Among all the Cubs in the market for a contract extension, Javy Báez feels like one of the most likely to get something done. In addition to being valuable to the team both on and off the field, he doesn’t figure to command as much money as Kris Bryant and is represented by a relatively team-friendly agency. Then there’s the fact that his camp has actually been talking with the Cubs about a deal to keep him in Chicago for a few more years.
Little has been heard on that front since November, but Javy told Gordon Wittenmyer that talks are “progressing.” The shortstop offered no more specifics on the topic, but the apparent lack of movement and the Cubs’ unwillingness to spend any money makes you wonder if he’s just using a euphemism.
But hey, maybe the seemingly below-market $215 million deal Christian Yelich just inked with the Brewers could serve to hasten negotiations for Javy, Bryant, and others. The slugging outfielder finalized a deal that adds $188.5 million in new money over seven years beyond the $26.5 million he has remaining on the last two years of his existing contract. There’s also a $20 million mutual option for 2029 that comes with a $6.5 million buyout.
Yelich has the $12.5M and $14M years from his old deal for 2020 and 2021. Then 2022 to 2028 at $26 mil, then mutual option for 2029 at $20M with a $6.5M buyout. That is how it gets to $215M. Then it could be $228.5 with mutual option. #crew
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) March 5, 2020
Then again, maybe Yelich choosing to remain north of the Cheddar Curtain means absolutely nothing.
“It doesn’t have anything to do with mine,” Baez said. “I’m happy for him. Hopefully, we get mine done. We’re working on it.”
Javy is almost exactly a year younger than Yelich and plays a more premium position, all of which works in his favor when extrapolating future value. And even though his $10 million arbitration salary is $2.5 million less than what Yelich is earning, a big 2020 campaign could easily having him jumping past $14 million for next season. But do the Cubs go to that same $200 million-plus level and build around Javy or try to ink him to a lower deal that leaves more wiggle room for other extensions?
Something like eight years and $160 million starting next season might be enough to get it done. That’s only $20 million AAV, pretty reasonable for a superstar by today’s standards, and could make it possible to keep the band back together. Or some of the band, anyway, since no one believes the Cubs can retain all of their core players as they approach or reach free agency.
Bryant and Anthony Rizzo have both said they’d love to finish their careers in Chicago, but both have likewise acknowledged that life doesn’t always hand you exactly what you want.
“I can’t ever see myself playing somewhere else,” Rizzo recently told Paul Sullivan. “The reality is I have two years left, though potentially just this year. I’m just going to enjoy it with my friends and brothers, all the lifelong friendships I’ve made over the years.”
Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have maintained all along that that they’ve tried to work out deals with all of their key players, each time providing an explanation for their futility reads like a real-life shrug emoji. Perhaps Epstein’s recent talk about this season being World Series or bust was meant to spur a little extension action, or maybe it was just an attempt to get them to really #StrapItOn in 2020. We should find out by the end of July.
There’s still time to work something out this spring, whether it’s Báez or Bryant or someone else, but the start of the regular season could put an end to extension talks. Then you’re looking at next winter and spring to get something done one way for the other. No pressure at all, totally free from any measure of anxiety.