Cubs: What would a Javier Baez contract extension look like now?

(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /

The San Diego Padres, historically a mid-market club shy about spending big, put the cherry on top of their incredible offseason Wednesday, signing star shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. to a 14-year, $340 million extension.

A middle infielder signing a long-term deal? Now why might that draw the interest of Cubs fans? Maybe because Chicago has a superstar shortstop of its own in Javier Baez who, at year’s end, will hit free agency barring an extension to keep him on the North Side.

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Baez, 28, ran off strong back-to-back showings in 2018 and 2019 before falling hard in the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign. In 2018, he finished runner-up to the Brewers’ Christian Yelich in the National League MVP race and earned the second All-Star nod of his career in ’19.

Like I said though, last year was pretty brutal for Baez, especially at the plate. Typically, the Chicago shortstop relies on in-game video access to make adjustments. Last year, as part of league-wide COVID-19 protocols, he lost that ability – and it culminated in a .203/.238/.360 line.

Although he did win the first Gold Glove of his career, most folks will remember his offensive struggles when they look back on Baez’s 2020 showing. Now, he’ll look to erase those memories in the final year of his current deal – that is, unless Jed Hoyer locks him up before Opening Day.

Cubs plan on talking extension with Javier Baez and others

The new Chicago president of baseball operations plans on talking about a new deal not only with Baez, but also Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo – also free agents at year’s end. Right now, it looks like Baez and Rizzo are the likeliest extension candidates, but who knows how it will play out.

Circling back to the news of Tatis Jr.’s record-breaking extension – it’s worth wondering what, if any, impact this might have on someone like Baez, who could be a part of a free agent class loaded with shortstop talent, including Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor and Trevor Story.

That company might play into the Cubs’ hands when talking about a new deal with Baez. Now, he’s not getting anywhere near what Tatis Jr. just landed from the Padres. The San Diego slugger is six years younger than Baez – which alone would nearly half the value and length of a prospective deal.

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Assuming Baez matches the same AAV as the Tatis Jr. deal, we’re talking about roughly $24 million and change annually. Would the Cubs be able to lock up Baez for six or seven years at that price? Not unless his camp has lowered the bar coming off 2020. He’s going to be eyeing closer to that $200 million mark – and in free agency a year from now, he’d likely get it assuming he returns to form this season.