'This is where I want to be': Hoerner talks extension

March 30th, 2023

CHICAGO -- took his place in the Wrigley Field interview room on Thursday morning with the security of a contract extension officially in place. The Cubs second baseman then cracked a smile after the first question was fired his way about the reasons he decided to pen his name on the deal.

“Morning,” Hoerner said. “Happy Opening Day.”

Hoerner’s focus is almost always centered on his next game, the rapport he can build behind the scenes with his teammates or the work he can complete in an effort to push his performance forward. He did not want to talk about contract negotiations as they were happening, and now he can avoid those distractions for several years.

After Chicago’s workout on Wednesday, the team officially announced a three-year extension with Hoerner. Per a source, the deal is worth $35 million across the 2024-26 seasons, covering his first two arbitration years and assuming what would have been his first year in free agency.

“I hope it's not the last deal with this team,” Hoerner said. “This is where I want to be.”

Hoerner avoided arbitration with a $2.525 million deal for 2023 over the offseason, adding that he learned a lot about himself and the business side through those negotiations and the extension talks. He liked leaving “some room for choice” in the length of the deal, which allows the all-around infielder to potentially hit the open market before his 30th birthday.

Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said the sides floated a lot of scenarios, but was thrilled to reach the finish line on this iteration.

“Honestly, I hope it's the first of many with him,” Hoyer said. “He's just wired differently than most people. He’s constantly thinking about what we can do as a team, as an organization to do better, what he could do himself to get better.”

The extension is the first for the Cubs since signing pitcher Kyle Hendricks and utility man David Bote to multiyear deals at the start of the 2019 season. Over the years that followed, Chicago was unable to sign core stars Javier Báez, Kris Bryant or Anthony Rizzo to long-term extensions.

Hoerner arrived to the big leagues in 2019 -- he was the first player drafted in 2018 to reach the Majors -- and played with the last core under manager Joe Maddon. He then witnessed the drama of the contract talks behind the scenes, and the blockbuster trades that led to a rebuilding period in 2021-22.

“I do feel a really strong sense of purpose, having been here for the last group that had success,” Hoerner said. “I think one of the most satisfying things I could do in a career would be to be in one place from quote-unquote 'rebuild' to the next championship.”

For the next few years, Hoerner knows he will be partnered up the middle with shortstop Dansby Swanson, who signed a seven-year, $177 million contract with the Cubs over the winter. That duo should make up one of the best defensive double-play tandems in baseball.

Last year, Swanson led MLB shortstops with 21 Outs Above Average, helping him win the National League Gold Glove Award. Hoerner established himself as a more-than-capable everyday shortstop in 2022, posting 13 OAA, which tied Francisco Lindor for second in baseball behind Swanson.

Hoerner -- a Gold Glove finalist at second base in 2020 -- was open to moving back to second under the right circumstances. Signing Swanson fit the criteria for such a switch.

“The thing that I love about that contract,” Cubs manager David Ross said, “is when you’re giving out multiple years to a guy ... Performance, we can't predict what performance will be -- but that's a really good human that's going to affect that clubhouse for a really long time.”

Selected out of Stanford with the 24th overall pick in the 2018 Draft, Hoerner is establishing himself as an all-around player.

Ross announced this spring that Hoerner will start the season as the leadoff hitter, given his elite contact skills, gap-to-gap ability and speed on the bases. Last season, Hoerner turned in a .281/.327/.410 slash line to go with 10 homers, 22 doubles, 20 steals and 135 hits in 135 games.

And Hoerner -- even at just 25 years old -- is already growing into the kind of emerging leader on and off the field that the younger group of players follow.

"I think the best way to describe the Cubs in a player, it's him," Cubs top prospect Pete Crow-Armstrong said earlier this spring. "That's what Cubbie baseball should look like."