What Nico Hoerner says about Dansby Swanson signing


About the time Nico Hoerner found out he was no longer the Cubs’ shortstop, he quickly texted the man who is.

“I probably should have waited because he was on his honeymoon,” the Cubs’ budding infield star said with a quick laugh. “I just reached out to say, ‘hi’ and ‘welcome to the team.’ “

It seemed a strong first reaction from the Cubs incumbent most directly impacted by shortstop Dansby Swanson’s $177 million signing — the guy bumped to second base despite a breakout 2022 that included stellar play at short that ranked metrically among MLB’s best.

“The guy’s a winner. That’s all I’ve ever heard about him,” Swanson said Wednesday as he met the Chicago media for the first time since signing the second-richest contract in franchise history.

“He reached out to me before I even had a chance to reach out to him,” Swanson said. “That tells a lot about him, and I’m excited to have this partnership over the next however many years.”

It’ll be at least seven — the length of Swanson’s new contract — if the Cubs have their way and get Hoerner extended before he reaches free agency in three years.

And Hoerner seems to be looking forward to it as much as the new guy.

“You add a dynamic player like that to any team, you’re gonna get a lot better,” Hoerner said. “That really helps us out.”

Even if it means giving up the marquee position he handled better than most in the league.

Hoerner knew that possibility could be coming even before last season ended, as news of the rules changes banning extreme infield shifts were announced and talk of the Cubs’ need for one of the four premier shortstops in free agency began to circulate.

And then they told him as much.

“The Cubs were really transparent the entire time about it from the end-of-the-season meetings through the offseason that they were blatant about being in the shortstop market,” Hoerner said Wednesday during a phone conversation with NBC Sports Chicago. “They couldn’t guarantee they would get one, but it was something they were looking to do with the four talented players who were out there.

“They said they had full confidence in me playing shortstop, but I would be moving to second base if that happened.”

Hoerner’s response?

Make it happen.

“Listen, ultimately, Nico’s a winner,” team president Jed Hoyer said. “And he’s the one who’s going to get moved off his position from last year. But I also think he knows just how good he is at second base, and I’m certainly expecting nothing short of Gold Glove quality out of both guys.

“Nico wants to win. He was excited.”

Swanson won a 2022 Gold Glove at short. Hoerner was a Gold Glove finalist at second base in 2020.

“I love playing shortstop. I take a lot of pride in doing it,” Hoerner said. “There’s a level of just pride in playing shortstop. Other than catcher it’s probably the most important position on the field. I’m really glad I had a chance to do it at the major league level, and I don’t have any regrets about the way I played it.”

Or hard feelings about the switch back to second.

Especially under the circumstances.

He lauded the front office’s success in landing plus up-the-middle defenders in Swanson and centerfielder Cody Bellinger, who won a Gold Glove in right in 2019, to team up with him and catcher Yan Gomes.

“I think it’s headed in the right direction,” he said of where the roster is with Hoyer still in add mode two months ahead of spring training. “We’ve got everyday players in the middle of the field, paired with a lot of starting pitching depth. Those are two really big parts of winning during the regular season.”

Hoerner said he already has been talking to bench coach Andy Green, who handles infield coaching duties on the staff, about life at second base without the shift.

“His wheels are already turning,” Hoerner said. “It’s going to be a more dynamic position this year with no shifts. You’re going to be covering a lot more ground with lefties. It’s definitely going to present some new challenges.”

That’s one of the reasons that shortstop class was in demand enough this winter to secure three of the top four free agent contracts overall, and four of the top six, in total value.

It’s certainly one of the reasons Hoerner becomes so valuable at second going into next year for the Cubs, who suddenly have, on paper, one of the top two or three defensive middle infields in the league.

“Obviously, the defensive side is huge,” Swanson said. “I don’t think people completely understand run prevention is a really, really big deal.”

Hoyer made it clear he’s not done yet, but Hoerner said he’s already “absolutely” excited about what this team looks like, even if he’s seeing it from the other side of second base now.

“It’s going to be good energy going into spring training,” he said, “and hopefully we’ve got some more moves along the way and hopefully make the most of them.”

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