Because Kris Bryant often takes an unfair share of criticism for the Cubs’ offensive woes, a lot of the team’s more casual fans took a blind eyes to the struggles of shortstop Javier Báez this season. Part of that may be Báez’s defensive prowess and his penchant for doing otherworldly things on the basepaths, but magic aside, El Mago had his worst offensive campaign since his rookie season.
"Don't bemoan who you don't have, glorify who you do." – Joe Maddon
Ok. A reminder: the Cubs have Javier Báez, and he does things like this. pic.twitter.com/CDDUFDhchK
— Cubs Insider (@realcubsinsider) February 28, 2019
In many ways, 2020 was almost a carbon copy of Javy’s first season.
- 2014: 213 AB, 9 HR, 20 RBI, 69 TB, 5 SB, 52 OPS+
- 2020: 222 AB, 8 HR, 24 RBI, 80 TB, 3 SB, 59 OPS+
The shortstop struck out less in 2020 than he did in 2014, but he walked less, too. The stinger here is that he made the league minimum his rookie season while earning the prorated portion of his $10 million salary in 2020. Like Bryant and Kyle Schwarber, Báez is entering his final year of arbitration.
As the season neared its dismal end, Báez was statistically the league’s worst hitter.
There’s no denying that this season was somewhat of a head-scratcher for most of his teammates, but on the surface it seemed so unexpected for the Cubs’ all-star shortstop. However, it’s fair to be concerned that 2020 was, in fact, the continuation of downward trend by Báez.
The good news is that Javy will only be 28 next season, he continues to provide amazing defense, and he still has a knack for coming up big in key moments. I expect El Mago to play the 2021 season with a big chip on his shoulder while recapturing some of the swag that makes him one of the game’s most exciting players. He’s only two seasons removed from a near-MVP campaign, plus he will be playing for his next contract. It wasn’t pretty this year, but look for a huge rebound in 2021.
- Final Stats: .203/.238/.360, 8 HR, 57 wRC+, 0.0 fWAR
- Final Grade: D-
Cubs News & Notes
- The Cubs laid off over 100 employees, with roughly half being part of the baseball operations team. That also means a tightening of the belt when it comes to player acquisitions and contract extensions will likely follow.
- Folks who were let go included some names that are familiar from their playing days, such as Bob Tewksbury, John Koronka, Keith Lockhart and Matt Murton.
- Schwarber could be expendable if the Cubs decide to field a more athletic team in 2021.
- Jason Heyward continues to lead the team both on and off the field, but still carries a hefty contract and is unlikely to be moved this winter.
- Jeremy Jeffress has been named a finalist for Reliever of the Year.
- The Cubs and a handful of other teams are interested in Cuban prospect Luis Pino, but the Rays and Athletics are said to be the favorites to land the talented outfielder.
- Former Cubs Mark Prior and Brant Brown are coaching for the Dodgers. If you regularly follow this column you know of my affinity for Brown as a potential hitting coach with Chicago.
Odds & Sods
— MLB Trade Rumors (@mlbtraderumors) October 21, 2020
Rays manager Kevin Cash almost never lets his pitchers go through an opposing lineup for a third time. He wavered last night, leaving Tyler Glasnow in with Tampa Bay trailing Los Angeles 2-1 in the 5th inning, and the Dodgers made hm pay for that indiscretion. Cash probably kicked himself for what happened next:
- Mookie Betts walked and stole second;
- Corey Seager walked and stole second, with Betts stealing third on a Justin Turner strikeout;
- Betts scored when Max Muncy hit into a fielder’s choice;
- Will Smith singled home Seager, and Cash finally relieved his young starter with his team down 6-1. Glasnow tossed 112 pitches in 4.1 innings of work, a career high and the most for a Rays starter all season.
“It felt like [Glasnow] was the best guy to get a strikeout with,” said Cash of leaving his starter in with two on and one out in the fifth.
In the meantime, Clayton Kershaw, who has often been left in too long by Dodgers manager Dave Roberts during playoff games, allowed just two hits with eight strikeouts over six innings of work. Kershaw earned the win and LA took the first game of the series, with rookie Tony Gonsolin going Wednesday in an effort to take game two. The Rays will counter with Blake Snell.
How About That!
The Dodgers stole three bases in the 5th inning against Glasnow, the first time since 1912 that a team stole three bases in the same inning of a World Series game.
It’s almost a miracle that baseball was able to pull of a 60-game season, expanded playoffs, and a World Series while COVID-19 cases are reaching record levels.
Rob Manfred hopes MLB’s new extra-inning rule, which places a runner on second base to begin every half-inning after the 9th, will continue next year and beyond. Manfred is all for keeping expanded playoffs, too.
Though it’s not considered a trial run, baseball could elect to go to a neutral-site World Series in the future. If Scott Boras has a say, he’d be in favor of continuing this year’s format because he feels the Fall Classic deserves greater pageantry.
The league and team owners have a plan in place that provides a path for fans to attend games sometime in 2021.
David Ortiz, who is working as an analyst for FOX during the World Series, is still baffled that the Red Sox traded Betts instead of trying to extend his contract.
A’s pitcher Chris Bassitt is calling on MLB to “get real” in regard to reliever award nominations.
How could you not become a fan of the greatest game ever if this is what you grew up with?
— OldTimeHardball (@OleTimeHardball) October 21, 2020
They Said It
- “I hope I never leave this city in my whole career, but anything can happen. Hopefully I stay here my whole career. I love the fans, the dedication that they got for this team, and the other teams in the other sports for Chicago.” – Javier Báez
- “I’m not worried about that [contract extensions for the core]. This life will take care of itself. Everything will take care of itself the way it’s supposed to. I’ll just leave it at that.” – Anthony Rizzo
Wednesday Walk Up Song
Learning to Fly by Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – I’m not worried about Javy. Are you?