Cubs extend Happ, locking up All-Star through '26

April 12th, 2023

CHICAGO -- jogged out to left field, removed his cap and patted it against the Cubs logo on his chest as the fans in the bleachers offered him an ovation. The video board looming behind them displayed the news of his extension with the only ballclub he has known.

Shortly before the first pitch was thrown on Wednesday afternoon at Wrigley Field, the Cubs officially announced a three-year deal with Happ, keeping the All-Star in the fold through 2026. Per multiple sources, the contract is valued at $61 million overall.

“I'm just super excited to be here,” Happ said after the Cubs’ 5-2 loss to the Mariners on Wednesday. “This is a place I've called home since 2015. The city, the fan base, has meant so much to me throughout my career, and the fact that I get to continue to be here, continue to be a Cub and represent the organization, means the world to me."

The possibility of wearing another uniform has crossed Happ's mind on multiple occasions over the past year. Last season, he weathered trade rumors while piecing together the best all-around campaign of his career. And when an extension was not reached by Opening Day last month, Happ was not sure what the future held.

The Cubs and Happ ultimately found common ground in a deal that covers the 2024-26 seasons and removes him from next winter's free-agent pool. Happ had a chance to enter the market as one of the best bats available, but will instead try to help the North Siders climb back into contention.

“I'd love to do another deal on top of this at some point,” Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said. “But I’m thrilled to keep him here for three additional years. I’m glad it got across the finish line.”

On Opening Day, the Cubs announced a similarly-structured extension with second baseman Nico Hoerner. He signed a three-year, $35 million pact that also runs through '26 and, during his press conference, raved about the impact Happ has had on his young career.

“He's an incredible player,” Hoerner said. “But his value to our locker room, and to me, just exceeds that tremendously. I'm just incredibly grateful that I've gotten to play with him for so long. And, hopefully, I will for a lot longer. He's just everything that I could ask for in a teammate and friend."

Happ and Hoerner join starter Jameson Taillon and outfielder Seiya Suzuki among the group locked in through the 2026 season. Over the offseason, the Cubs also reeled in blockbuster free-agent shortstop Dansby Swanson, who signed a seven-year, $177 million deal through '29.

In Happ's case, he provides a kind of through-line from the franchise’s last core group to the next wave. The Cubs selected him in the first round of the 2015 Draft, and he watched from the farm as the MLB team won the World Series in '16. He experienced winning seasons with the last star-laden roster from 2017-20, and is now a veteran voice and leader both on and off the field.

“He's a big part of our leadership here,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “He's a big part of what I think we're going to become as an organization, as a team. There's no secret he's a really good player, but to be able to lock in a contract, and him wanting to be here, I think stands out.”

While the sides did not reach a deal by the time the season arrived, Hoyer made it clear that the door had not been closed. At that juncture, Happ said he was fully prepared to just soak in each moment of this season, knowing the recent line of players who were traded or allowed to walk -- names like Javier Báez, Kris Bryant, Willson Contreras and Anthony Rizzo -- when an extension did not come to fruition.

The early portion of Happ's career featured plenty of peaks and valleys -- plus a tough demotion back to Triple-A Iowa at the outset of '19 -- but he has grown into a complete player for the Cubs. His strikeout rate, which ballooned as high as 36.2 percent in '18, came down to 23.2 percent in '22.

Last year, Happ made his first All-Star team, picked up his first career Gold Glove Award for his work in left field and turned in a .271/.342/.440 slash line. He belted 17 homers, churned out 42 doubles and ended with 72 RBIs and a career-best 3.6 fWAR in 158 games.

Through the Cubs' first 11 games as the team's No. 3 hitter this year, Happ had produced a .282/.429/.462 slash with one homer, four doubles, six RBIs and seven runs scored. He has also been displaying an especially keen eye at the plate, drawing 10 walks with 12 strikeouts.

“I think the rewarding thing is just how far, in my opinion, Ian's come,” Ross said. “And the hard work he's put in and making himself such a well-rounded player.”