Cubs: Javier Baez comes with his share of highs, along with the lows

(Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
(Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images) /

The looming free agency of Javier Baez will represent an interesting case, to say the least. A two-time All-Star, former Gold Glove winner and 2019 National League MVP runner-up, the Cubs shortstop also walks in just three percent of his at-bats and is unfailingly streaky at the dish.

All this to say pegging what Baez will take home in his next deal is very difficult and may very well be dictated by how he plays down the stretch this season. After a woeful start to the year, he’s rebounded to a degree, capped off by his extra-inning, game-winning home run on Sunday night against the rival Cardinals.

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On the year, Baez now ranks near the top of the impending free agent shortstop class in OPS and leads the team in home runs (11), RBI (32) and stolen bases (7). Even with the recent improvements we’ve seen from him at the plate, his on-base percentage still checks in below the .300 mark, hardly what you’re looking for – but certainly indicative of league-wide offensive trends this year.

Look. When this guy is locked in, he’s one of the most entertaining players in all of baseball. But I can’t say the Cubs would necessarily be well-served in handing him a nine-figure deal, either. Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer has repeatedly noted his desire to transform the club’s offense. His predecessor failed to do that since the team won the World Series back in 2016.

Hoyer parted ways with Kyle Schwarber and Albert Almora last winter, two of the more significant changes to the roster in recent years. He opted to bring in Joc Pederson and a collection of veterans like Jake Marisnick and Matt Duffy to get more reps – but it’s clear that the approach this past winter was more of a bridge year than anything.

Cubs: Team’s best shot at an extension might be with Javier Baez

The next six months will ultimately shape the coming era of Chicago Cubs baseball. Baez might end up being a part of it – we don’t really know yet. He’s open to extension talks and, at this point, could be the front office’s best bet at extending a member of the core.

Kris Bryant is playing like an MVP again and is easily the team’s most intriguing trade chip heading into the summer. Anthony Rizzo isn’t even open to talking about a new deal after things went sideways during discussions this spring and Willson Contreras recently said he wants no part of a rebuild on the North Side.

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If Hoyer can surround Baez with guys more suited to a bat-to-ball approach, the Cubs may be able to handle the ups and downs that come with his game and build around him long-term. But anyone expecting the 28-year-old to all of the sudden find greater consistency is only fooling themselves.