Cubs: Will a loaded free agent class push Javier Baez to sign extension?

(Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)
(Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images) /

In the coming weeks, Jed Hoyer is going to sit down with Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Javier Baez about contract extensions. Barring new deals, these three Cubs will hit free agency for the first time in their careers at season’s end.

We know Rizzo isn’t stressing about it. The three-time All-Star first baseman talked to reporters in Arizona this week, saying, “There’s so much history we have, and there’s so much camaraderie. It’s exciting. It’s exciting times, and it’s exciting to be in this position, and I’m grateful.”

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As for Bryant, he’s probably the least likely to sign a new deal. At least, that’s been the belief among most folks who follow the team. After reeling off Rookie of the Year, NL MVP and a World Series title in his first two seasons with the Cubs, he’s been up-and-down, battling through injuries in recent years.

Last night, I wrote about the Cubs needing to lock up Rizzo long-term, simply for what he means to the team in and out of the clubhouse. He’s a natural born leader, a consistent performer and a force for good in the community. But in terms of locking up which guy I think will be most impactful over the next half-decade or so, it’s got to be Baez.

The Chicago shortstop was horrendous at the dish in 2020. Downright awful. We learned that players didn’t have in-game access to video, something that’s a major part of Baez’s gameplan, due to COVID-19 protocols. That will be reversed this season and the Cubs are hoping it helps him get back on track.

Defensively, he was as good as ever last season – finally winning his first Gold Glove. After Fernando Tatis Jr. signed a record-breaking 14-year, $340 million deal last week, all eyes have turned to the impending class of free agent shortstops, of which Baez is a part. Will they drive the prices up for their services or will we see guys taking the sure thing via extensions this year?

Cubs might benefit from the loaded free agent class

Baez joins a class that features Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, Francisco Lindor, Trevor Story and Marcus Semien. Lindor, of course, was traded to the Mets by Cleveland this winter – and New York looks at him as a cornerstone player. Seager is coming off a World Series title with the Dodgers and Story is the last star standing in Colorado after the Rockies traded Nolan Arenado to St. Louis.

Personally, I think this loaded class will actually help the Cubs’ chances of working out an extension with Baez this spring. That’s some stiff competition to face wading into the waters of free agency next winter, especially with the uncertainty of a new CBA emanating throughout the sport.

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If Hoyer and Baez can put their heads together this winter, I think we see a long-term pact that keeps El Mago on the North Side well into his 30s. If Chicago can keep at least two of their three free agents-to-be, they have legitimate building blocks for the next era of Cubs baseball.