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Javier Báez is about to sign with the Tigers, and thoughts about expanded playoffs

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The former Cub is apparently heading for the Motor City.

Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images

A flurry of big free-agent signings happened on Sunday and Monday, in advance of what appears to be a MLB lockout coming after the CBA expires at 10:59 p.m. Wednesday, and late Monday one player quite familiar to us was reportedly added to that list:

To sum up my reaction: As you know, there was an eight-year deal being discussed between Javier Báez and the Cubs in March 2020 when the pandemic shut everything down. Had the pandemic not interfered, I suspect that deal would have been signed and the history of our favorite team over the last two years would be quite different. This deal with the Tigers appears to have a higher AAV (about $23.33 million a year) than that eight-year Cubs deal had (about $20 million).

I have already written an appreciation article about Javy and I don’t have anything really to add to that. If a six-year term for this deal is correct, it will take Báez through his age-34 season. Thoughts that he might have “improved” his plate discipline over his two months with the Mets because of a handful of extra walks (most of them issued by Cardinals pitching, who were second-worst in MLB in walks in 2021) are probably wishful thinking.

I wish Javy well in Detroit, presuming this deal does go through. Since the Cubs just played AL Central teams in 2021, barring any extremely unlikely Cubs/Tigers World Series matchup in the interim, Báez wouldn’t return to Wrigley Field until at least 2024.

Next, I wanted to clarify the statement I made yesterday about the offseason “not being a competition.” Of course teams compete for the services of free-agent players. Granted and stipulated. What I was trying to say — and did so badly, apparently — that the teeth-gnashing I see every time another team signs a free agent and the Cubs don’t is counterproductive, in my view. The only FA off the board at this time who I really felt fit the Cubs well is Jon Gray. There are still plenty of players out there who could help the Cubs out in 2022 and beyond. Let’s hope they sign a couple of them. I have repeatedly written — here’s one example — that the Cubs need to spend in 2022. They should have somewhere around $90 million, at least, to shell out beyond commitments they already have.

I’ll wait until the offseason is over — whenever that is — to make a judgment on how the Cubs did, not after two days of a spending spree where many teams haven’t signed anyone.

With MLB likely headed for a lockout shutdown Thursday, this comment about that spending spree seems cogent:

The players might well have the upper hand here. Stay tuned.

One of the things that’s going to be up for discussion in negotiations between players and owners is expanded playoffs. Yesterday, ESPN.com’s Jesse Rogers posted this article laying out some details on how such a system might work:

The format would call for 14 teams — seven from each league — to make the playoffs, four more than currently play in the postseason. The three division winners in each league would be joined by four wild-card teams to make up the playoff field. Here’s how it would work:

• The team with the best record in each league would get a bye into the best-of-five division series.

• The remaining two division winners would get to pick their wild-card opponent from the bottom three wild-card teams. The division winner with the second-best record would pick first, then the No. 3 seed in the league would pick its opponent from the final two wild-card teams. The wild-card team with the best record would play the wild-card team that wasn’t picked by a division winner.

• Once matchups are set, the higher-seeded teams would host all three games in a best-of-three wild-card round.

• Winners in the wild-card round would advance to the division series and the playoffs would continue as they have in the past.

As Rogers goes on to point out, one concern with this setup is a long layoff for the team that gets the bye. Most likely, if a system like this is instituted, tiebreaker games would no longer be played and ties would be broken as they are in the NFL and other sports, by combinations of regular-season records. But it would still mean that the bye teams would likely get at least four days off. In some cases (2018 Cubs!) that might help the team by giving extra rest; in others it could shut down momentum.

A system like this might also give a team with a losing record — and make no mistake, a system like this will give us some in the postseason — a way to get hot quickly, in a best-of-three set, to knock off (say) a 100-win ballclub. It’s not enough to just have the better team play all three games at home (the Cubs had that in 2020 against the Marlins, for all the good it did). Not sure what other sorts of advantages the better team should have, but do we really want (say) a 78-84 team in the World Series?

Just a thought. Expanded playoffs are coming because owners want the bigger money they’d provide (ESPN, for example, has already contracted to televise that new round, if it happens). At least they ought to try to make them the best they can be.

Rogers’ article also contains this information about a draft lottery proposal:

The league is offering a system where all non-playoff teams would have a chance at the No. 1 pick — not just the team with the worst record. The worst team would still have better odds than the second-worst team, and so on and so forth, but in theory, any non-playoff team could end up with a top-three pick.

The lottery would only be for picks No. 1 through No. 3, then the draft would continue as it has in the past, based on regular-season record. The playoff teams would pick according to how they finished in the postseason. The World Series winner would pick last.

It’s an interesting idea, but needs to be fleshed out.

Lastly, today at 7 p.m. CT is the deadline for teams to tender 2022 contracts to their arbitration-eligible players not already under long-term deals. Willson Contreras and Ian Happ are the only two arb-eligible Cubs and of course they’ll both be tendered, but there are others on the 40-man roster possibly on non-tender watch, including Michael Hermosillo, Jason Adam, Brad Wieck and Sergio Alcántara.

This is your one-stop shop for transaction news and commentary today. If the Cubs sign anyone, make a trade or announce their non-tenders, there will be a separate article here.