Chicago Cubs’ Javier Baez hints at extension

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

For all the talk about whether or not to extend individual members of the core, the Chicago Cubs have stood pat while a division rival locked up one of the best players in baseball.

Christian Yelich’s decision to take a discount and sign with the Milwaukee Brewers for the next nine seasons impacts several parties, from the Brewers to the MLBPA and, yes, the Chicago Cubs.

Of course, there is no telling whether Kris Bryant or Anthony Rizzo would be willing to take a hometown discount. Bryant certainly seems less likely to do so, especially given Scott Boras represent him.

In essence, the Cubs might have to pick and choose from their future assets. The front office is clearly wary of spending above the luxury tax threshold, as recent offseasons have indicated.

With several players set to become free agents in 2021, they might be hard-pressed to keep the entire core intact.

Even still, the Brewers–a small-market club with one of the weakest farm systems in baseball–showed a willingness to make that financial commitment to Yelich, who has become one of the best players in the game since arriving in Milwaukee.

The Cubs might be following suit as they seek to extend their own marquee superstar.

Shortstop Javier Baez recently fielded questions about Yelich’s new deal, suggesting it has nothing to do with his extension talks while also saying progress is being made on that front:

Baez, much like Yelich, is one of the most marketable stars in the majors. He is also nearly a full year younger than Yelich, which would seem to indicate he could easily make over $250 million over a similar timeframe.

Chicago’s determination to extend Baez is hardly much of a surprise. “El Mago” has cemented himself as a fan favorite since bursting onto the scene during the 2016 season, and he has made tangible improvements in multiple facets of the game in each year since.

The Bayamon, Puerto Rico native, was not quite as productive last year as he had been during a 2018 season in which he was the runner-up for National League MVP (behind Yelich). But Baez still hit 29 homers and had a 113 OPS+ in 138 games.

More notably, Baez cemented himself as one of the best defenders in the game. He led all infielders and ranked second overall in terms of Statcast’s outs above average metric, per Baseball Savant. Baez also tied with St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Paul DeJong for most defensive runs saved (26), according to FanGraphs.

Baez’s power, spectacular defense and daring forays on the base paths make him among the most exciting players in baseball. Moreover, his jersey was the fourth-highest seller in 2019, and his face is plastered all over MLB marketing campaigns.

Aside from his sheer brilliance on the diamond, Baez’s charisma makes him an attraction, which in turn brings in revenue for the Chicago Cubs.

Next. Three bold predictions for 2020. dark

It always seemed unlikely Theo Epstein and co. would ever let such a magnetic talent ever reach free agency. Now it appears the two sides are nearing a deal that–ideally–would keep Baez in Chicago for the remainder of his career.