When the Chicago Cubs made the decision to trade the likes of Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, and Anthony Rizzo at the Major League Baseball trade deadline this past season, there was an idea at the time that the Cubs may look to bring back at least one of the three in the off-season as they all will be free agents this winter.
While the Cubs have not provided a clear answer on when they plan on contending again, simple logistics would suggest that the Cubs have to make at least one splash this winter in order to attract fans’ attention for the 2022 regular season.
There is no question that the fans will flock to Wrigley Field but they will also need to generate views for the Marquee Network. The Marquee Network is still very much in its infancy stages and if the Cubs truly want to turn that into one of their primary revenue sources, they will need to ensure that fans are watching the games on television.
Despite the fun stories of Frank Schwindel and Patrick Wisdom having “breakout seasons” in their rookie year at the age of 30, they are not going to drive fans to watch 162 games of Cubs’ baseball on The Marquee Network. That would be the reason why the Cubs probably will have at least one splash signing and it could be in the form of bringing back one of Baez, Bryant, or Rizzo.
Given the checkered history between Bryant and the Cubs’ front office, chances are the 2016 National League MVP will not be returning to the Cubs’ organization this off-season. Rizzo is a left-handed power bat that the Cubs could certainly use in their lineup again.
However, in their efforts of building the next championship core, an aging first baseman with back issues should not be high on the priority list. Baez, at the age of 28, makes the most sense of the three as the Cubs will have a need at the shortstop position this season.
The return of Javier Baez to the Chicago Cubs would reignite the fan base.
It would appear that there is already smoke to the idea that Baez will be returning to the Cubs’ this off-season. While reviewing the free-agent class on his podcast, MLB insider Jon Heyman mentioned that he believes the Cubs will be getting Baez back this off-season.
In what has been widely reported, Heyman confirmed that the Cubs and Baez were close on an extension prior to the start of the pandemic and the two could return to that framework this winter.
While Cubs’ fans have grown to love Baez and the theatrics that come with having him as the team’s starting shortstop, Baez learned during the second half of the season that life outside of Chicago is different.
After being traded to the New York Mets at the trade deadline, Baez drew the ire of Mets’ fans during the month of August after it was discovered that the shortstop was among a group of Mets’ players that would stick their thumbs down towards Mets’ fans as a form of celebration to mock fans.
Returning to the comfort of Wrigley Field may certainly be the right call for Baez. His 2021 season was a tale of two halves. In the first half of the 2021 season, Baez had a .241/.289/.495/.784 clip and his wRC+ of 104, per FanGraphs, would suggest that his value was 4 runs more than the average position player. In the second half, Baez had a .299/.359/.493/.852 clip with a 133 wRC+.
Baez returning would certainly bring much-needed stability at the shortstop position for the Cubs as well as in the lineup. The move would also open up flexibility for the Cubs with what they can with Nico Hoerner. Baez at shortstop would allow the Cubs to use Hoerner in center field with the assumption that Nick Madrigal will be the team’s second baseman.
The return of Baez would certainly reignite interest in the Chicago Cubs’ product and that would be an important sign for the success of The Marquee Network moving forward.