Well... not "now" as in rightthisfreakingminute, because Javier Baez is still on the Triple-A Iowa disabled list, nursing a minor ankle injury.
But "now" as in "as soon as he's healthy and has played a couple of games at Iowa to show us." Before you jump all over me, let me at least lay out my case.
Javier Baez is the most exciting prospect in the Cubs system. Some of you might quibble with that, going with Kris Bryant or Albert Almora, but I think the majority is with me. Baez hits home runs of cartoonish length, looks like he'll be at least competent at whatever position he winds up at, and most importantly, generates excitement with every at-bat he takes. Even his outs are hard-hit balls; he broke a car window in spring training with a home run that probably traveled close to 500 feet, hit the scoreboard with a spring blast at Peoria (I had never seen that before)... need I go on?
The excitement. That's what this franchise needs, in addition to a better offense and a few more wins.
I think Baez can provide that. It's clear this organization doesn't see Darwin Barney as part of its future; therefore, trade him (if they can trade Scott Hairston for a decent prospect, they surely can do that with Barney, who has value as a utility player) and install Baez at second base and Mike Olt at third. Emilio Bonifacio could be moved to "super-sub," starting several days a week at several different positions.
I know, I know. "He's not ready." "He's not hitting at Iowa." "They'll lose a year of team control."
One by one:
- Not ready? By whose definition? A rigid stance of "x many at-bats at each level"? Maybe it's time to break that rigid mold and try something different. Rick Renteria is supposed to be an excellent manager for player development. Wouldn't you rather have Baez get instruction from a guy like that, and a major-league batting coach, than their Triple-A counterparts? (This is not to disparage Triple-A coaches, only to say that big-league coaching could be better.)
- Not hitting at Iowa. Sure, in 26 at-bats. Small. Sample. Size. Baez has about as many minor-league plate appeareances (944) as Manny Machado did (928) when the Orioles called him up in 2012 -- into a pennant race. And Baez's minor-league numbers (.282/.338/.557) are better than Machado's were (.263/.344/.432) at the time of his callup.
- The year of team control. Just so I make myself clear: I. Don't. Care. What difference does something that will happen six years from now mean? Where is this team even going to be, standings-wise, or money-wise, or anything-wise, in 2020? I don't know, you don't know, Theo Epstein doesn't know, Tom Ricketts doesn't know. If Baez is as good as we all think he can be, then you buy out his arb years and the first year or two of free agency, like all the cool teams are doing. That would put such a deal through Baez being 29 or 30 -- even if you then have to pay a bit extra, you'd still be getting his (theoretically) best years at a discount.
This team needs a spark. Something to energize it. Everyone on the Cubs noted what Baez could do when they saw him play during spring training this year (and last year, too, when he hit the longest home run I have ever seen at HoHoKam Park, clearing the scoreboard and going six cars deep into the parking lot).
This team needs Javier Baez. Put him at second base and put Mike Olt at third and let them play through some growing pains. At least we'd be seeing the future of the team, the "core" being formed, before our eyes at Wrigley Field, instead of via box scores from Des Moines.
You might disagree with my take. That's certainly not unreasonable. Vote in the poll, and let me hear your thoughts in the comments.