in Hoerner enough that the 2018 first-round pick — along with 2015 first-rounder and 2022 All-Star Ian Happ — is expected to get a long-term extension during this first winter of arbitration eligibility.

Expected! Wittenmyer dropped in the word expected to get an extension. Not that talks are expected, which we already knew or could have easily surmised. But Wittenmyer is taking it a step further and saying the Cubs are expected to do something they’ve done just once before in the last decade-ish: extend a young position player. And with all due love and respect to David Bote, getting a deal done with Nico Hoerner would be quite a bit more significant.

(I know that Ian Happ is in there as well, but I read that as Hoyer also really believing in Happ, rather than Happ also being expected to get an extension. It’s possible, obviously, but the discussion was really about Hoerner and his first year of arbitration, as the final clause indicates. But, hey, if the Cubs want to talk to Happ about an extension, too, fine by me!)

Here’s hoping that Wittenmyer has a little inside dish on this one, because I think there aren’t too many folks who don’t want to see Hoerner kept with the Cubs for a good long while.

If you’re starting to think about comps for extensions, the most recent for a similarly-situated shortstop was J.P. Crawford and the Mariners signing a five-year, $51 million deal before this past season, which bought out three years of arbitration and two years of free agency (Hoerner also has three years of arbitration going into 2023).

Like Hoerner, Crawford was coming off the best season of his young career in 2021, where he posted a .273/.338/.376/103 wRC+ line while playing excellent defense (3.3 WAR). Hoerner, who also played great defense, hit .281/.327/.410/106 wRC+ (4.0 WAR).

Crawford had a little more experience going into that would-be 2022 arbitration year, though, and was projected to make about $5 million, as compared to Hoerner’s current $2.2 million arbitration projection (Crawford was a Super Two, so he had four arbitration years coming, rather than just three). So maybe his deal is a little on the high side? You could make the argument, in any case, as he was probably going to make quite a bit more in his arbitration years 2 through 4 than Hoerner projects to make in his years 1 through 3. That’s just the nature of the system.

On the flip side, Hoerner was a little better in his platform year, these deals tend to build on each other, and critically, Crawford’s deal did not come with any team options at the end (I’m sure the Cubs will want option years). I wouldn’t call the situations a wash, but it does seem like a pretty darn good platform off of which to build a reasonable deal for Hoerner. Maybe a slightly larger guarantee over five years, and the Cubs get a couple options at the end?

Hopefully these talks get going soon, because I’ve gotta think it would be especially nice for the Cubs to have a deal like this in place – with some medium-term cost certainty and positional cover – before they are out in the market trying to commit significant future dollars.

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Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.