Javy Báez, Who Was Almost a Cub for Life, Wants Cubs Fans to Know He Still Loves Them

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Javy Báez, Who Was Almost a Cub for Life, Wants Cubs Fans to Know He Still Loves Them

Chicago Cubs

Well, this is gonna be a tough one. I can tell you that already. The internet is not always the best place for nuance, especially about beloved former Cubs players, but that’s exactly what this post will be trying to balance ….

Javy Báez is in town this weekend as the Tigers take on the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field. The visit marks his first time back in Chicago since the Cubs traded him to the Mets last season, before he signed a six-year, $140 million deal with Detroit this winter. Naturally, he was a little emotional upon his return.

“Tell them I love them,” Baez said from Guaranteed Rate Field. “I feel the same way, as they always showed love to me. The Cub fans are incredible fans. Many other players come up to me and ask me how good are the fans in Chicago because they see them from the other side. It’s very special to be a Cub fan. This will always be home for me. I got a tattoo with the Cub logo (on my right arm). Winning for them is something nobody can take from you. It just was very special to be a part of the Cubs organization in the past.”

Well, first of all … I think I can speak for everyone when I say: We love you too, Javy. Not just for the ring, the near-MVP season, or all the highlights in-between, but for being one of the coolest, most electric baseball players this team has ever had.

When he was in Chicago, Báez played the game the way kids play backyard baseball. Constantly competitive. Maximum effort. Doing crazy things no one else even dreams of trying … and frequently making them work (like running back to home plate on a grounder to third base)! I was always so proud to be represented by Báez and his time in Chicago really was special.

It was also almost much longer.

According to Bruce Levine, Javy Báez thought he was going to be a Cub for life, especially when “the Cubs extended a contract offer to him that exceeded $180 million,” back in 2019. That offer was eventually scuttled by the pandemic season and never really got picked back up.

“I know we were really close at one point,” Baez lamented of his extension conversations with the Cubs that continued into spring 2020. “But everything that happened around the world with the pandemic changed everything for everybody.”

And now we’ll require some nuance. And some honesty about our thinking at that time, and our thinking today.

If the Cubs had inked Báez to a $180M+ near the end of the 2019 season, I would have applauded it a thousand times over.

2018 (age 25): .290/.326/.554 (131 wRC+); 6.1 WAR
2019 (age 26): .281/.316/.531 (112 wRC+); 5.8 WAR

In 2018, Báez was an All-Star, the NL MVP runner up, and a Silver Slugger, who finished with the 10th most WAR in MLB. In 2019, Báez was again an All-Star who finished with the 16th most WAR in MLB. The Cubs may have been struggling throughout this era (stupid Brewers), but Báez was on top of his game and still looking forward to his prime. Point there being, a deal worth north of $180 million would’ve been understandable. And I would’ve celebrated it.

But, with hindsight, maybe the Cubs are fortunate they didn’t make that deal.

Even if we excuse his career-worst performance in the pandemic season (55 wRC+), Báez hasn’t been the guy he was in 2018-2019. Not yet anyway. And this season, his first with the Tigers (age 29), he’s slashing just .211/.249/.366 (71 wRC+); 0.4 WAR. The defense has rated as mixed this year, and it definitely hasn’t worked out offensively. And the first years of these big deals are supposed to be the best.

But it’s not just about Báez and what he’s not. It’s also about what’s happened in his absence.

Don’t forget, the Cubs traded Báez for one of their clear top prospects, Pete Crow-Armstrong, who’s playing in the Futures Game this year as he rockets up top-100 lists. On top of that, in Báez’s absence, the Cubs were able to hand the shortstop keys over to Nico Hoerner, who has been an absolute stud on both sides of the ball. He looks like a true building block for the future.

And if the Cubs also manage to turn some of those dollars that weren’t committed to Báez into Carlos Correa or Xander Bogaerts or Trea Turner or Dansby Swanson this offseason, we could be looking at a Cubs organization in a better place next year (PCA + Hoerner certainty + FA shortstop) than we would have otherwise.

So I’m not celebrating the fact that Javy Báez never became a Cub for life – I would’ve been happy about it at the time – but I am saying it has arguably worked out better for the Cubs so far. And in a way, that kind of stinks, because I still miss being able to watch El Mago playing for the Cubs. That has value, too.

More from Báez, who loves us all, right here at 670 The Score.

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Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami