Javier Báez and Anthony Rizzo are very different players on the field and it appears the disparity in their approaches extends to contract talks as well. Rizzo doubled down on the mandate he issued earlier in the spring, saying Tuesday he sees no reason to listen to what the Cubs have to say at this point. Báez, on the other hand, remains perfectly content to leave the door open while his play does the talking.
He was pretty soft-spoken in that regard last season, posting 0.0 fWAR and only avoiding negative impact on the merit of his Gold Glove. While some players don’t want the distraction of a new deal clouding their mind once the real games start, Javy knows it’s his reps who are doing the talking.
Ah, but what about the monster deal Francisco Lindor just signed with the Mets? Some believed seeing his buddy land $341 million over 10 years, the richest deal ever for a shortstop, would have Javy seeing huge numbers of his own.
“It helps everybody,” Báez told members of the media prior to Monday’s game. “It helps other free-agent shortstops. No one was going to get more than Lindor, and you got to be honest about it. He opens the door for a lot of people.”
So does that mean he’s angling for $339 million to land just short of Fernando Tatis Jr. and what had been the record for a few weeks? Doubtful. The pending shortstop market is still very deep even with its biggest star locked up and Javy’s game simply isn’t on par with Lindor or Tatis, even with the latter having so little experience.
At the same time, Javy is somewhat similar to Rizzo in that he brings value to the Cubs that can’t be measured simply by a stat line. He is imminently marketable and gives the organization broader appeal to the more diverse market MLB is trying so desperately — and so ham-handedly — to reach. Simply put, Javy is cool in a way the Cubs as a franchise really aren’t.
Now it’s just a matter of settling on a value that takes into account both his play and his draw, something he doesn’t seem all that worried about.
“I want to get better in my game every day,” Báez said, per Patrick Mooney of The Athletic. “I’m counting (on being) here next year, so I got no pressure on that. We’ll see what happens. They’re talking and I’ll leave that up to them.”
As vague as that all is, it’s a least slightly more promising than what we heard from Rizzo Tuesday. Even so, it’s getting to the point where not even Cubs fans can be confident in waiting till next year.