MESA, Ariz. — Christian Yelich’s $188.5 million contract extension with the Brewers reportedly became official Thursday about the same time the White Sox got a $70 million extension done with infielder Yoan Moncada.
Is Javy Baez next?
Baez, the Cubs’ shortstop, said Thursday that ongoing talks between his representatives and the Cubs are “progressing,” but he didn’t know how close they might be — which might suggest relatively slow “progress.”
Sports media pundits jumped on reports of the below-market Yelich deal this week to wonder how it might impact third baseman Kris Bryant’s willingness to sign an extension with the Cubs before becoming a free agent after next season — or before he’s traded in the interim.
But if the Yelich deal were to influence any Cubs extensions, it would more likely influence those where the parties are actually engaged in talks — especially in what has become a yearlong, historic trend of extensions leaguewide.
“It doesn’t have anything to do with mine,” Baez said. “I’m happy for [Yelich]. Hopefully, we get mine done. We’re working on it.”
Yelich, who beat out Baez for the 2018 National League MVP award, was under club control through 2022 before the extension because of a long-term contract he signed with the Marlins before a trade to the Brewers. Baez can become a free agent after 2021.
Any comparison between the two is less about service time and market value than it is about Yelich’s situation being an example for a similar-level, MVP-caliber talent.
But Baez was quick to dismiss such influence, even as he continues to say he wants to play his entire career with the Cubs.
A year ago, the Cubs and pitcher Kyle Hendricks got an extension done. Whether they can do it with Baez this time around — or eventually Kyle Schwarber or Willson Contreras — will say the most about where this team goes next. And how fast.
Asked how the Yelich deal might impact the Cubs’ efforts to extend their own players, team president Theo Epstein demurred.
“I’m not making any predictions or really talking about it,” he said. “We’ve tried really hard to sign a lot of our guys. With few exceptions, we haven’t been able to get it done. It’s not worth talking about. If we can get it done, we will. If we can’t, then we’ll move forward. But players don’t have an obligation to sign.
“All we can do is make offers, make our intentions known, and then see if we can get something done.”
Asked if the Cubs were still engaged in talks that might lead to at least one extension, Epstein said — as he did in January — “Yes and no.”
If it’s more no than yes, it could be long year or two for a team whose core is aging into expensive, final arbitration years over the next two years.
And the other way to look at the flurry of extensions over the last 12 months for the likes of Yelich, Mike Trout, Nolan Arenado and Alex Bregman is that none of them will be free agents when the Cubs’ core starts reaching free agency.
Bryant, who said he was “super happy” for Yelich, said he expects Baez to get his big multi-year deal, too — along with other Cubs.
“It’s going to happen for a lot of people in this room eventually,” Bryant said. “Nobody can see the future. You don’t know if it’ll be here or wherever. I certainly think all of us would like it to be here.
“But Theo said it before: You can’t keep every single person here. That’s the harsh reality of the game. And it stinks, but we’ve just got to make the most of what we’ve got while we have it.”