It’s been known for a while that the Chicago Cubs would like to talk to Javy Baez about a long-term extension this offseason.
Baez has become one of the clear faces of the franchise, is one of the best defensive shortstops in baseball, has become an extremely productive bat the last two years, and is arguably the least internally-replaceable player in the organization. He also hasn’t made huge money yet in his career, so an extension for Baez has always made a lot of sense.
But, even if the Cubs do eventually get a deal done with Baez, are he and Kyle Hendricks going to be the only members of the core who wind up getting long-term deals? Remember, when we talk about smoothing the post-2021 transition, extensions are obviously a big part of that conversation, too.
If those extension talks are going to happen, though, it kinda sounds like it will have to be sooner rather than later:
One policy change Hoyer talked about today was discussing extensions with players outside of spring training. Team wants to engage them sooner. Now is one time. Arb time in Jan is another. Hendricks signed last spring but they think it's a distraction.
— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) December 11, 2019
I can’t really speak to whether it’s actually a distraction for guys to be talking extensions in the spring, but I could see how the Cubs get there: since they have generally not been successful in inking these deals, that means the players with whom they engage have gone into the season fresh off not getting that security in place. Maybe, for the Cubs and for certain players, it has had an impact?
In any case, some conversations are taking place, as Hoyer told the media last night (NBC Sports Chicago): “We always take the position of not commenting on extensions, but are we having those discussions? Yes. People focus so much on trades and free agent signings at these meetings, but all the agents are under the same roofs, also, and allows us to have those kinds of discussions. I’m not gonna specify who or what, but yeah certainly those conversations are ongoing.”
We know that Baez is one of those conversations, and I wouldn’t at all be surprised if Willson Contreras – before a trade happens – is another one of those conversations. We know that Kris Bryant is open to an extension, but that those talks have never been fruitful before.
What about Anthony Rizzo, who has two more option years left with the Cubs? His agent tells ESPN it isn’t happening right now: “The Cubs have informed us that they will not be offering Anthony an extension at this time. Anthony has let his desire to be a Cub for life known to the organization. Although we do not know what the future holds, a deal to make that happen will not be addressed now.”
I think it’s a universal feeling among Cubs fans that we want to see Rizzo be a Cub for life, but without arbitration contracts to negotiate and with his older age, you can understand why the Cubs might first prioritize a guy like Baez. Eventually, the talks with Rizzo will happen. Kinda sounds like he’s ready to have them now, though, and I expect the Cubs to do what is necessary to preserve that goodwill until a deal can be negotiated.
The ESPN report also indicates that Kyle Schwarber – who is also a free agent after 2021 – hasn’t been approached yet about an extension. His arbitration salary figures to be a tricky negotiation anyway (lots of big counting stats and service time, but also some down performance over the years and a major injury), so that one doesn’t surprise me either. I’d expect the Cubs and Schwarber to talk about an extension in that arb context next month when they have to sit down anyway. I’d love to see the Cubs lock down Schwarber for a number of years, because I’m a big buyer on his second half of 2019 being *the* step forward.
Pre-arb guys like Ian Happ and Victor Caratini are also conceivable extension candidates, but their part-time roles make finding an agreeable deal a little tricky, and they’re already under control for the post-2021 stretch anyway.
So, then, I suppose the size of all this? I expect serious negotiations with Baez to be ongoing right now, negotiations with Schwarber to take place next month, and negotiations with Rizzo to take place perhaps at some point next year. As for Bryant and Contreras, they are something of wild cards, depending on trade talks.
Hopefully something with Baez gets done soon, both for cost-certain purposes as the Cubs’ offseason proceeds, and also to open the door to those next level negotiations.