When Jed Hoyer decided to close the book on Javier Baez, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo in the span of 24 hours ahead of the 2021 MLB trade deadline, to say Cubs fans had an emotional reaction is the understatement of the century.
But two years later, with Bryant having played in just 39% of his team's games since signing with the Rockies, Rizzo sidelined after the Yankees badly botched a concussion diagnosis that left him hapless at the plate and Baez ranking among one of the worst offensive players in all of baseball, those decisions are looking smarter than ever.
The new post-trade deadline MLB Pipeline update lays bare the impact those moves had on the Cubs' system: Pete Crow-Armstrong (1) and Kevin Alcantara (4) both occupy spots in the MLB top 100 list - and other moves like the Yu Darvish trade following the 2020 campaign netted Owen Caissie (another top 100 talent in the system) have the Chicago farm system ranking among the best in the game today.
None of those moves look as lopsided as the Baez trade, though, given Crow-Armstron's rapid ascent to the top of talent boards and the abhorrent body of work El Mago has turned in since signing a six-year, $140 million deal: a .231/.271/.363 slash line and a swing-and-miss element of his game that's only gotten worse with time.
That's always been there, as Cubs fans are well aware, but his game has fallen off a cliff since he left Chicago. The defense is still solid, but he's a shell of his former self at the plate. Baez ranks in the bottom 1% of the league in chase rate, bottom 10% in barrel rate, bottom 15% in whiff rate and in the bottom quarter in average exit velo.
The power that once helped him take a pursuit of MVP hardware down to the season's final weeks has seemingly evaporated, with a slugging percentage 110 points lower in two seasons with Detroit than what he did in Chicago. Even after a 'down' year with the Tigers in 2022, there were some Cubs fans looking to bring him back into the fold and buy low.
With Baez struggling and Dansby Swanson playing at an elite level in Chicago, it's clearer than ever: Hoyer was right to turn the page on Baez and bringing him back could have derailed the team's rebuild in a major way.