Why Nico Hoerner’s emergence key to Cubs' ‘aggressive’ offseason

·3 min read

Why Hoerner’s emergence key to Hoyer’s ‘aggressive’ winter originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Carlos Correa? Trea Turner? Xander Bogaerts? Dansby Swanson?

Maybe, as far as the Cubs landing one of those big-name shortstops this coming offseason. Indications are they’ll explore the shortstop market in free agency.

What’s certain is Nico Hoerner’s breakout 2022 could be key to whatever the Cubs wind up doing.

Correa, Turner, Bogaerts and Swanson each can become free agents this winter, when the Cubs will look to the open market to bolster their roster for 2023 and beyond.

“I expect to be aggressive this winter. There's no question,” team president Jed Hoyer said during the Cubs’ last homestand. “We'll have some money to spend.

“Certainly, we want to invest that money wisely. Our goal is to build something special, and trying to do that too quickly, or trying to do it all at once can be a mistake.

“But certainly, there's going to be good players on the market, and I'm sure we're going to be involved in those discussions.”

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Whether that means the Cubs land one of the big-ticket shortstops, Hoerner has given Hoyer and Co. the luxury of choice.

Signing one of the All-Star shortstops is an opportunity for the Cubs to strengthen a strength. No matter how you would lay it out, it would bolster their infield depth chart.

Between the four of them, Correa, Turner, Bogaerts and Swanson have nine All-Star appearances and have each won at least one World Series.

Most importantly, adding one of those four would keep a shorter path to contention in play for the Cubs with one fewer critical piece needed.

But if they don’t land one of them, they could still look at shortstop down the road while looking elsewhere this winter to add an impactful piece knowing they have a reliable shortstop already on the roster. There’s no overstating the importance of what Hoerner has shown this season.

After a 2021 season marred by several fluke injuries, Hoerner has more than doubled his career-high in games played (100) and emerged as one of the most certain cornerstones for the “next great Cubs team.”

A 2020 Gold Glove finalist at second base, he’s proven to be a reliable major-league shortstop, ranking second at the position to Swanson in Outs Above Average.

At the plate, he’s increased his power output, and including Tuesday’s 3-for-4 performance against the Nationals is hitting .306/.352/.433.

His emergence this season gives the Cubs different avenues to explore over the coming months.

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“He's been great,” Hoyer said of Hoerner. “I think he's proven to everyone that he’s an above-average major-league defensive shortstop. He's put the work in, he's consistent.

“A lot of credit to him. A lot of credit to his offseason program and to [bench coach] Andy Green for all the work they've put in. He's been excellent.

“Certainly, I have all the confidence in the world he could do that for a while.”

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