An American flag is unfurled in the outfield before at...

An American flag is unfurled in the outfield before at Wrigley Field before the opening day baseball game between the Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers, Thursday, March 30, 2023, in Chicago. Credit: AP/Erin Hooley

CHICAGO — Nico Hoerner thinks the best is yet to come — for him and the Chicago Cubs.

Hoerner is looking forward to his future with the Cubs after finalizing a $35 million, three-year contract with Chicago. The deal begins with the 2024 season, covering his last two years of arbitration and the first year that he would have been eligible for free agency.

“I hope that it's not the last deal with this team,” Hoerner said Thursday in his first public comments since the contract was completed. “This is where I want to be.”

Hoerner, who turns 26 in May, was selected by the Cubs in the first round of the 2018 amateur draft out of Stanford. He made his big league debut the following year, batting .282 with three homers and 17 RBIs in 20 games.

He is coming off a breakout season, batting .281 with a career-best 10 homers, 55 RBIs and 20 steals in 135 games. He played in a total of 112 games over his first three years in the majors.

“Nico is such a great kid. Such great makeup. Works hard every day,” Cubs President of Baseball Operations Jed Hoyer said. “It would be a shame not to be able to sign him. We worked on a million structures and finally came up with that. Glad it worked out, and honestly, I hope it's the first of many.”

Hoerner is moving back to second base this year after being the team’s regular shortstop in 2022. The Cubs signed All-Star shortstop Dansby Swanson to a $177 million, seven-year contract in December.

The addition of Swanson was part of an offseason spending spree that also included right-hander Jameson Taillon and outfielder Cody Bellinger. The flurry of moves helped persuade Hoerner to sign his new contract.

“I think the idea of extending yourself in an organization where you probably didn't see winning on the horizon, that's not very attractive to me,” Hoerner said before the team's opening-day game against Milwaukee. “So yes, it is a vote of confidence in the direction that the team is going.”

While Hoerner's new deal is done, the long-term future for All-Star outfielder Ian Happ remains uncertain. Happ, a first-round pick in 2015, is eligible for free agency after this season.

“A lot of the same things I said about Nico are true of Ian," Hoyer said. “He's a great person, a great representative of the team and Chicago. ... He's a really good switch hitter, really good left fielder. We would love to have him for a long time. Obviously we weren't able to reach agreement right now, but that doesn't preclude us in any way from reaching an agreement in the future. We'd love to.”

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Follow Jay Cohen at https://twitter.com/jcohenap

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