While almost all of the Cubs’ star players have been mentioned as speculative trade chips this offseason, Javier Baez has just about the one exception, as there has been more focus on the possibility that he will remain in Chicago over the long term. The Cubs and Baez’s representatives at Wasserman began talks about a multi-year extension back in November, and Baez provided something of an update to reporters (including Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times and ESPN.com’s Jesse Rogers) today, saying the negotiations had “been up and down” between the two sides.
“It’s business. It’s really tough,” Baez said. “I’ll let them work that out, and if it works, great. If not, we have another year.”
Most major extensions aren’t settled until Spring Training has already begun (i.e. last year’s flurry of multi-year deals around the sport), so it could be that the Baez talks still start to ramp up as we approach Opening Day. Most players prefer to have negotiations settled before the season begins to avoid distractions, and Baez didn’t entirely close the door on talks extending into the season. “It depends on my agency and how they want to do it. But I do want to be focused on baseball,” the shortstop said.
At the very least, Baez’s salary for the 2020 season has already been decided, as he and the Cubs avoided arbitration by agreeing to a $10MM deal. This was Baez’s second arb-eligible year, and he is schedule for one final trip through the arbitration process next winter before hitting free agency following the 2021 season. Teammate Kris Bryant, notably, is under the same amount of team control, though he has been the subject of multiple trade rumors due to both his higher salary ($18.6MM in 2020) and Cubs ownership’s desire to avoid luxury tax payments, as well as the perception that Bryant (who is represented by Scott Boras) will be harder to sign to a long-term deal.
Baez is also 11 months younger than Bryant and is one of the sport’s better defenders at a premium position, making him perhaps a more attractive option for an extension than Bryant just in pure baseball terms, as much as money is obviously clearly a major factor in the Cubs’ decision-making. From Baez’s perspective, “I wish and hope we both stay here. Obviously, we want to keep everyone here because we have pretty much the team that won [the 2016 World Series]. We’ve got a lot of talent, and pretty much everyone is close to the same age.”
That said, Baez noted that personnel decisions are “up to [the team], to be honest,” and “It’s the business side….We’ve got to understand that and keep moving forward.”
Despite all of the buzz surrounding the Cubs all winter, the team hasn’t created many ripples in terms of actual moves, as Chicago has spent little on MLB free agents while also not moving in the other direction and unloading a star player (i.e. Bryant, Willson Contreras, Kyle Schwarber, etc.) in order to free up payroll space. Extending Baez would help lessen the negativity that many Chicago fans have expressed about the team’s relative lack of action both this offseason and last, though it could also be the case that the Cubs still want to get one notable contract off the books before locking up Baez and expanding his current luxury tax number.