Via a new report from Jon Heyman, Javier Baez is reportedly seeking a new deal in the $200 million range if he were to re-sign before reaching free agency at year’s end. In the article, it is not discussed how many years the Chicago Cubs shortstop is looking for and, to me, that makes all the difference in the world.
"“We can start it with a 2 – we shall see,” Heyman said. “I’ve heard speculation that all the free-agent shortstops will get 200 (million) something. We’ll see. I’m (Trevor) Story and (Corey) Seager are shooting for 300 something. But I would think Baez would be $200 million-plus. I don’t think they’re there yet. But if they get there, maybe they could have a deal (soon).”"
My speculation is it would need to be somewhere around the seven-to-eight year mark. Simple math tells you that at only six years you get to around 35+ AAV and that’s way up there. Like, way beyond what a player like Baez is ever going to fetch in today’s game.
Let’s look back and analyze his numbers over the past three seasons:
- 2018: .290/.326/.554 34 HR,111 RBI
- 2019: .281/.316/.531 29 HR, 89 RBI
- 2020: .203/.238/.360 8 HR, 24 RBI (pandemic-shortened season)
- 2021: .244/.288/.492 21 HR, 59 RBI (through 93 games)
We know Baez was the NL MVP runner-up and brought home a Silver Slugger in 2018 and followed that up with a slight regression in 2019. Of course, that was followed with a catastrophic regression last year, though there’s no telling what playing during a pandemic season can do to a player’s psyche.
So far this season, Baez’s batting average is still below where we want it but closer to his career average of .262. The raw power is there with an ISO of .248. His wRC+ of 107 currently sits slightly above the league average of 100, along with his wOBA of .330.
What alarms me most about Baez is his 37 percent strikeout rate this season that’s paired with a brutal 4.3 percent walk rate. The power has gone back up but he is currently on pace for around 200 strikeouts on the season and currently leads the league in this category.
When Baez is drawing walks and truly locked in, the last thing I would want to be is the pitcher pitching to him. The problem is he’s not that guy nearly often enough – especially not to warrant a $200 million deal.
Chicago Cubs: Can Javier Baez ever regain the consistency we saw in 2018?
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Let’s not forget. Baez brings a lot to the table outside of his power at the dish. This guy is a Gold Glove-winning defender and is one of the most versatile defensive players in the game. One of the flashiest players in baseball, Baez has a full bag of tricks. Looking at his 2020 campaign against his 2021 season thus far, he has came back to make strides in the right direction in terms of batting average. This is also a man who has proved it before at the plate and stepped up huge when needed. (Game 7 solo shot, anybody?)
The most immediate issue isn’t the strikeouts here, It’s the part where Baez is pressing the issue with only 11 days before the deadline. Jed Hoyer and Tom Ricketts now both have to decide if they want to trade or extend him. Obviously if they want to extend him, they can hold him past the deadline to see what he does in the second half and if he performs poorly, it will be hindsight. You don’t want to let him walk for nothing at the end of the season.
My best knowledge tells me a deal won’t get done until closer to the end of the season in a “prove it” scenario. It would be nice to just button this thing up now, keep our star shortstop and trust he will put it all together again.
Javier Baez striking out 200 times and batting .230, I’m not so sure you can convince me of his desired price tag. Baez minimizing his mistakes and proving some consistency? Absolutely worth the $30M annually for the next seven years years, or however you want to chop up the contract details. Aside from capturing our hearts, given what he has done for this organization over the recent years, Baez has earned his chance to show us what he is worth when the pressure is on.
It’s a roll of the dice either way if he will return to his best version of himself or not, but with all the pending free agents the Cubs have after this season and Jason Heyward’s contract expiring in just two years, the money will be there.