Sources: Hoerner, Cubs agree on 3-year, $35 million extension

Second baseman Nico Hoerner and the Chicago Cubs are in agreement on a three-year, $35 million contract extension, sources told ESPN, locking up the team's most productive player last season for an extra season before he was due to hit free agency.

Hoerner still will reach the open market after the 2026 season at 29 years old, and the ability to do so led to a shorter-term deal. With Hoerner making $2.5 million this season, his first year of arbitration, the deal will price the second and third arbitration years at around $15 million while giving him around $20 million for his first free agent year.

Hoerner's growth in 2022 -- when he played shortstop and hit .281/.327/.410 with a career-high 10 home runs and more than 4 wins above replacement -- prompted the Cubs to seek a longer-term deal, even after signing Dansby Swanson to play shortstop. If Hoerner's past play at second base is any indication, his pivot back to the position should be seamless. He played there in 2020 and was a Gold Glove finalist. Though his bat took a leap forward in 2021, he missed most of the season with injuries.

The Cubs selected Hoerner out of Stanford with the 24th overall pick in 2018, and he was in the major leagues barely a year later. In addition to his physical skills -- Hoerner has hit at least .281 in three of his four years in the major leagues -- his intelligence and maturity stood out as vital during a Cubs rebuild where they have scant homegrown players.

Chicago is in an in-between season, hoping to compete with a roster mostly filled with free agents. While the Cubs' farm system has taken a significant step forward in recent years, particularly with canny trades at the 2021 deadline that netted them outfielders Pete Crow-Armstrong and Kevin Alc√°ntara, they're expected to be at least a year away from playoff contention.

The Cubs also have made efforts to sign outfielder Ian Happ to an extension before the season, according to sources, but the mediocre free agent hitting class of 2023-24 could help make Happ particularly desirable this winter as he heads into the open market.