The Cubs and Ian Happ have reached an agreement on a $10.85 million salary for 2023, the last season of his rookie deal. The team also agreed with Nico Hoerner at $2.525 million, Nick Madrigal at $1.225 million, and Codi Heuer at $785,000 after having previously knocked out a $1.9 million salary for Adrian Sampson and $1.55 million for Rowan Wick.
The big question now is whether Happ and the Cubs will be able to work out a deal that keeps him in Chicago beyond this year. While both sides have expressed a desire to make that happen, substantive talks are apparently not taking place at this point even though Jed Hoyer indicated otherwise.
“We have interest in both (Happ and Hoerner), in keeping them long term,” Hoyer told reporters Friday evening at Cubs Convetion. “We’ve started the process I guess I would say, we’ve had dialogue with the agents. Where that is in the process I would never reveal or what the offers are, but certainly there’s a real desire and we’ve had those meetings with the representatives.”
The big sticking point is that the same factors motivating the team to keep Happ around also spur him to weigh his options in free agency. Next year’s market for hitters is very thin at the top and Happ could be among the top five available bats, so he’s not about to settle for something like what Andrew Benintendi got on the South Side. Brandon Nimmo’s deal with the Mets is too high a target, but that doesn’t mean Happ’s reps won’t try to leverage it in talks.
The other obvious hurdle is that Happ now has no more arb years to buy out, so the only chance the Cubs have to get a discount is to lean into the hometown aspect of things. As a union rep and savvy businessman, Happ probably isn’t looking to give much ground on that front. At the same time, he’s built a high profile in Chicago and has a number of local partnerships that provide a lot of value beyond what he earns playing baseball.
As things currently stand, the Cubs will likely need to come to the table with nine figures in order to be taken seriously. My initial thought had been that $90-ish million in new money over five years might get it done, but now I’m thinking it’ll need to be $110-120 million with another year tacked on. Something in the $20 million AAV range for 5-6 years would take Happ through at least his age-33 season, at which point he could still land another deal.
Or perhaps both sides would be more amenable to something like $100 million over four years. That would give Happ an impressive $25 million AAV while putting him back on the market a little earlier. I don’t necessarily think it’s likely, but it’s something the front office might want to explore.
Hoyer has made it clear that he’d prefer to conduct any negotiations prior to the start of spring training, which gives them about a month to work something out. While it’s certainly possible to work something out during the exhibition season, failing to have a new deal in place before they break camp likely means Happ will be gone in November.