'This is where I want to be': Cubs' Hoerner hopes signing extension will have lasting benefits
Nico Hoerner keeps a pair of Anthony Rizzo's dachshund-adorned batting gloves in his locker.
It used to be Rizzo's locker, so Hoerner wants to keep a link to the Cubs' recent successful history. The gloves also honor Rizzo's dachshund named Kevin, who continues to keep a strong social media presence in New York.
"I think it's an appreciation of what was here before you," Hoerner said Thursday morning at Wrigley Field. "I think that's a huge part of baseball in general, it's a game of history and tradition."
At the same time, Hoerner witnessed the sadness of the Cubs saying goodbye to World Series heroes like Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Javy Baez and Willson Contreras. So signing an extension this week was special for him, even if it only pushed his future free-agency one year.
"Rizz's situation was extremely interesting and could have gone so many different ways," Hoerner said. "Obviously a ton of people, myself included, wish he was a Cub for a long time. It's not how it happened and he's in an amazing situation now, playing for a team (Yankees) he enjoys. There's not one perfect way to do this entire thing."
Hoerner's new deal is reportedly for $35 million over three years and it kicks in next season. He was under team control through 2025 already, but now he doesn't have to worry about arbitration.
"I hope it's not the last deal with this team," said Hoerner, who moved from shortstop to second base this year to accommodate Dansby Swanson's arrival. "This is where I want to be and just incredibly excited. I have some security through arbitration, one year of free agency, still leaves some room for choice in my career, being a free agent at 29."
Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said the two sides discussed a "million" different scenarios to structure an extension. He also recalled being impressed with Hoerner's knowledge after he made his major league debut with 20 games late in the 2019 season.
"We brought him in for our typical exit meetings and he described the dynamic in our clubhouse and talked more insightfully about the things we needed to improve on and the things we could do better than any player we brought in," Hoyer said. "It was really impressive.
"He's just wired differently than most people, constantly thinking about what we can do as a team, as an organization to do better; what he can do himself to get better. There's not a lot of people like that out there. He's a special individual."
At the same time, there's still an extension that hasn't gotten done with Ian Happ. The left fielder, an all-star and gold-glove winner for the first time last year, has a greater sense of urgency since he'll be a free agent after this season.
"We'd love to have (Happ) for a long time," Hoyer said. "Obviously we weren't able to reach agreement right now, but that doesn't preclude us in any way from reaching an agreement in the future and we'd love to. I don't want to sit here and say, 'It's done, it's over.' But I do think we'll take anything we do underground at this point."