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The Cubs seem very open to extending Nico Hoerner this winter

The same way Justin Steele cemented his place in the Chicago Cubs’ rotation plans, infielder Nico Hoerner did the same on the positional side.

The former first-round pick answered all questions about his defensive abilities at shortstop, while flirting with a .300 average on the flat (he entered Sunday’s final in Milwaukee cutting .289 /.338/.403 this year). Whether or not the Cubs come out and sign one of the marquee free agent shortstops this winter, it’s clear the team needs to find a place for Hoerner on the roster going forward.

Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer acknowledged this, and despite the constantly deflected questions related to extensions, it seemed very open to talking about a long-term extension with his young shortstop this week.

“Certainly when you think about where we’re spending money or building a team,” Hoyer told MLB.com, “we absolutely have people in-house that we want to expand beyond their years of umpiring. I think it is without a doubt.

Then, when asked specifically about Hoerner, Hoyer repeated, “It is without a doubt.”

Hoerner showed elite skills from bat to ball, ranking in the 95th percentile for smell rate and 97th percentile for strikeout rate, according to Baseball Savant. He runs remarkably well, ranking in the top 10% in the league in sprint speed, and his defensive work also ranks in the top 1%. All of these numbers paint a picture of a very well-rounded player who could impact the Cubs for years to come.

Cubs can lock in a key piece with a Nico Hoerner extension this winter

With or without overtime, Chicago still has three years of control over Hoerner, but hammering in an overtime before Opening Day 2023 could prove beneficial, giving cost certainty to a youngster who still has just 224 games left in the game. his career in the big league. You’ve seen teams like the Braves do this time and time again, with great success, and after failing to expand one of the previous cores, the Cubs would be well served to follow this trend in the game.

As for Hoerner, he seems just as open to sitting down and figuring something out as the front office — making him a major storyline outside of free agency to watch as the regular season winds down and the stove warm is getting warmer this winter.

“I love being here,” Hoerner said. “And I think being here from rebuilding to the next big team, or whatever you want to call it, would be one of the coolest things you could do in a career. It would be incredibly satisfying. J love Chicago.