Apr 19, 2021

Javy Baez's gamble on himself is backfiring

Javy Baez's gamble on himself is backfiring

Good morning, frents!

On this fine Monday morning, I make this promise to you: If anyone offers me $180 million for this humble little Chicago sports newsletter, I will immediately take it and buy beers for everyone here.

You will then never hear from me again.

Sunday's results
Braves 13, Cubs 4
Sox 3, Red Sox 2
Sox 5, Red Sox 1

Today's schedule
Sox at Red Sox (10 am, NBCSCH)
Bulls at Celtics (6:30, NBCSCH+)
Hawks at Preds (7, NBCSCH)
Cubs off

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Javy Baez is losing his bet

At least Javy Baez's Sunday ended on a relatively positive note?

The Cubs shortstop laced a two-out RBI double off the left field wall in the eighth inning of a nationally televised 13-4 loss to the Braves. The hit didn't mean much, but it was better than another walk back to the team's dugout after yet another strikeout.

And it was certainly better than the talk spurred by Buster Olney's report earlier in the day that Baez turned down a contract offer "in the range of $180 million" before the 2020 season.

But who am I kidding? The story that Baez and his team bet heavily on himself isn't going anywhere — particularly as long as he remains decidedly on the losing end.

Part of it isn't his fault, of course. The reported negotiations took place before the onset of a worldwide pandemic that cratered the sport's revenues and inspired his team's ownership to suddenly adopt a particularly dedicated brand of fiscal austerity. Baez could have been hitting like his 2018 MVP-level self since baseball's return last summer and he still might not have seen an offer that big again.

But he's not hitting like his 2018 self, which is why so much of this L hangs on his shoulders.

Baez's struggles during the unusual 2020 season are well documented and it was written all spring that maybe those numbers could just be written off as bad circumstance.

That has not proven to be the case as Baez has turned in one of the most concerning performances for the Cubs the first two and half weeks of this season. (Kyle Hendricks, who became just the ninth pitcher in MLB history to surrender four homers in the first inning, is in the conversation. So is Joc Pederson, though we'll get to them another day.)

Through 15 games, Baez is hitting just .214/.267/.464. He's struck out a major-league leading 27 times and walked just once. Baez's K/BB rate has steadily shrunk his entire career, but that's ridiculous even for him.

Is the pressure of earning a new deal getting to him? Is it something else? I assume he won't strike out 44 percent of the time for an entire season, but it didn't get any better after two whiffs on Sunday Night Baseball.

A fan favorite for his entire career here, it's hard to see Baez in this position, even if all of us will readily wonder how you could say no to $180 million. Two years out from free agency, he thought he could get more and it has backfired spectacularly.

Now on the brink of actually needing that new contract, Baez's slow start might make it easier for Cubs fans to say goodbye if a divorce is coming.

At the same time, it will make it much harder for Baez when the shortstop market is scheduled to include Carlos Correa, Trevor Story and Corey Seager. No one is ever going to break the bank to sign a glove-first shortstop who can't take a pitch.  

Today: Baez and the 6-9 Cubs have a day off before the Mets arrive at Wrigley for a three-game series.

Talking the '86 Cubs Topps set

David Brown and I did a fun back-and-forth about the 1986 Cubs and their baseball cards for a paid members perk that loyal reader Matt emailed to say "was worth the price of the subscription alone." (Sidenote: Thanks Matt!)

Get a little preview here or just join our little happy crew to get some more great content and support Midway Minute at the same time.

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News and results

Final: Sox 3, Red Sox 2 | Sox 5, Red Sox 1

Tim Anderson homering on the first pitch of a doubleheader turned out to be a good omen for the Sox on Sunday. The two seven-inning victories drew the team back to .500 after a dispiriting loss in the series opener on Saturday.

  • Yermin Mercedes yerminated another baseball, two days after enjoying the snowout at Fenway.
  • Michael Kopech started Game 2, striking out four in three perfect innings to begin the game. Given Dylan Cease's early struggles, will it be long before we see Kopech starting?
  • Lance Lynn landed on the 10-day IL with a strained right trap, but it's not expected to be a lengthy stay.
  • Today: Lucas Giolito (1-0, 2.55 ERA) gets the ball against Nathan Eovaldi (2-1, 2.08) in today's early Patriots Day start. A win puts the Sox over .500 for the first time this year.

It's now or never for the Hawks

The Hawks kick off a mini-playoff series against the Predators tonight with one game in Nashville before returning for two at the UC later this week. The Hawks trail the Preds by two points in the Central and have played one fewer game.

(The Stars, in turn, are just one point behind the Hawks with two fewer games played and four games against Detroit coming up.)

I don't get the sense that Chicago fans are particularly thirsting for a playoff appearance this season and their listless performances against Nashville earlier this season are a big reason why. The Hawks haven't defeated the Predators in five previous tries this year.

  1. When will the Cubs have prospects ready to help in Chicago? Cubs Inside
  2. Luis Medina breaks down the Bears' signing of WR Marquise Goodwin over the weekend. Bleacher Nation
  3. New Comiskey turned 30 on Sunday and somehow I'm still referring to it as new Comiskey. Tribune
  4. Here's some cool footage of old Comiskey Park the afternoon that Apollo 11 landed on the moon. Which begs the question: Who passed up watching history to go to a baseball game that day? YouTube
  5. A South Side restaurant has introduced the "Yerminator" burger and it looks worthy of the name. Chicago Food Magazine


Kevin Kaduk
Kevin Kaduk
Kevin is the founder of Midway Minute.

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