Manager David Ross texted Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward last week after news broke the team signed shortstop Andrelton Simmons.
“He’s like, ‘I got my two lockermates back,’” Heyward said Tuesday.
Ross, Heyward and Simmons were lockermates with the Braves in 2012. Ross has since traded in his locker for a manager’s office, but the trio’s paths have crossed again.
The Cubs officially announced they signed Simmons to a one-year deal on Tuesday.
“Excited to have him,” Ross said. “I've got a long history with him.”
What does the addition mean for the Cubs?
The Cubs have been linked to All-Star shortstop and top free agent Carlos Correa throughout the offseason, but team president Jed Hoyer threw cold water on that possibility Monday.
“Yeah, I think we’re really happy with our middle infield right now,” Hoyer said. “We brought in Simmons. He’s an elite shortstop. With our pitching staff that was something that was critically important.”
Simmons certainly fills one of the Cubs’ biggest offseason needs. They entered the winter looking to add a bonafide everyday shortstop and plus defender behind a rotation with three pitch-to-contact starters atop of it.
Simmons is one of the better defenders at a marquee position. He has four Gold Glove awards on his résumé and finished fifth in baseball last season in Outs Above Average.
“It’s good to see Simmons come in,” Heyward said. “He’s going to be able to do what he does.”
Said Ross: “He's got a pretty good résumé, fits in well up the middle with our pitching staff. Gives us a lot of versatility with moving different guys around, so it's nice.”
Nico Hoerner provides a lot of that versatility.
The Cubs have Nick Madrigal slotted in at second base, and before the Simmons addition, Hoerner was in line to get everyday reps at shortstop.
They have also talked about Hoerner playing multiple positions in 2022, and he prepared as such this winter. With Simmons aboard, Ross has more lineup combinations with his middle infield.
When Simmons plays short and Madrigal second, Hoerner could see time in center field. If Madrigal needs a day to rest his legs — he’s coming off a season-ending hamstring injury that required surgery — he could DH, with Hoerner playing second as Simmons’ double play partner.
David Bote is another second base option later in the season after he returns from offseason shoulder surgery. You also can’t rule out Hoerner playing at least some short, with Madrigal at second, even after the Simmons signing.
“We have a lot of confidence in Nico playing shortstop,” Hoyer said. “He’s also an elite defensive second baseman. And we couldn’t have been more excited to trade for Madrigal [last summer].
“And I think with Nick and with Nico having some injuries last year, we’re definitely aware that 162 is probably not going to happen.
“We have three middle infielders we have a ton of faith in, and I think almost like on the pitching side, we’ll continue to add depth and give Rossy options of moving those guys around.”
Contributing from Arizona: Gordon Wittenmyer