The Chicago Cubs have important decisions to make on three big-name players, and here’s what they should do with each guy.
The Chicago Cubs have started the season 6-9 (entering Tuesday), which isn’t too surprising considering an offseason plan to reduce payroll that really didn’t get fully done. The offense has been especially punch-less, “led” by a major league low .192 team batting average.
The Cubs are moving toward becoming a seller between now and the trade deadline. Anyone with short time left on their contract, high value, or both may be gone.
Third baseman Kris Bryant, shortstop Javier Baez and first baseman Anthony Rizzo are on expiring contracts. Trade rumors have surrounded Bryant for the last couple offseasons, but his performance hasn’t brought the expected level of interest. Baez is set to join a loaded free agent class of shortstops next winter, and Rizzo may or may not be interested in finishing his career elsewhere.
So what should the Cubs do with three prominent remaining pieces of their 2016 World Series-winning core? Let’s consider what they should do with each–re-sign him, trade him or let him go?
Bryant lost his service time grievance against the Cubs early in 2020, which set up this year to be his final year before free agency. He’s making $19.5 million this season, as he and the team avoided arbitration.
Bryant is off to a pretty good start this year, with a .265/.362/.653 slash-line (1.015 OPS, 177 OPS+), five home runs and 10 RBI. After struggling in 2020, due to injury or otherwise, the former NL Rookie of the Year and league MVP seems to be back toward his previous form. Now might be the time for the Cubs to strike.
Verdict: Trade him
Baez hasn’t put up a big slash-line in the early going this season, but he has hit four home runs and driven in 12 while also stealing five bases. A call to have him hit higher in the lineup hasn’t yet been heeded, but a .214 batting average doesn’t exactly scream for a premium lineup spot just yet.
The Cubs reportedly offered Baez a multi-year contract in the $160-$170 million range in the spring of 2020, with no indication of exactly how many years the offer was. He won’t get a deal like Francisco Lindor got from the Mets (10 years, $341 million), but the price of shortstop poker has gone up. Will it be too high for the payroll-weary Cubs?
Cubs did make multiyear offer to Javy Baez in spring of 2020 as @Buster_ESPN reported. Offer was in $160M to $170M range. While Baez has struggled since he does have 4 HR and 5 SB and has track record. Will get hot at some point. Still has decent chance to beat that as free agent
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) April 19, 2021
Baez has said he’s willing to negotiate during the season. It’s unclear if the Cubs have or plan to come with another long-term offer, but it’s getting close to a point of no return.
Verdict: Re-sign him during the season, or let him go
Once the details of the Cubs five-year, $70 million offer came to light, it was no surprise Rizzo cut off contract extension talks at Opening Day. He was looking for a deal in the $100 million range, presumably over the same five years, and the Cubs didn’t get close.
Rizzo has a five-game hitting streak entering Tuesday, with a two-homer game Sunday night, as he looks to turn around a slow start. He still has power from the left side (11 home runs in 58 games last year), but his days of hitting in the .270-.290 range might be over.
The Cubs seem ready to let Rizzo go for nothing after the season, unless they can find a trade that suits them between now and the deadline.
Verdict: Let him go