Chicago Cubs Rumors: Javier Baez poised to return in free agency?

(Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
(Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) /

Yesterday, I touched on a report suggesting that if Anthony Rizzo has his way this winter, he’ll return to the Bronx – not the Windy City. Today, we’ve got Jon Heyman adding further speculation to a previous remark indicating a reunion between the Chicago Cubs and former All-Star shortstop Javier Baez could be in the cards this offseason.

On MLB Network last week, Heyman tapped the Cubs as the landing spot for Baez – and he added some context to that in his latest podcast episode, which you can listen to here. If you don’t have the time to do so, he sums it up pretty bluntly: “I think the Cubs are going to get him back.”

Now, with the World Series still ongoing and the potential for a work stoppage very much in play this winter, reports such as these tend to lean heavily into speculation, which, simply is what it is. The convergence of a large market organization like the Cubs having a lot of money to spend and a star-studded free agent class of shortstops is going to lead folks to draw some lines. Period.

Baez isn’t going to be in that same tier of shortstop as guys like Carlos Correa or Corey Seager. He’s trended in the wrong direction defensively in recent years (although he is still more than capable of leaving us all with our jaws on the floor with his glove work) and his offense, while much improved in New York, remains streaky, to say the least.

Down the stretch with the Mets, Baez did everything asked of him and then some. His OPS following the trade was more than 100 points higher than prior – with improved walk and strikeout rates, as well. After a run-in with frustrated fans at Citi Field, in which Baez gave them the thumbs-down gesture, one might have thought it would be an easy decision to move on from him at season’s end. But how he handled that situation, combined with his on-field abilities, reportedly has New York looking to lock him up early in the offseason.

That would give the Mets – and whoever comes in to run their front office – a star tandem up the middle for years to come with Baez and countryman Francisco Lindor. Meanwhile, Chicago is looking to upgrade all over the diamond with a clear need for a middle infielder to pair with Nick Madrigal in 2022 and beyond.

Nico Hoerner looks likely to slot into that everyday utility role – or perhaps see more time in the outfield, where the Cubs are weaker – as he looks to re-establish himself and stay healthy after an injury-plagued 2021 campaign in which he batted .302/.382/.369 in just 44 games.

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Bringing Baez back into the fold would add some much-needed star power to a roster that was stripped down to the studs at the deadline. And you can bet it would go a long way with fans who watched not one, not two, but three fan favorites shipped off for prospects in the span of 24 hours.