For the first time in franchise history, the Chicago Cubs have three players named Gold Glove Defensive Award winners in one season.
Second baseman Nico Hoerner won his first National League Gold Glove Award Sunday night, while shortstop Dansby Swanson and left fielder Ian Happ both won the second award of their careers in back-to-back years.
“It’s really cool when you can be a part of Cubs history. When you’re the first to do something, it’s really special for an organization that’s been around for a long time,” Happ said. “Many thanks go to the other boys who were on the field every day and played with us.”
Swanson is the fourth Cubs shortstop to win this award, joining Javier Báez (2020), Don Kessinger (1969 and 1970) and Ernie Banks (1960).
Hoerner, a finalist in 2020, is the fourth Cubs second baseman to win the award, joining Darwin Barney (2012), Ryne Sandberg (nine times, most recently in 1991), Glenn Beckert (1968) and Ken Hubbs (1962). Together with Swanson, he formed one of the best middle infield duos in the majors, giving both of them the necessary hardware.
Hoerner called the first-time honor “really, really special.”
“The thrill of seeing Ian get his first win last year, and I didn’t know Dansby back then, but it’s so much time put into it and people helping out. I think especially of my father and the time he spent with me, just the endless problems and so on,” Hoerner said. “Cool to get recognition for that.”
Swanson’s defensive magic was as advertised in his first year in Chicago and was a big reason the Cubs signed him to a seven-year, $177 million contract last offseason. His 20 Outs Above Average (OAA) led all players this year and his 18 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) were the most among MLB shortstops and also ranked him fifth among all positions.
Hoerner and Swanson are the first center field teammates to win the Gold Glove Award in the same season since Joe Panik and Brandon Crawford of the San Francisco Giants in 2016.
“The work that is put in and the more you put into that work, and then obviously the communication factor, the growth of our relationship in general, our friendship and the growth as teammates has really, really helped,” Swanson said. “Because it began to understand, ask questions and give answers, like how to ask things, how to pick someone’s brain. It’s not as easy as saying, “Oh, where do you want your double-play feed?”
“And it’s this ever-evolving thing. It’s not that easy, we just got good. The individual things happened, yes, we made every effort to be good in that regard. But the camaraderie and chemistry takes time and gets better with time.”
Happ had a great view of the defensive magic from left field, particularly balls to Swanson’s right that appeared to be headed for hits into the outfield.
“There were many times that me and (Mike) Tauchman or me and (Cody Bellinger) would look at each other after the two of us had played plays, which was a little ‘Oh my God’ recognition between the two of us,” Happ said.
More traditional statistics support Happ’s Gold Glove Award candidacy. His 12 outfield assists surpassed all outfielders in the major leagues and the 253 putouts he recorded were the second most among NL left fielders.
“The first one was really great, but to be able to back it up with another one and have that on your resume, I think is pretty special,” Happ said. “And to do it at Wrigley again and twice in a Cubs uniform is a pretty cool thing that I’ll cherish.”
The Cubs took a deliberate approach to improving their team’s defense this past offseason by signing Swanson and Bellinger.
“It was pretty clear from the start of the year that we as a team were going to put a lot of emphasis on run prevention, and whether we got the accolades or not, I felt like our team really accomplished that beyond the three goals “us,” said Hoerner. “And so it feels great to get the recognition now, especially with that goal in mind, but also so many other guys contributed.”
For the White Sox, center fielder Luis Robert Jr. was the team’s only Gold Glove finalist, but it was Kevin Kiermaier of the Toronto Blue Jays who won at the position for the American League.
Chicago native Alek Thomas was a National League finalist in center field for the Arizona Diamondbacks, but lost to Brenton Doyle of the Colorado Rockies.
Gold Glove finalists are determined through a combination of 75% voting among managers and coaches and 25% using a proprietary metric known as the SABR Defensive Index (SDI).
After winners are announced, a combination of fan voting and SDI will determine the Platinum Glove winner from each league. These winners will be announced at the Gold Glove Awards Ceremony on November 10th.
Also on Sunday, the Cubs announced they exercised the 2024 team options on starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks ($16 million) and catcher Yan Gomes ($6 million). Hendricks remains the longest-tenured Cub on the roster as he begins his 11th big league season with the club.