Pay the man.
It’s time for the Cubs to start doing what their rhetoric, their brand and their enormous wealth have promised for years and actually start paying their core players who perform — to start getting the extensions done with this generation that they failed to do with the last.
Hello, Ian Happ. What’s up, Nico Hoerner?
If not now, when? Especially in the case of Happ.
“I can’t say that this one thing is going to be the determining factor of that,” Happ said Tuesday as the left fielder capped off his breakout, All-Star season with the Cubs’ only postseason award, a first career Gold Glove.
“But I will say that just putting together a whole year, putting together both on the offensive and defensive side and the consistency from both sides of the plate, all those things give me a chance to be somewhere longterm,” he added, “and hopefully the value that you generate is appreciated by everybody, and when you do it on a consistent basis from both sides, it’s a lot easier to not be making leaps and bounds but to have that kind of concrete proof.”
The Cubs like to talk about their winning second half in 2022 and some of the individual performances by young players, including shortstop Hoerner and several pitchers.
As big a key as supplementing the roster with free agent help will be to the Cubs taking the next step, locking up Happ on a multiyear deal before he gets to free agency in a year — and Hoerner before he goes through arbitration for that matter — are keys to the Cubs’ best chance at sustaining their next best shot at a competitive window.
Extensions with All-Stars didn’t happen the last time the front office put together a contending core, one of the more conspicuous failures that shortened that competitive window and helped compel a largely financially-motivated selloff starting in the immediate aftermath of the 2020 division title.
All-Star catcher Willson Contreras’ free agency departure this winter makes the core exodus complete.
And that puts the Cubs on the clock, if not under the microscope, with the next core they’re trying to build.
An All-Star, Gold Glove outfielder on a long-term deal, anyone?
“I hope so; I hope so,” Happ said Tuesday, just a few months after sweating out being shopped in trade talks leading up to the deadline.
When asked about extensions for players such as Happ and Hoerner specifically, Cubs president Jed Hoyer said a few days after the season ended that the front office had taken “the first steps” toward that.
“Certainly there are players we’d love to keep in a Cub uniform for a long time,” Hoyer said. “Hopefully, we can work hard on those and get something across the finish line.”
Happ is the right place to start.
“He took a really remarkable step forward in terms of his consistency on the field,” Hoyer said. “His career had been marked prior to this year by really high highs and really low lows. And he made a really concerted effort with his swing and his mentality to even that out, and I think he did a fantastic job. There’s no reason that he can’t continue to do that.”
Happ has made it clear he wants to stay in Chicago long-term and is ready to have those talks, which might come later in the offseason with a chance to conclude during spring training.
“I’m sure they’ve had the conversations internally. That’s probably what he was referring to,” Happ said of Hoyer’s end-of-season comments. “Maybe there’ll be something down the road, but it’s their job to look at all possible outcomes and the way that that shapes their thinking for not only free agency and trades but long-term internally.”
Hoyer especially sounded like a guy who plans to engage in serious extension talks when he lauded Happ’s leadership role in 2021, which included a strong relationship with Hoerner and mentoring free agent Seiya Suzuki on the nuances of U.S. baseball and Chicago in the Japanese star’s first MLB season.
“I think part of it was the fact that we had the trades last year, and he stayed here,” Hoyer said of a nine-veteran July purge in 2021, including All-Star, championship core players Anthony Rizzo, Javy Báez and Kris Bryant.
“He saw those veterans that had been part of the ’16 teams move on, and he stepped into that void,” Hoyer said. “And his voice was fantastic. It was all about winning. It was all about developing guys.
“I’m excited he’s a Cub.”
Time for the Cubs to start putting the money back where their mouth is.