The Cubs and outfielder Ian Happ came to an agreement on a $10.85MM salary for the 2023 season in order to avoid arbitration, per The New York Post’s Jon Heyman.
Happ, 28, has spent his entire professional career as a member of the Cubs organization. He delivered a strong debut campaign in the 2017 season, posting a .253/.328/.514 slash line, good for a 114 wRC+ and some down-ballot Rookie of the Year votes while splitting time between second base and center field. The following season, Happ split time between all three outfield spots as well as third base but took a step back offensively, posting a slash line of just .233/.353/.408 (106 wRC+) in 142 games with a worrisome 36.1% strikeout rate.
Happ spent much of the 2019 season at Triple-A Iowa working on his game, and appeared to have made improvements by the time he came up in the second half: in 58 games that season, he slashed .264/.333/.564 (126 wRC+) while cutting his strikeout rate all the way down to 25.0%. Happ’s improved game carried into the shortened 2020 campaign, where he looked like a potential MVP candidate early in the season before an injury an early September caused him to slump down the stretch. Still, he managed a 132 wRC+ on the year after his hot start to the shortened season. That slump continued throughout the first half of the 2021 season as Happ slashed .193/.296/.330 in the first half, though a strong second half allowed him to push his overall season numbers back above league average.
After a difficult year in 2021, however, Happ was able to post the best full season of his career in 2022, and looked like a completely different hitter while doing it. He posted a career high in doubles, a career low strikeout rate, earned a gold glove after settling into a full-time role in left field rather than bouncing around the diamond as he had in the past, and even managed to correct his heavy platoon split from previous years, becoming a largely split neutral player. All this led to his first career All Star appearance in 2022 and allowed him to earn over $10MM in his final trip through arbitration this offseason, even narrowly beating out the $10.6MM projection of MLBTR contributor Matt Schwartz.
While Happ is set to become a free agent following the 2023 season, rumblings of an extension have permeated throughout the offseason, with both Happ and president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer reportedly looking to start any potential extension talks before Spring Training, according to Maddie Lee of the Chicago Sun-Times.