Cubs: Buster Olney talks Kris Bryant, trade rumors and contract extensions

(Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
(Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) /
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Javier Baez / Chicago Cubs
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

The Chicago Cubs will take the national stage for Sunday’s series finale with the Atlanta Braves on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball. Ahead of the broadcast, we sat down with longtime national ESPN writer Buster Olney to talk about the North Siders.

We kicked things off with the team’s slow start – and the lack of contract extensions with any of the team’s big three: Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Javier Baez. Of course, we heard very little on either Baez or Bryant, although we know Baez is open to in-season discussions. But with Rizzo, the mood soured rapidly after an initial offer that was somewhere in the four-year, $60 million range.

"If it happens, I think the most likely guy would be Rizzo. With Javier Baez, I don’t see it happening. With the numbers that they talked about in spring of 2020 before the pandemic hit – they’re so extraordinary relative to what his performance has been since then … he’s struggling so badly, I don’t know how – if you’re the Cubs – you’re comfortable giving that player a whopper contract."

Baez looked like a shell of his former self in 2020 – and then came out and has looked even worse at times this year. Chicago had, at one point, talked about a deal in the $200 million range. That’s never going to happen given the shortstop’s struggles over the last two years. Not with the Cubs and not with any other team in baseball.

I raised the possibility with Olney that Baez might have to settle for a prove it-style deal – one that’s far shorter and worth far less than he’d once hoped. He agreed it’s a very real possibility, especially if the All-Star doesn’t start making some changes at the plate.

"It’s a large enough sample size now that you have to wonder if the plate discipline is going to come at some point. Not great plate discipline, but improved plate discipline. Is an ability to recognize pitches – is there something he can do to make that better? If we get to the end of the year and he’s not feeling that way, then maybe a three-year deal at less money might be the best way to go."