Cubs’ Javy Baez on extension impasse: ‘I’m just playing my game’
“I’m still the guy. I really don’t want to get my mindset that I’ve got to prove something to anyone. I think all 30 teams know what I can do,” Baez said.
Javy Baez will play shortstop for the Cubs for 158 more games as things stand between him and the team. And while both sides hope Baez will be in Chicago much longer, until he signs an extension, every day is another day closer to him hitting the open market.
It’s a good time to be a shortstop, and with what is on the horizon for potential free agents, the idea of being the next player in line for a monster contract has to be tantalizing.
On Monday, shortstop Francisco Lindor officially signed his 10-year, $341 million deal with the Mets. Lindor was set to be the best shortstop on the free-agent market next winter as part of a star-studded class, including Baez, Corey Seager, Trevor Story, Carlos Correa and Marcus Semien.
Unlike his friend and countryman Lindor, Baez wasn’t able to come to terms on an extension this spring, along with fellow impending Cubs free agents Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo. But Baez has realistic expectations for himself and the rest of the class.
“I think [Lindor] helps everybody,” Baez said. “I think he helps other free-agent shortstops. No one was going to get more than Lindor, and you’ve got to be honest about it. [But] he opens doors for other people.”
Baez is coming off the worst year of his career, slashing .203/.238/.360 with eight homers and a 57 wRC+. Baez said that he wasn’t going to let his poor 2020 define him and that he felt confident he could be the player who was the National League MVP runner-up in 2018.
“I’m still the guy. I really don’t want to get my mindset that I’ve got to prove something to anyone,” said Baez, who homered Monday against the Brewers. “I think all 30 teams know what I can do. I can be really good. I can do damage to the other team. So I’m relaxing. I’m playing my game.”
“Obviously, we weren’t able to reach extensions with this group during spring training,” team president Jed Hoyer said Wednesday. “But, as with Anthony, obviously, we have a lot of great players that are in contract years. Certainly, our hope is that we can have some of those players beyond 2021.”
The Cubs’ front office has a lot of tough decisions to make regarding the future of the core, but Hoyer said the team won’t let numbers from last season or the first few weeks of this season be the deciding factor.
“These guys have long track records, and how a guy’s hitting in April — positively or negatively — is not going to impact our perception of that player’s value,” Hoyer said.
The deal for Lindor notwithstanding, the cost for a starting shortstop figures to start at more than $20 million in average annual value. Correa reportedly turned down an offer from the Astros of $120 million over six years ($20 million AAV) during the spring, which might make that starting number closer to $25 million AAV.
Baez and his camp are willing to wait and let things play out. Unlike Rizzo, Baez hasn’t set a hard deadline for a deal.
“No [deadline], not right now,” Baez said. “I said we had one, but I’ll just let them talk with my agent. We’ll see what happens. They’re talking. I’m just playing my game.”