Javy Báez, Cubs Expected to Talk Extension During Winter Meetings

As first reported by Gordon Wittenmyer of the Sun-Times a little over a week ago, Javy Báez’s camp has begun negotiations on an extension with the Cubs. The extent to which those have actually progressed is unknown, though it now appears any real talks will take place a couple weeks from now at the Winter Meetings in San Diego.

According to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman, the two sides are expected to “see if an extension is possible.” While he goes on to characterize the potential deal as a “whopper,” there has never been a sense that negotiations with Javy would be quite as harrowing as they might be with other players of his magnitude.

Part of what drives that thought is that the MVP candidate’s projected arbitration salary of $9.3 million leaves plenty of leeway for a raise that helps Javy while keeping the Cubs’ obligations a little lower. The more arb years an extension buys out, and the lower the salary in question, the lower AAV a team can typically target. And with a base of roughly half what fellow star Kris Bryant could earn in 2020, Javy’s at an easier starting point for the Cubs.

There’s also the matter of representation, which in Javy’s case means the more extension-friendly Wasserman Media Group. That agency also represents Kyle Hendricks, who inked a new deal of his own just before the start of last season, and Nolan Arenado, whose monster extension with the Rockies last season may serve as something of a template for Bryant.

The 2019 Winter Meetings will take place from December 8-12 at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront, a slightly less interesting location than Las Vegas last season. Given the sluggishness with which each of last two offseasons have progressed, you can bet commissioner Rob Manfred is exhorting teams to be a little more aggressive this time around. But as we saw last year, that might mean locking up existing players before they can hit the market in subsequent years.

Heyman also tosses in that the Cubs “still need to figure out who from the core will be dealt,” a far more definitive statement about their plans than we’ve heard so far. Theo Epstein did say recently that the Cubs were “rapidly approaching” the time for difficult decisions, particularly if long-term deals can’t be struck, but it’s premature to act as though they need to move guys this winter.

An extension for Báez makes a lot of sense for the Cubs because it gives them a marquee star at shortstop, not to mention on Marquee network, but it also solidifies their financial strategy. While they may be unwilling to spend big on a free agent market fraught with risk, perhaps there are bigger pools of money when it comes to known commodities. It’s not a given that anything gets done in December, but the Cubs should be active one way or another over the next couple weeks.

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