These are the Cubs’ extension candidates

November 11th, 2022

This story was excerpted from Jordan Bastian's Cubs Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

The bulk of the attention around the Cubs this offseason will center on the team’s pursuit of impact players to improve its postseason chances. Away from the Hot Stove, the front office also will be considering a handful of in-house extension possibilities.

The two players who most obviously fit the latter storyline are veteran left fielder Ian Happ (under contract through 2023) and shortstop Nico Hoerner (eligible for arbitration for the first time this winter). At his season-end press conference last month, president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said “first steps” had been taken on that front.

“I'm sure they've had the conversations internally. That's probably what he was referring to,” Happ said last week after winning his first career Gold Glove Award. “Maybe there'll be something down the road, but you know, it's their job to look at all possible outcomes and the way that that shapes their thinking for not only free agency and trades, but long term internally.”

First steps, in this case, have also included at least letting agents know that there is a desire from the Cubs’ side to engage in talks this offseason. And in a chat with Chicago reporters at the GM Meetings in Las Vegas this week, Hoyer also noted that his growing preference would be to have any extension negotiations over the offseason without having things trickle into Spring Training.

That would make salary arbitration talks the most logical time to also engage in potential extension scenarios with Happ and Hoerner, specifically. No, Hoyer is not setting any kind of hard deadlines, but his past experiences with negotiations during Spring Training has made the offseason seem like the more appropriate place on the calendar.

“Don’t hold me to this, but I don’t really love negotiating in Spring Training,” Hoyer said. “The more I do it, the more I think it causes real tension. Guys want to start the season. I’ve watched many deals fall apart in Spring Training. I just don’t think it’s a great way to start the season. I think I’d like to push that up a little bit. And if we get it done, great.”

Asked late last season about the idea of discussing an extension with the Cubs, Hoerner said: “I love being here. And I think being here from rebuild to the next great team, or whatever you want to call it, would be one of the coolest things you can do in a career. It’d be incredibly satisfying. I love Chicago.”

Happ, who is coming off an All-Star campaign in which he played elite defense in left and posted arguably his best all-around offensive season, has made his desire to stay in Chicago no secret. He reiterated that again in his chat with local media last week in the wake of his Gold Glove victory.

“I've always been really upfront about the fact that I love it here,” Happ said. “Just putting together a whole year, putting it together both on the offensive and defensive side, and the consistency from both sides of the plate, I think all those things give you a chance to be somewhere long term. And hopefully the value that you generate is appreciated by everybody.”