The Chicago Cubs were rumored to have an extension planned for shortstop Javier Baez this offseason that never happened, but the Cubs star isn’t worried.
The 2020 season felt like the first time Cubs President Theo Epstein had put a greater focus on the teams’ future instead of the present. First, by allowing veteran manager Joe Maddon to walk at the end of the 2019 season, replacing him with Cubs’ World Series hero David Ross.
The Cubs also put work in revamping their player development and scouting departments after failing to develop one front-end starting pitcher since Epstein took over in 2011. And on top of the organizational changes, due to financial constraints, the Cubs were rumored to be discussing trade options for players like Kris Bryant and Willson Contreras.
And while the Cubs still have plenty of talent to compete with the best teams in that National League, the window for the Cubs core group of players is closing. With Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Kyle Schwarber, and Javier Baez all set to hit free agency after the 2021 season, along with Willson Contreras who becomes a free agent in 2022, the Cubs are being forced to decide who they want to keep long-term.
According to Chicago Sun-Times writer Gordon Wittenmyer back in November, the Cubs had engaged with Javier Baez in long-term contract talks. Per Wittenmyer, the Cubs believing a extension was more likely with Baez than with Bryant, who was in the midst of a grievance case with the Cubs for service time manipulation.
Since then, the Cubs and Baez haven’t made much real traction before the season was suspended in March due to COVID. However, despite talks stalling out for the moment, Baez told Patrick Mooney of The Athletic, he isn’t concerned.
Chris Emma of 670 The Score reported that Baez still “remains hopeful” a deal can get done at the right time.
The 27-year-old Baez enjoyed a breakout 2018 season that saw him finish second in the NL MVP voting behind Christian Yelich, hitting a career-high 34 home runs with a .881 OPS. He followed up his excellent 2018 season with 29 home runs and a .847 OPS last year, despite playing in 22 fewer games. His 9.7 WAR over the last two seasons ranks sixth among all MLB shortstops, per FanGraphs.
Hopefully, once baseball has a better grasp on the 2020 season, the Cubs can start to evaluate their financial situation and re-engage Baez about their future together. Until then, Baez and the rest of the Cubs remain focused on staying healthy and safe in a strange baseball season.