Cubs

Cubs: After tough season, Javier Baez expects big things in 2016

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Cubs: After tough season, Javier Baez expects big things in 2016

Heading into a pivotal offseason, there might not be a Cubs player surrounded by as much uncertainty as Javier Baez.

Will he be traded for pitching this winter? What position will he play next season? Will the adjustments he made in 2015 stick? Will he make the Opening Day roster?

At this point, even the Cubs don't have all those answers. Not after a roller-coaster season for Baez, who will turn 23 in December.

After failing to make the team out of spring training, and then dealing with the death of his sister in early April, and then missing roughly six weeks with a broken finger, Baez didn't make it back to the big leagues until rosters expanded on Sept. 1.

[RELATED - Unfinished business: Epstein built Cubs into World Series contender in Year 4]

But he was right in the middle of a playoff run and wound up starting each game of the National League Championship Series at shortstop with Addison Russell (strained hamstring) sidelined.

"It's been a tough year for me and, obviously, my family," Baez said. "As a team, we didn't give up until the last pitch and the 27th out. I'm just proud of my teammates for the year that they gave to the fans.

"Obviously, I wasn't here the whole year, so I couldn't say much about the things they went through. But I'm just proud of my teammates and ready to come (back) next year and do the same thing."

Baez began his postseason career with four hits in his first five at-bats, including a big two-out, three-run homer off John Lackey in the divisional-round clincher against the St. Louis Cardinals.

But Baez collected just one hit in 10 NLCS at-bats and committed two errors at shortstop in the playoffs.

Baez admitted as the series with the New York Mets wore on, the Cubs became frustrated with how many balls they hit hard, but right at defenders. That being said, he's stoked to put the playoff experience to good use.

[MORE - Cubs facing another big decision with Starlin Castro this offseason]

"For me, [it was all about learning to handle] the pressure," Baez said. "Usually, there's a lot of pressure when you're in the playoffs.

"This team, we didn't play with the pressure on us. We just didn't do the little things that we had to do to get some runs. The [Mets] pitchers just had four straight good games and we couldn't respond to them.

"I didn't play with pressure. Obviously, I made a couple errors, but you learn from those. You learn from everything you do. Next year, I'm pretty sure it will be easier for us."

Baez impressed manager Joe Maddon from Day 1 in spring training with his infield defense, swagger, speed and baseball intelligence. He wound up playing all four infield positions in the big leagues, getting in at least 12 games at second, third and shortstop including the playoffs.

But there's also been whispers of the Cubs being open to giving Baez a look in the outfield, given all the young talent already established in an infield that includes Russell, likely NL Rookie of the Year Kris Bryant, MVP candidate Anthony Rizzo and the resurgent Starlin Castro.

"The overriding policy is the more versatility, the better," president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said, pointing out how much success Maddon had in 2015 by moving players - rookies and veterans - all over the field.

Baez has said in the past that he's open to testing the outfield waters if the organization asked him to. And it's a pretty safe bet he won't be spending a lot of time checking out the Cubs page on MLB Trade Rumors this winter.

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The former top prospect is just ready to get back out on the field with a young core hoping to take the next step.

"For sure, this is [just the beginning]," Baez said. "We got a young team that has a lot of talent. Every one of us knows what we can do.

"We didn't ever give up because we know what we can do. We didn't do it this year, but we just gotta come back next year and do the same thing."

Reds pitcher Amir Garrett apparently held a grudge against Javy Baez for a year

Reds pitcher Amir Garrett apparently held a grudge against Javy Baez for a year

Baseball players don't forget grudges. Javy Baez and Reds pitcher Amir Garrett gave an example of that on Saturday.

Garrett struck out Baez in the seventh inning of the first game of the Cubs-Reds doubleheader. Garrett showed some excitement with the strikeout and then said something to Baez. They both started jawing at each other and suddenly the benches cleared.

At first glance, it looked like Garrett was a bit too excited to get a strikeout with no one on base. Turns out Baez had his own bit of swag for Garrett last year (Friday was the one-year anniversary) in the form of a grand slam at Wrigley Field.

This time Garrett got Baez and wanted to even things up a bit.

Things didn't get too feisty despite the benches clearing, but Anthony Rizzo did rush to Baez's side at some speed. This could be a matchup to keep an eye out for in the future.

Cubs Talk Podcast: The greatest Cubs moments at Great American Ballpark

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: The greatest Cubs moments at Great American Ballpark

Siera Santos, Kelly Crull, and David DeJesus go into the audio archives to break down the biggest games for the Cubs in Cincinnati.

David DeJesus gives us his top 3 ballgames with such gems as The Schwarber Game, The Kris Bryant Game, Starlin Castro’s debut, and Jake Arrieta’s second no hitter.

Listen to the full Cubs Talk Podcast right here: