Hoerner, Happ reach deals ahead of arb deadline

January 14th, 2023

CHICAGO -- Both and entered this offseason as extension candidates for the Cubs. That remains a possibility as Spring Training looms, but the team is going through the typical arbitration-related steps for the time being.

On Friday, which was the deadline for arbitration-eligible players to exchange proposed salary figures with their ballclubs, the Cubs reached one-year deals with both Happ and Hoerner to avoid arbitration. Happ is set to earn $10.85 million, while Hoerner will earn $2.525 million, sources told MLB.com.

The deals do not necessarily mean long-term extensions are off the table.

"I can tell you that we have interest with both guys in keeping them long term," Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said Friday evening at Cubs Convention. "And we've started the process, I guess, I would say. We've had dialogue with the agents. Where that is in the process, I would never reveal, or what the offers are. But certainly, there's a real desire."

Chicago also avoided arbitration with infielder ($1.225 million) and reliever ($785,000). Prior to Friday's deadline, the Cubs also avoided arbitration with pitchers Adrian Sampson ($1.9 million) and Rowan Wick ($1.55 million) in November.

Happ is coming off his best all-around performance in 2022, when he was a first-time All-Star and picked up his first Gold Glove Award for his play in left field. Barring an extension, Happ will reach free agency next offseason. The outfielder acknowledged at Cubs Convention that the current focus was only working on a contract for '23.

"I've loved this organization," Happ said. "Wrigley is special, the city is special, the fan base is special. All those things, it's the only thing that I know. And on the other side of that, there's 29 other teams that are competing and doing a great job, and you earn the right to be a free agent. That's a special thing, too.

"So, I've said it before: I'd love to stay here. But you don't have control of those things."

Last year, the 28-year-old Happ set career highs in average (.271), doubles (42), RBIs (72), hits (155), runs scored (72), extra-base hits (61) and games played (158) while earning $6.85 million. The switch-hitter had a .782 OPS overall with relatively even splits against lefties (.788 OPS) and righties (.779 OPS).

Happ avoided arbitration with a one-year deal for 2022, but went to a hearing and won his case in '21. That marked only the third Cubs case since 1993 to head to an arbitration panel.

Hoerner, eligible for arbitration for the first time, has developed into a key member of the Cubs' lineup and clubhouse dynamic. Last season, Hoerner hit .281/.327/.410 with a 107 OPS+, 20 steals and 37 extra-base hits in 135 games, while posting some of MLB's best contact rates, especially on pitches in the zone (92.6 percent).

Hoerner also played elite defense at shortstop, recording 13 outs above average, per Statcast, and trailing only Dansby Swanson (21 OAA) in that category. Now, the 25-year-old Hoerner is sliding over to second base after the Cubs brought in Swanson via a seven-year, $177 million contract in free agency.

Acquired from the White Sox as part of the Craig Kimbrel trade at the 2021 Trade Deadline, Madrigal was limited to 59 games last season due to a variety of health setbacks. Overall, he hit .249 (.588 OPS) after batting .317 (.764 OPS) in '20-21 combined. Madrigal, 25, maintained elite contact rates last season, but his strikeout rate climbed to 11.8% from 7.9% in '21.

Heading into last season, Hoerner and Madrigal looked like a long-term pairing up the middle for the Cubs, but the landscape has changed. This winter's blockbuster signing of Swanson and its impact on Hoerner means Madrigal has been pushed to the bench.

As for Heuer, the 26-year-old reliever is still working back from Tommy John surgery, which he underwent last spring on his right elbow. Heuer, who could be a midseason addition for Chicago's bullpen, came to the Cubs with Madrigal in the Kimbrel trade two seasons ago.

Heuer posted a 3.56 ERA with 81 strikeouts and 32 walks in 91 innings (86 games) between the Cubs and White Sox in '20-21 combined. That included a 3.14 ERA in 25 games for the North Siders down the stretch in '21.