Cubs, Javier Baez were heartbreakingly close to an extension

(Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images) /

It’s not the first time we’ve heard Javier Baez and the Chicago Cubs were closing in on a contract extension prior to the 2020 season getting delayed for months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but now we have an even better idea as to just how close that was to coming to fruition, courtesy of Baez himself.

"“I thought it was going to happen,” Báez told NBC Sports Chicago on Friday. “We were five days from getting it done. And then the pandemic hit … “It was really, really close,” Báez said. “More than anybody thinks.”"

Of course, once Summer Camps finally got underway under strict medical protocols and the 60-game season was off and running, owners, including the Cubs’ Tom Ricketts, knew darned well that the financials for the year would wind up in shambles. No fans in the seats meant no gate revenue, concessions or money flowing into any of the Wrigleyville business the Ricketts family owned around the ballpark.

It didn’t help Baez’ case coming out of 2020 that he was one of many who really struggled at the plate, slashing just .203/.238/.360. He won the first Gold Glove of his career, but his signature inconsistencies at the dish stole the show and the front office quickly started looking in a very different direction: a complete teardown of the core.

Come July, with the Cubs fading fast following a late-June double-digit losing streak, the writing was on the wall. First, it was Anthony Rizzo packing his bags for the Bronx. The very next day, Baez and Kris Bryant were dealt, as well, with the former headed to the Mets and the latter to San Francisco.

Between the Mets and Cubs in 2021, Baez perfectly encapsulated what makes him so darned hard to put a price on. He led the league with 184 strikeouts, but also caught fire in the Big Apple, batting nearly .300 with a .371 OBP down the stretch. When he’s locked in, there are few hitters more dangerous – and the glove speaks for itself.

Cubs watch as the Tigers and Javier Baez look to make some noise in 2022

Given the lack of star power on the 2022 Cubs, it’s worth wondering what the team might look like with Baez under control for the long haul. He inked a six-year, $140 million deal with the Detroit Tigers this winter and time will tell how that move pans out for a young team ready to announce its arrival in the American League playoff picture.

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Next. What to expect from Kris Bryant this weekend in Denver. dark

As for Chicago, the past is in the past – and with Rizzo, Bryant and Baez all playing elsewhere, we can finally close the book on the most successful stretch in franchise history. Still, hearing the team was just ‘days’ from locking up El Mago hurts.