Saturday, May 28, 2022

Javier Báez Could Come Back To Chicago


Don’t look now but a Javier Báez reunion with the Chicago Cubs is gaining traction.

The 28-year-old is set to hit the open market for the first time in his career. He failed to get a contract extension done with the Cubs and was shipped off to the New York Mets before the season’s end. Overall Báez slashed .265/.319/.494 in 2021, which is in line with his career average. He also hit 31 home runs with 87 RBIs and 18 stolen bases. The peaks and valleys of Báez season are much like his style of play. A spark plug who wreaks havoc on the base paths, hits for power, plays above-average defense, and is a freak athlete. But with that, you also get lots of strikeouts, spurts of immaturity, and inconsistent production.

In 2018 Báez finished second in the MVP voting made his first All-Star game appearance and took home a silver slugger award. He hit a career-high 34 home runs and drove in a league-high 111 RBIs. He returned to the All-Star game in 2019 before his production took a nosedive.

Báez had an abysmal pandemic shortened season in 2020. Despite winning a Gold Glove Award he slashed .203/.238/.360. He got off to a rough start in 2021 as well. In late June he was hitting .229 with 97 strikeouts. The silver lining for Cubs fans hoping for a Javy reunion is that he returned to his All-Star form during the second half of the season.

In his last 26 games with the Cubs, he hit .302/.358/.542 with six home runs. In 106 plate appearances, he struck out 34 times which is a slight improvement from his career average. He put up similar numbers in a Mets uniform batting .299/.371/.515 with nine home runs. Overall he hit .298/.362/.523 during the second half of the season which is actually better than the numbers he put up during the second half of his 2018 campaign (.290/.326/.554).

Báez turns 29 in December, he is still in his prime. Mix that with the uptick in production and Puerto Rican native should have a healthy market. The Cubs have shown that they are not throwing in the towel by signing Wade Miley. This is an indication that they would like to remain competitive. Experts seem to believe that the Cubs are a good fit as well.

On October 20th ESPN’s Buster Olney pulled a group of evaluators on where they thought the big five free agent shortstops (Báez, Corey Seager, Carlos Correa, Marcus Semien, and Trevor Story) would land. The consensus for Báez was that the two strongest possibilities are the Mets and the Cubs.

It’s no secret that Baez did not enjoy his time in Queens. He gave Mets fans a thumbs-down sign in response to being booed mercilessly for his poor play and high strikeout volume. The Mets also failed to make the playoffs and went just 22-38 with Báez on the roster. The only thing the Mets have going for them is Báez’s friendship with Fransisco Lindor but I doubt that alone will be enough to keep him in New York.

MLB insider, Jon Heyman also believes that Bàez to the Cubs is a strong possibility. On October 26th the MLB Network analyst spoke on his Big Time Baseball Podcast and said, “I think the Cubs are going to get (Baez) back.”

He also noted that the two sides were very close to a deal around $160 million before the pandemic hit.

“I think, around $160 million, maybe a little more than that. I think that’s the number for Baez anyway. They obviously like him. He likes it in Chicago. He didn’t do the thumbs down thing in Chicago. He didn’t have any thumbs-down thing in Chicago. So I’m going to say he goes back to the Cubs. Out of all the former Cubs, that’s the one that I think has a chance.”

Ultimately it will come down to whether Jed Hoyer and Co. want to pull the trigger. But with Baez at shortstop and Nick Madrigal at second base the Cubs would have a very intriguing middle infield, with a power hitter who strikes out a lot and a contact hitter who never strikes out.

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