Hoerner sees Swanson addition as 'awesome step' for Cubs

December 23rd, 2022

CHICAGO -- One of the first steps took after making his decision to join the Cubs was to get a list of his teammates' phone numbers. He planned on starting the process of reaching out ahead of Spring Training to begin building rapport for the coming season and the years ahead.

Swanson already had Nico Hoerner's contact information. While the Cubs' new shortstop was on his honeymoon recently, his phone buzzed with a text message from Hoerner, welcoming Swanson to the ballclub.

"That meant a lot to me," Swanson said. "It tells me a lot about him. And I'm excited to have this partnership over the next however many years."

It meant a lot not only because they will form Chicago's double-play duo, but because Swanson's arrival pushed Hoerner off shortstop and to second base. Hoerner established himself as an elite shortstop last season but understood the Cubs' plans to add this offseason and was fully on board.

Hoerner said as much throughout last season, even as his defensive runs saved and outs above average totals kept climbing at shortstop. After enduring two seasons of rebuilding, the 25-year-old Hoerner was more than willing to shift to a different position if it meant the team was constructing a contender.

During a conversation with MLB.com on Friday, Hoerner echoed that same point of view.

"Regardless of position and myself personally," Hoerner said, "it's just an awesome step for the organization. There had been, obviously, a strong calling by everybody, really, to make a big signing and to push forward to create the next core of players that hopefully brings the next championship to Chicago and a lot of winning baseball.

"They're signing a player that isn't just talking about doing it, but has done it before. He won a World Series as a shortstop who's on the field absolutely every day."

Hoerner also sees a great opportunity to learn from Swanson's career trajectory.

Swanson was the first overall pick in the 2015 MLB Draft and reached the Majors by '16. Hoerner was a first-rounder in '18 and made his MLB debut in '19. Swanson had a .703 OPS in his first four MLB seasons but has grown into an all-around hitter who blends defense, power and speed. Hoerner has put up a .718 OPS in his first four years and took a big step forward in '22 (20 steals, 37 extra-base hits and a 107 OPS+).

"That'll be really valuable," Hoerner said of picking Swanson's brain. "I think if you asked either of us, that's something that we take a lot of pride in -- being able to do all phases of the game really well. When you look at him, from baserunning, to defense, to hitting and hitting for power, it's a really complete player."

Hoerner said he avoids social media during the season, but he has "felt like a fan" as he has monitored free agency and the Cubs' activity this winter. All together, the Cubs have invested $290.8 million in guaranteed salary this winter -- led by the seven-year, $177 million commitment to Swanson.

"The moves the Cubs have made have been exciting," Hoerner said. "That is a really nice sign when it comes to getting to a win total that gives you a good chance to get into the postseason. Obviously, that's the first step when you haven't been there in a couple years."

Hoerner said he was also happy to see some of baseball's biggest free agents sign earlier this offseason. Not only does he feel that is just good for the game, but Hoerner said his own positional clarity heading into January will allow him to focus his workouts before heading to Arizona for Spring Training.

A year ago, Hoerner was not sure where he fit exactly into the roster puzzle for the Cubs. He let out a slight laugh when mentioning that he even acquired an outfield glove last winter because that was potentially part of the plan. Now, looking back on 2022, Hoerner knows he has what it takes to be a Major League shortstop.

"For me to have the opportunity to play short last year was amazing," Hoerner said. "It's something I've dreamed of doing at the big league level for, really, my whole life. And I'll always take pride in playing short and see myself as a shortstop in a lot of ways.

"But the Cubs have been incredibly honest throughout. And that's all you can ask for, because they're trying to make the best team that they can. And, you know, I think I'm a big part of that."