With the existing expectation that the Cubs front office would at least minimally re-engage their outgoing free agents before engaging in serious trade talks, and with a report indicating the Cubs intend to do just that with Anthony Rizzo and Javy Báez, it is worthwhile to hear from each of those guys. Even if the responses aren’t particularly spicy.
Rizzo’s reaction to the report was basically, yeah, we’ll probably talk in the coming weeks, but I’m focusing on baseball, and who knows what might happen at the Trade Deadline.
Now we have Báez’s reaction, and … yup, equally unspicy.
“If anything happens, I’m ready, we’re here,” Báez said about contract talks before the deadline, per NBCSC. “I think it’s time to focus, to get back in first place and get back on track to make the playoffs. I’m not really paying attention to that.”
I can respect that when a guy says it before the season opens, and I can really respect it when he says it in mid-July. Some guys just don’t want to deal with contract stuff in the middle of season when their future is on the line based on their performance. You’re this close to free agency for the first time in your career, and you just want to make sure you give yourself options. For some guys, that means the last thing they want to worry about is whether to close that door to free agency a couple months before they even get there (trying to mentally weight their own market against the rest of the market, future projected performance for a lot of competing players, a CBA coming, on and on).
That said, the situation for the Cubs is this: if a great trade offer were to come around for Báez in the next ten days, they’ll have to balance that return against their hopes of signing Báez after the season when he does get to take his services wherever he wants. That means, even if an extension is unlikely right now, they’d still love to gauge where his head is at on his market price, since it might impact their willingness to trade him.
To that end, Jon Heyman was on 670 The Score this morning, and one thing he said REALLY jumped out at me on this topic. When asked about the possibility of these extensions before the Trade Deadline, Heyman said he’s heard that all the big free agent shortstops – Báez, included – are shooting for $200+ million on their next contract.
“We can start it with a 2 – we shall see,” Heyman said when he was asked about the Cubs trying to get a deal done with Báez. “I’ve heard speculation that all the free-agent shortstops will get 200 (million) something. We’ll see. (Trevor) Story and (Corey) Seager are shooting for 300 something. But I would think Baez would be $200 million-plus. I don’t think they’re there yet. But if they get there, maybe they could have a deal (soon).”
That is a jarringly large number when you consider the ups-and-downs of the last few years for Báez, and while I can understand trying to position yourself in that tier, I’m not so sure Báez is going to find suitors who see him there with Seager, Story, or Carlos Correa. Even Marcus Semien, who is a couple years older, is having a huge season again, so it’s going to be a crowded class either way. Seeing Francisco Lindor go way over $300 million probably makes all of these shortstops widen their eyes, but I really have a hard time seeing what team out there is going to commit $200+ million to Báez, knowing that they will need his glove to remain super elite to justify that price level, and knowing that rarely happens for defenders as they pass age 30.
That said, this is not coming directly from Báez or his camp, necessarily. There could be some extrapolating going on. And while Báez, heading into his age 29 season, absolutely should be able to sign for a really, really large number, we don’t know for sure that he’s going to start by seeking more than $200 million.
At a personal level, I want to see Báez back with the Cubs next year. And if it could be on a reasonable extension (6 years, $130 million-ish? just spitballin’ based on comps), all the better. I think it’s going to get to free agency at this point, and I don’t think that’ll close the door on Báez and the Cubs re-upping. It’ll just be tense, and he’ll have to find out how the market perceives his value. He’s earned that right.
In the meantime, I guess we see if a trade offer comes through that the Cubs just can’t pass up. I tend to really doubt it happens, but if the Cubs have a sense that an extension isn’t happening, they will certainly have to consider their options. (It’s just, well, that trade offer better be VERY SIGNIFICANT to justify effectively ending the relationship this month.)