Cubs, Ian Happ reach three-year contract extension

The Cubs also signed Nico Hoerner to a contract extension this year.

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Cubs left fielder Ian Happ had a strong start to the 2023 season.

Cubs left fielder Ian Happ had a strong start to the 2023 season.

Jeff Dean/AP

Cubs outfielder Ian Happ pictured acknowledging the left-field bleachers not just for the rest of this year, but for the next three seasons. And moments like that, paired with a contract that made sense for him and his family, were worth giving up the chance this fall to test free agency, where he could have reeled in a longer deal.

Happ and the Cubs came to an agreement on a three-year contract extension, the team announced Wednesday. The deal is worth $61 million and includes a full no-trade clause, a source confirmed.

“I really, really wanted to continue to wear this uniform,” Happ said. “I really wanted to play with this group of guys, with Nico [Hoerner] and Seiya [Suzuki], and [Jameson] Taillon and Dansby [Swanson,] and the guys that are going to be here. That part of it, and then the city, and the fan base, and what it means. That is the reason why I was willing to discuss a three-year term because if that was what was going to get it done, that meant a lot to me.”

The teammates he mentioned are all under contract with the Cubs through at least 2026. Hoerner signed a three-year, $35 million extension right before the season. Suzuki, Swanson and Taillon all signed long-term deals over the last two offseasons.

Happ’s extension helps solidify the core that the club hopes will bring in the next era of postseason success.

“I don’t know exactly how [manager David] Ross is gonna make up the lineup card,” president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said, “but you can see a situation where those top four guys in the lineup are all prime age, they’re all signed at least through 2026. I’m really thrilled to have that stability. And so this was certainly a priority to get these deals done.”

When Suzuki (strained left oblique) comes back from the injured list, which could be as soon as the Cubs’ road trip to Los Angeles and Oakland this week, he’s expected to slot into the top of the lineup with Hoerner, Swanson and Happ — making Hoyer’s vision a reality. But it wasn’t always a certainty.

Toward the end of spring training, negotiations between Happ’s camp and the Cubs slowed. The team was getting close on a deal with Hoerner, but with Happ, “we weren’t close enough to bridge the gap at that moment,” Hoyer said. So, they committed extra focus on Hoerner’s extension.

Happ entered the regular season in his last year of club control, with no promise of a long-term commitment in hand. Happ followed up his 2022 All-Star season with a hot start, going 11-for-35 with five extra-base hits and six RBI in the first 10 games of the season.

“When you have to go out and play during the season,” Happ said, “at some point, you have to move on from it.”

The two sides kept talking and mulling over possible contract structures. About a week ago, the process picked up steam.

“His commitment to stay here is really impressive,” Hoyer said. “He made that really clear to me a number of times during the negotiation, how much he wanted to stay here. … We don’t get this across the finish line if he doesn’t want to be a Cub that badly.”

Throughout the process, Happ talked with former teammates from the last championship core. He reached out to Anthony Rizzo for guidance. Fellow left fielder Kyle Schwarber texted Happ to congratulate him on the extension.

Happ said he sent back: “Thanks for setting the market.”

Schwarber signed a four-year, $79 million deal with the Phillies last year. So, when Happ and the Cubs discussed a shorter deal, it only made sense for the Cubs to offer an average annual value of over $20 million.

Hoyer, just as he had done with Hoerner’s extension, left open the possibility of revisiting a longer-term commitment before the end of Happ’s contract.

“The exciting part about being here is being able to build something and work towards a championship,” Happ said. “So that was the motivating factor for me, is how much that I love this place and love the idea of competing in the playoffs in a Cubs uniform.”

The Cubs announced Happ’s extension just before the game Wednesday, so as Happ jogged out and acknowledged the left field bleachers, the video boards read, “Congrats Ian!”

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