With the MLB GM Meetings now over, the Cubs will turn their attention to seeing how their fact-finding mission will influence their offseason makeover of the entire organization.
As Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reported on Friday, the Cubs and Báez's camp have begun negotiating a long-term contract extension. While many have speculated that Báez could command a massive salary that would rank among the top of MLB in terms of the total value, the Cubs do have some leverage. Báez still has two more years of club control, which should help to suppress the contract's total value.
Put yourself in Báez's shoes. If the Cubs offered you a six-year deal, would you do it? If you say yes, you have lifetime security for you and generations of the Báez family. However, you could be leaving money on the table because you would never reach free agency in the prime of your career.
Rejecting an offer of that size means you would have to perform at a level among the best players in all of baseball for two more seasons, and you would have to avoid serious injury as well. Báez plays with a flair and a passion that also puts his body in harm's way on a daily basis.
Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts, 27, is two months older than Báez and the highest paid shortstop in baseball at $20 million per season. He signed a six-year, $120 million contract in 2019, which runs through the 2026 season.
Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor - who was selected No. 8 overall in the 2011 MLB Draft, one spot before Báez - will also be a free agent after the 2021 season. He made $10.55 million in 2019 and is projected to make $16.7 million in 2020.
Báez is projected to make $9.3 million.
So, would Báez accept a deal that would protect him against injury and set him up with lifetime security, knowing that with two more seasons before free agency he would potentially leave significant money on the table?
There could be three elite shortstops on the free agent market after the 2021 season: Báez, Lindor and Trevor Story of the Rockies. This may affect what each guy could make on the open market and what they might be willing to accept in a deal now.
Add in the fact that there will be a new MLB collective bargaining agreement by the time those three stars hit the market, and there should be some impetus for them to get a deal done now. Multiple MLB front office sources expect Lindor to be dealt before he reaches free agency and some of those same sources believe Story could be traded before then as well.
What about a deal that helps the Cubs achieve payroll flexibility in 2020 and 2021 and locks Báez in long-term?
A former high-ranking MLB executive suggested a deal structure that pays Báez $10 million in 2020, $16 million in 2021, plus six additional years at an average annual value of $23 million. That would bring the total value of the contract to $164 million.
Add in two club options for an additional two seasons at $30 million each and it allows Báez to have the largest contract of all active shortstops in MLB. Total value of the deal: $224 million; guaranteed value of the deal: $164 million.
A deal structured like that gives the Cubs certainty with one of their most talented and marketable players and protects Báez from serious injury for the rest of his career.
Would he sign a deal structured like that? I know I would. There is no greater feeling in the world than long-term financial security. A deal structured like this is a win-win for both sides.
If the Cubs won't give Báez a deal in this ballpark, then they have to think about moving him now. You can't allow a player of his magnitude to reach free agency and you absolutely cannot lose him to another team. He is on a potential Hall of Fame track and he is one of the most charismatic players in all of professional sports.
This deal has to get done.
If the Cubs can sign Báez for less than the aforementioned deal, then they should consider themselves very lucky.
Either way, get a deal done. Javy Báez has to be priority No. 1.