The 2021 Chicago Cubs and Javier Baez avoided arbitration and will remain with the club for the next season. The star infielder will receive $11.65 million for his efforts in the upcoming season, as the Cubs attempt to make the playoffs for the sixth time in seven years.
2021 Chicago Cubs: Javier Baez Impact
El Mago brings an entertainment level to the team and its games that will generate far more than his price tag in ticket sales, jerseys, and other merchandise. Before Baez, few ever uttered the phrase, “he is good at tagging.” The North Sider made fans realize the difference between just tagging a player out and making the extra effort to get it done. With Puerto Rico in the 2017 World Baseball Classic, Baez added an artistic element by pointing to catcher Yadier Molina to congratulate him on his assist before the throw landed in his glove and before the tag.
The Puerto Rican club proved so talented, entertaining, and successful that the island experienced a blonde hair dye shortage as fans sought to emulate their heroes’ hairstyle. Baez can produce similar levels of devotion among Chicagoans, and Jed Hoyer and company are wise to provide Baez what he has earned now in hopes of keeping him for many years to come.
Moreover, Baez’s slides are the stuff of legend. He famously stole home in the 2016 National League Championship Series, the first from a Cub in the postseason since Jimmy Slagle accomplished the feat in 1907. In regular season play, Baez’s twists and turns while running the bases are unparalleled among his contemporaries and almost so in the history of the game. His baserunning and contact hitting assists baseball in reaching its maximum potential as an entertaining pastime.
Baez Avoids Arbitration but with Potential Downside
Baez relies heavily on his raw athleticism and instincts for the game. That very reliance should give some fans pause as the all-star ages. With more years under his belt, the 27-year-old is likely to experience a decrease in his agility, hand-eye coordination, and other aspects of his physical game. Nevertheless, this age-based decline is likely a few seasons away.
Even aside from longevity concerns, Baez had a relatively dismal 2020. He slashed a measly .203/.238/.360 and posted a pitiful 0.1 wins above average and -11 runs batting. For the Cubs faithful, this hopefully can be attributed to the abbreviated season.
What to Hope for in 2021 as Baez Avoids Arbitration
The Chicago Cubs will play their 150th season of Major League Baseball in 2021. With Theo Epstein’s departure, the team seems to be entering a rebuilding phase. Yu Darvish and Victor Caratini have been traded, and the club is shopping for buyers for Kris Bryant. So Baez’s continued tenure in Wrigleyville is welcome and hopefully bodes well for his own future free agency.
Baez’s defensive wonders continued unabated in the COVID-19 campaign. He was rewarded with a Gold Glove in 2020. His 2019 season gathered 3.3 defensive wins above replacement, saved 27 runs, and sported a .973 fielding percentage at short.
Likewise, Baez’s offensive production in 2018 and 2019 was phenomenal. He averaged 32 home runs, six triples, 16 stolen bases, and a 122 adjusted on-base-plus-slugging percentage. With any luck, some hard work, and smart moves by manager David Ross, El Mago will return to form and post something closer to his average of 5.9 wins above replacement over those two magical seasons. Such a performance, or anywhere near it, will provide an entertaining product for Cubs fans even if the club suffers a declining record.
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