As a personal matter, I don’t get too salty at the continued prevalence of “former Cubs player doing X” content out there. These guys were so important to my Cubs fandom for so long that I just can’t help but be curious about how they’re doing with their new teams. Part of that, without question, is the nature of this job – I’m trying to cover what 50+% of people want me to cover – but part of it, I hope, is just that it’s still relatively fresh.
I mention all that because of the Javy Báez-related stuff below, but also because I think Kris Bryant made a fair, half-joking point before last night’s Cubs-Rockies game to the huddled media around him (via the Tribune): “I enjoyed my time in Chicago, but I don’t know if it warrants a press conference every time I play them.”
There does have to be a point at which these guys become *mostly* just other players on other teams. (I can only go so far as mostly, though.)
The first Cubs visit to Colorado after Bryant signed a monster contract there – his first long-term deal – isn’t quite the time yet. Similarly, we haven’t quite had that same moment with Javy Báez, and thus he still captures my attention, either when he does some El Mago thing for the Tigers, or when this gets reported:
Javy Báez on the week that reshaped the Cubs' long-term plans:
"It was really, really close. More than anybody thinks."
— Cubs Talk (@NBCSCubs) April 15, 2022
Although Báez doesn’t explicitly refute the reporting on the numbers bandied about (Buster Olney reported eight years and $168 million, and that it was not accepted by Báez’s camp), he does say it didn’t quite get to the point where there was a firm and final number on the table for him to reject. Sometimes that’s a semantic thing so each side can correctly offer the version of events they want, but either way, it doesn’t seem from the tone that Báez’s main point was to refute the earlier reporting.
Instead, the focus seems to be about just how close things were to getting done with the Cubs. The way Báez lays it out, the sides were more or less going to get it done in Spring Training before the 2020 season – they were just five days away, according to Báez – and then the pandemic shut everything down.
By the time baseball came back, the uncertainty that pervaded everything meant the Cubs weren’t going to sign a huge deal like that, then Báez had a down short season, the offseason arrived with its cost-shedding, and that was that. More on the timeline, the other core departures, the 2021 trade deadline, and all that in Gordon Wittenmyer’s piece.
What might have been.
Báez was probably the former member of the “core” who would’ve made the most sense to extend long term, given the positional value, and he also may have been the biggest fan favorite, too, if you had to go down that route. Imagine a world where he gets extended, and all the butterfly wings … maybe the Cubs proceed last offseason very differently. Maybe they sell off very differently. Maybe they don’t target a guy like Nick Madrigal because they want Nico Hoerner at second base. Maybe they are more aggressive this past offseason to try to win immediately in 2022. On and on. Suffice to say, I suspect the roster looks very different today if that had happened.
There’s not much point in any of that now. Báez is happy with his decision to sign with the Detroit Tigers, and the Cubs have very clearly steered into a direction that will have them rolling the dice on contention this year, and more keenly focusing on 2023+. It’s interesting to know how close the sides got to a deal, but I don’t want to let it bring me down.
Hey, besides – Javy has an opt-out in his deal after 2023, so …