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An update on Javier Báez, Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and other former Cubs

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You’ll be able to see a lot of your old favorites in the postseason.

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Here is a list of all the former Cubs who are eligible for this year’s postseason, including those traded away or who departed as free agents before the 2021 season (note, only players who actually played for the MLB Cubs are included, not players who only played in the Cubs minor league system such as Daniel Vogelbach):

Giants: Kris Bryant, Tommy La Stella
Brewers: Brett Anderson
Braves: Jesse Chavez, Joc Pederson, Jorge Soler
Cardinals: Jon Lester
White Sox: Billy Hamilton, Craig Kimbrel, Ryan Tepera
Astros: Brooks Raley
Yankees: Aroldis Chapman, Anthony Rizzo
Red Sox: Kyle Schwarber

The Dodgers and Rays have no former Cubs. DJ LeMahieu, a former Cub now on the Yankees, has a sports hernia that will require surgery and he’s likely out for the postseason. Also, not all of the players listed will necessarily be on postseason rosters, which have not been announced at the time of this post.

Since the Yankees and Red Sox will face each other in the AL Wild Card game, between Rizzo and Schwarber, one will be one-and-done, the other will head to the division series against the Rays.

Cubs traded at the deadline who missed the postseason: Javier Báez, Andrew Chafin, Jake Marisnick and Trevor Williams.

Here’s a quick overview of some of the key former Cubs and how they did this year.

Javier Báez

Javy hit .248/.292/.484 with 22 home runs in 92 games for the Cubs. After a slow start, an IL stint and the “booing the fans” kerfuffle in New York, he wound up hitting pretty well for the Mets: .299/.371/.515 with nine home runs in 47 games and 167 at-bats for the Mets. His overall 2021 OPS of .813 is above his career .783 mark.

It seems possible Báez might be of interest to Jed Hoyer and his crew to re-sign. I’d make it only 50/50 he stays in New York. It just doesn’t seem a good fit for him there, not with the current Mets front office in place, anyway.

Kris Bryant

KB hit .267/.358/.503 with 18 home runs in 93 games for the Cubs. His Giants tenure was slightly worse: .262/.344/.444 with seven home runs in 51 games (187 at-bats). He actually played almost as many games at third base for the Giants (26) as he did for the Cubs (29).

I can see Bryant signing with the Giants. They have payroll room, he seems to be a good fit there, and if this is meaningful to him, SF is a lot closer to his offseason home in Las Vegas than Chicago is.

Jon Lester

If only the Cubs could have faced Lester all year, maybe they’d have had a winning record:

Lester vs. Cubs: three starts, 15⅓ innings, 7.04 ERA, 1.891 WHIP, 4 HR
Lester vs. all other teams: 25 starts, 156⅓ innings, 3.57 ERA, 1.191 WHIP, 21 HR

And that’s one start against the Cubs pre-selloff, two post-selloff. Apart from those three starts, Lester was a perfectly competent MLB starter this year.

There’s no guarantee he pitches again. There’s been talk he will retire; he won’t be on the Cardinals’ wild card game roster and might not even pitch in the division series if St. Louis makes it that far.

Seriously, congrats to Jon on his 200th career win, thanks for the three games against the Cubs (the Cubs won two of them) and if this is it for him, all the best in retirement.

Anthony Rizzo

Rizzo’s numbers were more or less the same in Chicago and New York:

Cubs: 92 games, 376 PA, .248/.346/.446, 14 home runs
Yankees: 49 games, 200 PA, .249/.340/.428, 8 home runs

While I would have loved to see Rizzo finish his career in a Cubs uniform, it seems eminently clear that his performance levels have declined over the last two years. He posted a .775 OPS in 2020-21, compared to .862 in 2019. I had long thought Rizzo had what Bill James used to call “old player skills,” meaning good plate discipline and power, things that don’t usually decline much with age. But Rizzo’s power has declined, and his pre-2020 OBP of .373 has dropped to .343 over the last two seasons.

Could he stay in New York? Maybe; they’re probably the only team that can meet his price. I doubt anyone else would pay the reported five-year, $70 million deal that Rizzo supposedly rejected from the Cubs just before Opening Day 2021.

Whatever happens, we will always have this:

Kyle Schwarber

Schwarber had the best year of his career, including an amazing 16 home runs in a 19-game stretch from June 12-30.

With Nationals: 72 games, .253/.340/.570, 25 home runs
With Red Sox: 41 games, .291/.435/.522, 7 home runs

Overall Kyle hit .266/.374/.554 in 113 games and 471 PA with 32 home runs, the year we had always hoped he’d have with the Cubs. He also played some first base with Boston, which is intriguing. Could the Cubs possibly sign him back and play him there? If the universal DH is instituted, this is an even more interesting option.

Schwarber has a $11.5 mutual option for 2022, with a $3 million buyout. The Red Sox will almost certainly buy him out and make him a free agent. I wouldn’t mind seeing Schwarber back in blue pinstripes.

I’ll continue to run these every Monday during the postseason as long as there are former Cubs active. Interestingly, the two teams who met in last year’s World Series — and might meet there again — are the only two 2021 postseason teams without a former Cub.