What the Cubs’ Nico Hoerner says about Dansby Swanson forcing him to 2B

What Nico Hoerner says about signing Dansby Swanson originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Around the time Nico Hoerner found out he was no longer the shortstop for the Cubs, he immediately texted the man who was.

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

It seemed like a strong first reaction from the Cubs incumbent most directly impacted by the $177 million signing of shortstop Dansby Swanson: The guy leapt to second base despite a breakout in 2022 that included a stellar short play that ranked metrically among the best in MLB.

“That boy is a winner. That’s all I’ve heard about him,” Swanson said on Wednesday as he met Chicago media for the first time since he signed the second-biggest contract in franchise history.

“He reached out to me before I even had a chance to reach out to him,” Swanson said. “That speaks volumes about him, and I’m excited to have this collaboration in the coming years.”

That will 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 newcomer.

“Add a dynamic player like that to any team, you’ll improve a lot,” Hoerner said. “That really helps us.”

Even if that means giving up the power forward position, he’s managed better than most in the league.

Hoerner knew the chance could come even before the end of last season, when rule changes banning extreme infield shifts were announced and rumors began to circulate about the Cubs’ need for a top-four shortstop. in free agency.

And then they told him.

“The Cubs have been really transparent throughout, from late-season meetings through the off-season, that they were blatantly in the shortstop market,” Hoerner said Wednesday during a phone conversation with NBC Sports Chicago. “They couldn’t guarantee they’d get one, but it was something they were trying to do with the four talented players that were out there.

“They said they had full faith in me as a shortstop, but I would have moved to second base if that happened.”

Hoerner’s response?

Make it happen.

“Listen, in the end Nico is a winner,” said team president Jed Hoyer. “And he’s the one that’s being moved from last year’s job. But I also think he knows how good he is at second base, and I definitely expect nothing less than Gold Glove quality from either guy.

“Nico wants to win. He was excited.

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

“I love playing shortstop. I’m very proud to do that,” Hoerner said. “There’s a fair level of pride in playing shortstop. Other than catcher he’s probably the most important position on the field. major league game and have no regrets about how I played it.

Or resentment for the transition to the second.

Especially given the circumstances.

He lauded the front office’s success at touchdown plus center fielders in Swanson and center fielder Cody Bellinger, who won a gold glove of his own in 2019, for partnering with him and wide receiver Yan Gomes.

“I think he’s headed in the right direction,” he said of where the roster stands with Hoyer still in added mode two months into spring training. “We have everyday players in the middle of the field, coupled with a lot of starting pitching depth. Those are two really important parts of winning during the regular season.

Hoerner said he’s already spoken to bench coach Andy Green, who handles inside coaching duties on the staff, about life at second base off shift.

“Its wheels are already turning,” Hoerner said. “It will be a more dynamic position this year without shifts. You’ll cover a lot more ground left-handed. It will certainly present some new challenges.”

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

It’s certainly one of the reasons Hoerner becomes so valuable in second place next year to the Cubs, who suddenly have, on paper, one of the top two or three defensive center fields in the league.

“Obviously, the defensive end is huge,” Swanson said. “I don’t think people fully understand that stroke prevention is a really, really big deal.”

Hoyer clarified he’s not done yet, but Hoerner said he’s already “absolutely” thrilled with what this team looks like, even though he now sees it on the other side of second base.

“It will be good energy going into spring training,” he said, “and hopefully we have some more moves down the road and hopefully make the most of them.”

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