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The Cubs knew what they were doing when they went out and added Dansby Swanson, an All-Star and Gold Glove Award winner in 2022, to their roster last offseason.
While not as heralded of a hitter as the other big three shortstops in last year’s free agent class, he had performed as not just one of the best defenders at that position but in all of baseball. The Cubs weren’t going to turn into an explosive team offensively, but bringing in Swanson was a major boost to their run prevention.
The issue was that they already had Nico Hoerner manning the position, and he finished second among all shortstops in baseball with 13 Outs Above Average (behind only Swanson’s 20). After finally getting the shot to be the Cubs’ everyday shortstop and proving he could excel, would he be willing to move back to second to accommodate Swanson?
“I love playing shortstop,” Hoerner said at the Cubs Convention in January. “It was always a dream of mine to play shortstop in the major leagues. Got to do it for a full season this year. I was proud of how I carried myself, [how I] did it. Always will be confident in my ability to do that, but the needs of our team are very clear. It’s not an issue moving forward at all.”
With both Swanson and Hoerner on board, the Cubs had put together what they believed to be the best middle-infield duo in the big leagues. And with Ian Happ coming off his first Gold Glove season in 2022, they believed they would have one of the best defenses in baseball.
That was confirmed Sunday night when Swanson, Hoerner and Happ were named the National League Gold Glove Award winners at shortstop, second base and left field, respectively. It’s the first time the Cubs have had at least three Gold Glovers in a single season.
“Really cool anytime you can be a part of Cubs history like that,” Happ said. “First to do something is pretty special. The organization has been around a long time, so there’s a lot of credit to a lot of the other guys that were on the field every day playing with us, but cool to be the ones that are a part of it.”
Swanson is now a two-time Gold Glover, taking home the hardware in back-to-back seasons. He was chosen over fellow finalists Fransico Lindor (Mets) and Ezequiel Tovar (Rockies).
Swanson had a spectacular defensive season on the North Side. He finished the year with 18 Defensive Runs Saved, tops among all shortstops and sixth among all major league defenders. His 20 OAA were also the most in baseball at any position. Swanson did make 11 errors (including five from Aug. 28 to the end of the year) which is his most in a season since 2019, but he still finished with a .981 fielding percentage (major league average at shortstop was .973).
“He’s such a good defender,” Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said at his season-ending press conference last month. “It’s sort of insulting say, ‘He’s so steady defensively,’ because he made so many spectacular plays, but just knowing that the ball hit to shortstop is an out — always.”
Hoerner was a Gold Glove finalist back in 2020, when he was the Cubs’ primary second baseman, but he had yet to win the award in his career. Moving to second base could’ve presented a challenge (particularly since MLB implemented new rules to restrict defensive shifts before the season), but he made the transition back to second seamlessly.
Hoerner, up against Ha-Seong Kim (Padres) and Bryson Stott (Phillies) for this year’s Gold Glove, continued to be a defensive star. His 12 DRS were tied for the most among qualified NL second baseman, and his 14 OAA were second in the NL. He also finished with a .988 fielding percentage.
“It’s so much time that goes into that and people that help along the way,” Hoerner said. “I especially think of my dad and just the time that he spent with me, just the endless ground balls and whatnot. So, a lot of really great people that make things like this possible, and cool to get recognition for it.
Obviously, the defensive recognition didn’t stop there. Happ won the award over Eddie Rosario (Braves) and David Peralta (Dodgers), and it’s also his second straight season taking home the hardware. Happ led all major league left fielders in outfield assists with 12. He finished second to Rosario among NL left fielders with 2 DRS.
Happ is the first Cub since Anthony Rizzo to win consecutive Gold Gloves (Rizzo won three straight from 2018-20), and he’s the first Cubs outfielder since Jason Hayward to go back-to-back since Jason Hayward (2016-17).
“It’s just super, super special,” Happ said. “Winning the first time was really awesome, but to be able to back it up with another one and have that on the resume, I think that’s a really special thing. To be able to do it in Wrigley again and twice in a Cubs uniform is a pretty cool thing that I’ll cherish.”
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