Chicago Cubs: Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Anthony Rizzo – who returns?
Chicago Cubs: Javier Baez is playing his way toward a big-money contract
Why re-sign him:
One could argue Javier Baez was the most beloved Cub on the North Side from 2018-2019 when he was MVP runner-up and earned back-to-back All Star nods. Since his first day in the majors, “El Mago” has hit dramatic home runs, flashed the leather in the middle of the infield and made ridiculous plays on the basepaths. Since being traded to the Mets, Baez (through September 22) has slashed .307/.383/.555 with nine home runs, 19 RBI and 155 OPS+.
Baez might have had his ups and downs with the Cubs in 2021, but his Mets tenure has helped bring his numbers back up to his standards. Between both teams, he has 31 home runs (career-high is 34), a .265/.319/.504 slash with a 119 wRC+ and 3.7 fWAR. He is in the top half among qualified exit velocity among hitters. The production at the plate is still there and the Cubs will be looking to add more thunder in their lineup next year.
El Mago provides a lot of energy and at age 28, there is still reason to believe he has plenty left in the tank. He makes things happen, turning nothing into something all the time. Having that sparkplug on the team can go a long way. With the infield looking high contact, low power, Baez would add much needed pop.
While not known for sure, I personally think Baez loved being a Cub and would be willing to return to the North Side.
Why not re-sign him:
The Cubs appear to be building a new offensive philosophy that’s centered around a high on-base and contact-focused approach based on the players that Hoyer has acquired. Baez is notorious for having a lot of holes in his swing despite the production. His strikeout rate, which had gone under 30 percent from 2016-2019, has risen above that mark in each of the past two seasons. His 33.6 percent strikeout rate this year would be the highest in his career in a year in which he played in 100+ games.
Another issue that arises is where he will play for the foreseeable future. The middle of the infield looks to be manned by Hoerner and Madrigal. Baez can technically play corner infield, he has played a decent amount of third, but that is not where he normally plays. The organization is also full of shortstops in the system and there is no shortage of middle infielders within the farm.
One of the oddest issues with Baez recently is the quality of fielding. While normally a Gold Glove-caliber fielder, he has made 24 errors this season. It could be a blip in the radar, but it is certainly notable.
Overall, if there is an argument to not re-sign Baez it is that he simply ran his course with the Cubs. His exciting plays and big hits will always be remembered, but with a new philosophy and many new up-and-comers on the way, it might just be best to focus on using what they have in the infield or looking at another one of the upcoming free agents at short who might fight the mold of what they want to do better.