In a recent conversation with ESPN’s Alex Rodriguez, Javy Báez uttered the phrase all Cubs fans want to hear from their favorite player(s): “I would love to stay here my entire career if it’s possible.”
Boom. Like a titanic blast traveling with 111.7 mph exit velocity from his lips to your ears.
Those words trumpeted loud and clear the same message Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant have echoed in previous months to the Cubs organization and fans: We love it here, we want to stay. Please pay us our money so we can make this happen.
So…what in tarnation are the Cubs waiting for?
As with those other cornerstones, the only real question isn’t whether the Cubs want to keep all of these guys — it’s whether they want to stretch themselves financially. With that being said, what kind of number would it legitimately take to buy out El Mago’s prime years, and would extending any of the young core prevent the team from signing others? Is this a who-signs-first kind of deal, or do the Cubs have a contingency plan to take care of everyone in the core if reasonable deals can be reached?
Let’s move forward with the idea that the Cubs can absolutely sign everyone they want to reasonable extensions. While this might not necessarily be the case (although I hope it is), it makes it easier to take each individual situation and player into account. With a slightly less-than-market-value extension to Rizzo seeming like a feasible accomplishment when the two sides want it, one has to assume Bryant is the only Cub who would/could command more than Báez, either in an extension or on the free-agent market (add Scott Boras to that Bryant deal, and well, he’s gonna get PAID).
With contracts coming off the books and the possibility of more money in the future with the Marquee Network in full swing, the hope is that this idea of being able to sign Bryant and whomever they want becomes a reality for Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer.
So, what would it take to extend a guy like Javy, who has blossomed in the past two seasons and is just now starting to realize the uber potential many knew he always possessed? At 26 years of age, he is making $5.2 million in his first season of arbitration and is currently set to enter the open market after the 2021 season. That coincides with Bryant’s (and others’) free agency, along with the end of the current CBA.
If we assume Báez would be open to an extension immediately, the Cubs could look to the recent signing of 28-year-old Nolan Arenado, who just happens to be a Wasserman Media Group client like El Mago. Know who else that agency reps? The recently-extended Kyle Hendricks. Or maybe a more apt comparison given their respective situations is 25-year-old Alex Bregman, who inked a five-year, $100 million extension with the Astros in advance of the season.
Arenado’s (26.3 career fWAR) eight-year, $260 million extension seems a bit high for Báez given that he doesn’t have quite the track record as the Rockies slugger. Bregman’s (13.9 career WAR) deal represents a more similar match in terms of age and track record, as well as potential going forward. Bregman is a year behind Báez (11.3 career WAR) on the arbitration clock, though, so the a similar deal for Javy would probably need to be a bit more.
Given the fact that Báez is more in line with the offensive and defensive prowess of someone like Arenado, but without the resumé to this point, maybe the Cubs start their negotiation in between the aforementioned infielders. Is a six-yer deal of $20-25 million per year something Báez would consider? Is this something the Cubs would offer? While I don’t think Javy is quite in that $30 million AAV stratosphere just yet, his talent and ability very well may be worth that number.
Then you add in his potential to “be a religion” and paying him making anything less than $25 million seems like a bargain for the Cubs. It would also give Báez some peace of mind and a guarantee of at least $100 million, if not $200 million, for the future.
This kind of deal would have been both prescient and cheaper a couple of years ago, but you can’t fault the Cubs for waiting to see what they had with a budding superstar. The thing is, if they don’t lock him up soon and he continues doing what he’s been doing, his price just keeps going up. A lot. Like back the Brinks trucks up kind of dinero.
Let’s just hope that Báez doesn’t want to go down the same road as Mookie Betts or countryman Francisco Lindor seem wont to do, and the Cubs can make this thing happen like a Báez tag at second — posthaste.