Chicago Cubs value Javier Baez but that doesn’t mean he will remain a Cub

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As the Chicago Cubs continue to look to make moves this offseason, will there be room for Javier Baez to remain a Chicago Cub?

Value can take several forms in professional sports. Do the Chicago Cubs value infielder Javier Baez because they think he can help them moving forward on the field, or does his value instead come from the potential return he could provide in a trade? This question will determine if he survives the 2015-2016 offseason with his status as a member of the Chicago Cubs intact.

During his second MLB stint in 2015, Baez slashed .289/.325/.408 and hit one home run in 80 plate appearances. He showed flashes of brilliance on defense where he split time between shortstop and second base while fielding third base occasionally as well.

His tremendous athleticism gives him some upside defensively and the dynamic power that he gets on his swing gives him possible star power moving forward. President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein understands just how valuable Baez could be, either as a trade chip or a contributor on this team in the future (author refers to RF Jorge Soler as well in quote).

"We value those guys tremendously. There’s tremendous value holding onto the Baezs and Solers of the world and letting their talent manifest over a full major league season. They’re guys who have the opportunity to play a major league season over six months. We’re invested in both guys. We’re listening. If the right deal were to come along, we’d pay a little closer attention. But certainly both guys are important parts of our future, and we look forward to them continuing to establish themselves. —-Quote obtained by Chicago Tribune reporter Mark Gonzales"

As the Cubs add players via free agency and through trades, their roster continues to get more and more crowded. Javier Baez may get lost in the shuffle.

The addition of outfielder Jason Heyward on Friday afternoon further complicates things for Javier Baez. ESPN reporter Jerry Crasnick reported on Friday that the Chicago Cubs signed Heyward to a 8-year, $184 million contract. The St. Louis Cardinals and Washington Nationals were also major players in the bidding for Heyward.

Oct 12, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; St. Louis Cardinals left fielder

Matt Holliday

(7) celebrates with St. Louis Cardinals right fielder

Jason Heyward

(22) after hitting a home run during the sixth inning against the Chicago Cubs in game three of the NLDS at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Last week, ESPN writer Jesse Rogers reported that Baez will play center field during winter league play. This was before the Chicago Cubs signed Heyward. With all the new additions, Baez may get lost in the shuffle.

More from Da Windy City

He doesn’t get to play his natural shortstop position because of Addison Russell. On Tuesday, the infield became even more crowded when the Cubs added former Kansas City Royals utility man Ben Zobrist to the mix. The signing of Jason Heyward makes playing time at any position even more scarce.

Baez’s career trajectory could take three potential routes.

1. Trade chip for young pitching

Last week, the Chicago Cubs added veteran starter John Lackey to their rotation via free agency. Although this was a good move, they need more pitching. Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester and Lackey present a formidable top thee but beyond that things get a little more suspect. Kyle Hendricks has shown promise, but lacks the dominating stuff to have a high ceiling. Veteran right-hander Jason Hammel was awful during the second half of last season and in the playoffs and his career looks like it is on a downward trajectory. The Cubs need to shore up the back-end of their rotation with young, cost-controlled arms. The Atlanta Braves, San Diego Padres and Cleveland Indians all have been in trade talks of this nature with the Chicago Cubs. Including Baez in a potential trade package could give the Cubs the edge they need to secure a deal and add another arm to their starting rotation.

2. Right Field

Instead of center field, Javier Baez could potentially play right field. The Chicago Cubs have included incumbent right fielder Jorge Soler in a number of trade talks. If they want to add another starting rotation arm, they probably will need to sacrifice young talent and Soler could be that guy. Baez shouldn’t abandon his winter league outfield work just yet.

3. Backup second baseman

Javier Baez can start on many Major League ball clubs. If the Cubs keep him on the roster as a backup infielder, that would only strengthen their already impressive depth. President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein has already begun to envision a scenario where Baez would play second base when new acquisition Ben Zobrist has to play left field to spell youngster Kyle Schwarber.

"And then going forward, long-term, this will give more opportunity for Javier Baez as well with Zobrist’s flexibility and ability to play all over the field. I think you look at the corner outfield and a lot of days we’ll have Kyle Schwarber out there, who is just learning the position, and (right fielder) Jorge Soler, who hasn’t quite managed to play the 162 games (but will be spelled on occasion by Chris Coghlan). So I think Zobrist protects us all over the infield as well as the outfield.—-Quote obtained by Chicago Tribune writer Mark Gonzales"

Next: Cubs sign Jason Heyward

In order to get what they need (another rotational arm), sacrifices need to be made. There are still a number of quality free agent arms out there, so a trade isn’t an inevitability. Although the Chicago Cubs value Javier Baez, he may still get traded. It is tough because of his potential for stardom. But, if President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein and General Manager Jed Hoyer believe that a trade involving Baez will help the Cubs take the next step towards winning a World Series Championship expect them to pull the trigger.