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Cubs free agent target: Javier Báez

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Yes, I’m telling you there’s a chance.

Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images

Javier Báez. Javy, Javy, Javy.

Well, there’s one thing for sure. If the Cubs do want him back after trading him to the Mets at the deadline, they know exactly what they are getting: A passionate player who plays (mostly) outstanding defense, hits for power, strikes out a ton and can make moves on the basepaths like no one else.

After a terrible pandemic season, Báez got off to a slow start in 2021 with the Cubs. On June 22 — oddly, just about the time the Cubs were beginning their epic collapse — Javy was hitting .229/.270/.463 (55-for-240). He had 16 home runs at that point, but also 97 strikeouts.

Over his last 26 games with the Cubs, Javy hit much better — .302/.358/.542 (29-for-96) — with six home runs. He struck out 34 times in 106 PA over that span, a bit better rate, and he continued similarly with the Mets, batting .299/.371/.515 (50-for-167) there with nine home runs.

Overall, then, from June 24 through season’s end Báez hit .298/.362/.523 (78-for-262) with 15 home runs in 72 games. That’s very, very close to about half a season, comparable to his 2018 season when he hit .290/.326/.554 (176-for-601) with 34 home runs and finished second in MVP voting.

This is a longwinded way of asking the question: Could Javy sustain that sort of performance for, say, four or five more years? And if Jed Hoyer & Co. think so, would they be willing to bring him back?

Báez turns 29 next month. The thing I’d be concerned about in signing him to a five-year deal is that the fast-twitch muscles that allow him to do things like his swim moves on the basepaths are likely to start moving just a bit slower as he enters his 30s. Could he make up for that in other areas like power or ... plate discipline, as this SNY article hinted?

I had to laugh when I saw that headline. Báez has six-plus years in the big leagues and over 3,000 plate appearances and Mets fans think his plate discipline is going to improve? C’mon now. He is who he is — you’re going to have to live with the strikeouts if you want the rest of Javy.

I don’t think Javy’s friendship with Francisco Lindor will have any impact on where he signs. Like everyone else in baseball, Báez knows it’s a business. His presence in New York and playing with Lindor for two months didn’t move the needle for the Mets making the postseason. They were 22-38 after the deal — 16 games under .500, coincidentally the exact number of games below break-even the Cubs were after all the trades (21-37).

The question Jed Hoyer & Co. will have to ask regarding bringing Javy back, beyond the inevitable decline of skills that every player faces, is: Will he move the needle toward contention in 2022, 2023 and beyond? If he can hit at his Mets level, which is his 2018 level, I’d say yes.

It will not be cheap. Báez made $11.6 million in 2021 and will probably be seeking somewhere in the range of five years and $125 million. I don’t think he gets that. The Mets aren’t going to do that — why would they? He didn’t help them in 2021, why would paying him more help them?

The Cubs probably don’t have to offer quite that much either. Four years, $88 million with a fifth-year option for $25 million and a $6 million buyout.

Who says no?

And if he doesn’t return to Chicago, we will always have this [VIDEO].

Poll

Javier Báez...

This poll is closed

  • 30%
    ... the Cubs should sign him to a deal like the one in the article
    (587 votes)
  • 8%
    ... the Cubs should sign him, but it will cost more in years or dollars or both
    (161 votes)
  • 44%
    ... too much, been there done that, pass
    (862 votes)
  • 16%
    Something else (leave in comments)
    (321 votes)
1931 votes total Vote Now