Cubs Rumors: Javier Baez has cost himself tens of millions of dollars

(Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images)
(Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images) /

One of the many mysteries with the remaining group of core players from this Golden Era of Chicago Cubs baseball is how they all seemed to hit a decline in production around the same points in their careers. Adding to the pressure of playing well to win games is the new contracts they’ll be playing for in the upcoming offseason. As of now, it’s not looking good for shortstop Javier Baez.

Baez is currently MLB’s league leader in strikeouts (27) in 60 plate appearances. Making that number even uglier is the one walk he’s drawn this season. Going back to last summer, Baez has drawn a total of eight walks while striking out102 times in 295 PAs. Baez’s current 45 strikeout percentage is nearly 17 percent higher than his career average (28.8 percent) and it’s his highest since his debut season in 2014 (41.5 percent – 229 PAs).

The all-or-nothing approach clearly isn’t working this season. With a swing as violent as his, maybe the hand speed is starting to slow down, but Baez is trending on downwards path quickly.

If there is any encouraging signs maybe it’s his four home runs and .731 OPS, but what good is that if he’s striking out nearly every at bat?

ESPN’s Buster Olney reported Baez turned down a contract in the range of $180 million before the 2020 season. At the time this was compared to Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts and his six-year, $160 million deal. I find it hard to imagine the Cubs or any team in need of a shortstop would give a contract of that size with his recent performances.

Cubs can go big in this winter’s free agent class of shortstops

The 2022 shortstop free agent class is loaded with big-names. Corey Seager, Trevor Story, and Carlos Correa are among the top-level talent. Each of those three players have outperformed Baez so far in 2021, and they will likely use Francisco Lindor and his new deal to base their payday. Lindor signed a 10-year, $341 million deal with the Mets in the offseason making him the highest-paid shortstop just above Fernando Tatis Jr. and his 14-year, $340 million extension with the Padres.

More from Chicago Cubs Rumors

That’s the number Baez was shooting for, which is why he reportedly turned down that ~$180 million deal. It would take a complete turnaround for him to see that type of money.

So what’s Baez worth?

At 28 years old, Baez has a career slash line of .263/.303/.473 with 122 home runs and 390 RBI in seven MLB seasons. Defensively, he’s still among the league’s best, but that likely wouldn’t warrant a team handing over a blank check. It could come down to a question of whether or not he’s valued more for his current offensive performances or whatever team’s view as his future potential.

From advanced metrics, Baez currently has a 0.4 WAR (67th-MLB) and a 99 wRC+ (108th-MLB), just under the league average (100 wRC+). The data insists he’s still on the border of playing as a slightly-above average league player, but he’s far from the elite right now. There are currently 105 MLB players with a wRC+ at 100 or above.

I don’t think he’s going to give up on a big payday, so I’d assume he’s going to look for something slightly above his current salary ($11.6 million) on a one year deal. This would bank on another year of high production where he improves his chances of seeing more money in the future. This would be assuming his current trends continue.

At the point, it’d be up to the Cubs whether or not they want to roll the dice on another year of Baez, or move on for good. It could make things easier, or more difficult based on what they decide to do with Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, and eventually Willson Contreras.

Next. Starting pitching has been an issue for Cubs. dark

Baez will always be one of my favorite Cubs of all time, but right now he’s not giving them any reason to believe it’s worth the gamble to commit a large sum of long-term money.