Javier Baez is one of the most talented — and popular — current Chicago Cubs players.
Per Gordon Wittenmyer in the Sun-Times, the Cubs and Javy are talking about having him stick around for a while:
The two-time All-Star shortstop and 2018 MVP runner-up already has begun negotiations on a potential long-term extension with the Cubs, according to sources. It’s the first big step in knowing what their financial landscape might look like not only for this winter but for planning their strategy for the next several years.
A deal is considered much more feasible to reach with Baez than with Kris Bryant, the team’s other high-profile superstar within two years of free agency. That doesn’t mean the Cubs will suddenly trade Bryant if they can’t reach an agreement with him — especially if they get agreeable terms with Baez.
How would such a deal be structured? David Kaplan wrote about one thought from a former MLB executive:
A former high-ranking MLB executive suggested a deal structure that pays Báez $10 million in 2020, $16 million in 2021, plus six additional years at an average annual value of $23 million. That would bring the total value of the contract to $164 million.
Add in two club options for an additional two seasons at $30 million each and it allows Báez to have the largest contract of all active shortstops in MLB. Total value of the deal: $224 million; guaranteed value of the deal: $164 million.
Personally, I think that’s too long a contract for someone with Javy’s skillset. Much as we love his diving for baseballs and head-first slides into bases (and one of those cost him the last month of 2019), these sorts of fast-twitch muscle movements are very likely to begin to decline once Baez passes age 30.
Javy will turn 27 next month. What I would suggest would be something along the lines of the proposal in Kaplan’s article, except instead of “six additional years at an average annual value of $23 million,” I’d make it four years at that figure, then add the two club options at $30 million each.
That would make it essentially a six-year, $118 million deal, or if the option years wind up being exercised, eight years and $178 million. Six years would be Javy’s age 27 through 32 seasons. At that point if he’s still performing at the level he is now, sure, go ahead and exercise the options. But I don’t think the Cubs should risk guaranteed money through age 34 for Baez.
They would also need to structure the contract so that it doesn’t affect the Cubs’ luxury-tax calculations for 2020. That would mean signing him to a one-year deal for 2020, then having the multi-year contract kick in for 2021. This is the way the longterm deals for Kyle Hendricks and David Bote were structured so that they didn’t affect the Cubs’ luxury-tax number for 2019; both those multiyear contracts will officially begin in 2020.
Regarding Bryant, also mentioned in Wittenmyer’s article:
Scott Boras said he is open to discussions on an extension for Kris Bryant . “ We have always said to them that has always been Kris’s philosophy with the team.” Boras said Bryant would expect fair market value in any deal agreed to.— Bruce Levine (@MLBBruceLevine) November 14, 2019
What “fair market value” is for KB is a debatable topic. Boras will likely make comparisons to the eight-year, $260 million extension Nolan Arenado signed with the Rockies last spring, but the fact is that Arenado is a better player than Bryant, both offensively and defensively. Since 2015, Bryant’s rookie year, Arenado has posted 30.9 bWAR to 25.1 for KB, and Arenado is probably the best defensive third baseman in the major leagues.
There’s also the matter of the grievance Bryant filed over service time. A decision on this grievance is expected soon, and if Bryant and the MLBPA win it, KB could become a free agent after 2020. My feeling — and this seems to be the consensus feeling around much of baseball — is that he won’t win it, and service time manipulation will become a major topic of discussion for the next collective-bargaining talks between players and owners.
Turning back to Baez, if the Cubs do sign him to any sort of long-term extension, it would certainly be seen as a sign that they want to extend the current window of contention.
Get it done, Theo.