Chicago Cubs avoided a mistake with missed Javier Baez extension

When the Chicago Cubs took a wrecking ball to their entire core at the Major League Baseball trade deadline last season, there was some surprise that shortstop Javier Baez was included in the fire sale as he was the one player that many thought the Cubs would be able to reach an agreement on a long-term deal with.

Instead, the Cubs traded Baez to the New York Mets along with veteran pitcher Trevor Williams in exchange for top outfield prospect Pete Crow-Armstrong. Armstrong has ascended towards the top of the Cubs’ prospect rankings while Baez is now on his second team since being traded by the Cubs last July.

Baez is currently with the Detroit Tigers and is playing baseball in Chicago this weekend for the first time since his trade from the Cubs. While speaking with reporters on Thursday, Baez reflected on just how close he was to signing a long-term contract extension.

“I know we were really close at some point, but then everything happened around the world with the pandemic,” Báez said. “It changed everything for everybody. It’s not judgment for that. I’m happy, and everything happened for a reason.”

By most accounts, Baez was indeed close to signing an extension with the Cubs after the 2019 season and it is believed that the Cubs’ offer was more lucrative than the six-year, $140 million contract that the veteran shortstop signed with the Tigers this past season.

For as much as Baez is loved by the Cubs’ fan base, there is no question that the team avoided a major mistake with Baez never signing the offered deal.

Baez has struggled with the Tigers this season as he is currently hitting .211/.249/.366/.615 this season with only 8 home runs. Baez’s 71 wRC+ and 0.4 fWAR also highlight how much he has struggled offensively for the Tigers this season.

The Chicago Cubs’ inability to sign Javier Baez was actually amazing for them.

Meanwhile, for the Cubs, not having Baez at the shortstop position has led to a breakout season from Nico Hoerner. Hoerner is hitting .301/.339/.410/.749 and has emerged as one of the best defensive shortstops in all of baseball.

With a FanGraphs defensive rating of 9.7 and recording 9 outs above average, Hoerner is tops in Major League Baseball at the shortstop position.

At the age of 25 and under team control until 2026, Hoerner could be the piece in which the next Cubs’ core is built around.

Looking beyond Hoerner, Crow-Armstrong has thrived in the Cubs’ farm system since being acquired by the team from the Mets in the Baez trade. Crow-Armstrong hit .354/.443/.557/1.000 in 38 games with the Cubs low-A affiliate this season before being promoted to the team’s high-A affiliate.

The praise for Crow-Armstrong continued this week as he was named to the MLB Futures Game that will kickoff All-Star week for Major League Baseball on July 16.