Unpopular opinion: The Cubs should make a trade with the Tigers and reunite with Javier Báez.
The Cubs are in the market for a shortstop. So far, two big-name shortstops on the free-agent market have signed (Trea Turner, Xander Bogaerts) and two remain (Dansby Swanson and Carlos Correa). The Cubs have been linked to both Swanson and Correa, but as of now, no action.
Would it be worth exploring a reunion with Báez? Before you outright say “no,” let’s at least look at the possibility.
Javy had a pretty bad year for the Tigers in 2022, after signing a six-year, $140 million deal with them last offseason. While he had a decent bWAR figure of 2.5, his .671 OPS was his lowest since his rookie year in 2014, except for the pandemic season in 2020, and here’s more about that.
It’s often been said about Báez that he feeds off the energy of the crowds in the ballpark, and that could have been one of the reasons for his poor 2020 performance. His manager at the time thought so:
“I would say him as much as anybody,” Cubs manager David Ross said of the impact. “He is one of the most exciting players in the game, and it feels like he feeds off the energy of the fans and people and the moment. He seems to rise to the occasion, whether it’s a crazy slide or a big hit or a nice tag or the way he runs the bases - he can create havoc.
“I think the fans bring a lot of that to him. And that could be something that is affecting his game.”
I tend to agree with Ross. Báez rebounded in 2021 and hit .265/.319/.494 with 31 home runs and played well both with the Cubs and Mets, after he was dealt to New York at the trading deadline.
But in Detroit? Expectations were, of course, sky-high after that big-dollar deal, and Báez’ performance for a 96-loss Tigers team probably couldn’t have been worse. Tigers fans never warmed up to him, and I think you can imagine he couldn’t get real excited in front of Comerica Park crowds that averaged just 19,214, a figure that averaged 22nd in MLB. The Tigers haven’t sold two million tickets in a season since 2017.
Cubs fans, on the other hand, still adore Javy. His 4.6 bWAR 2021 season wasn’t too far off the years that the four shortstops who hit free agency this winter posted in 2022. And his age is comparable. Birth dates:
Xander Bogaerts: October 1, 1992
Javier Báez: December 1, 1992
Trea Turner: June 30, 1993
Dansby Swanson: February 11, 1994
Carlos Correa: September 22, 1994
A year ago, Báez was being compared favorably with the other four, and got himself a large contract. The Tigers are a long way from contention and would probably love to dump that contract. If the Cubs took all of the remaining money — five years, $120 million, an AAV of $24 million — they probably wouldn’t have to give Detroit more than a face-saving A-ball lottery ticket. But what if the Tigers ate part of the deal? Say, for example, a quarter of it? That would leave the Cubs paying $90 million for five years, an AAV of $18 million, and they’d probably have to send a somewhat better prospect or two in return.
Personally, I still think the Cubs should spend the money on Dansby Swanson; if it costs eight years and $200 million, so be it. That’s an AAV of $25 million and the Cubs have Jason Heyward’s $22 million coming off the books after this year. They can afford Swanson.
But if they can’t... well, maybe this is a crazy idea and the Cubs shouldn’t even think about it.
Or maybe it just might work.
This poll is closed
... the Cubs should trade for him and take on the entire contract
... the Cubs should trade for him, but ask the Tigers to eat part of the contract
... the Cubs should not trade for him
Something else (leave in comments)