Cubs shortstop Javy Báez doesn’t know any more than anyone else where baseball’s economics and player salary markets are headed in the next year or two as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But the two-time All-Star expressed no regret about not accepting a club offer during negotiations on a long-term extension over the winter and said he felt no “rush” to resume talks in the uncertain climate.
Báez, the 2018 MVP runner-up who is eligible for free agency after next season, had expressed optimism that talks were “progressing” in March before the pandemic shut down sports — and all extension talks.
“It’s been really difficult with all this happening right now,” said Báez, whose family all stayed healthy through baseball’s shutdown and who looks in good shape after working out during that time with brother-in-law Jose Berrios, the Twins pitcher.
“We have really good communication and relationship between me and the owners and obviously my agent,” Báez added. “I think when this [is in the] past, I think we’re going to talk and stay in touch and see what happens from here on, and with the season.”
Teammate Kris Bryant, long considered a sure thing to test the open market after the 2021 season, said Monday the pandemic and first-time fatherhood has made him rethink things that are important to him — including, potentially, the Cubs and what it might take to stay with them.
But predicting where payroll budgets, industry revenues and consequently player markets will be even two or three years from now is all but impossible during a pandemic with no end in sight.
All of which could render many players and teams’ best intentions moot for now.
“This is without question the most difficult time we’ve ever had as far as projecting those things,” Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said this week.
Báez, who has a 2020 salary of $10 million (prorated for the shortened season), was the primary focus of the front office much of the winter as it tried to lock him up as a part of the next contending core it envisioned.
He said he has bigger things to worry about now as the team tries to stay disciplined and committed to pulling off a 60-game season.
“Obviously, everybody wants to get paid, but we’ve got to wait for the right time,” he said, “and both sides are going to see and know what’s right for each other. I’m not in a rush. I’m worried right now about getting back on the field and playing regular games and trying to win in this season that is going to be so weird.
“Obviously with this happening right now it’s going to change everything. It already changed 2020; it’s going to change the next two years I think.”
Báez said the decision to play was not really difficult and he didn’t consider opting out.
“I feel like everybody’s dealing with the same thing,” said Báez, who among other things keeps his free agency timeline intact by playing and being credited with a full season of service time for 2020. “Some of them have got contracts; some of them don’t.
“I’ve got one year [more] I’m going to be in arbitration. We’ll see. They know me. I’m pretty sure every team knows me and knows what I can do. I’m not in a rush. We’ll just see what happens this season and how it goes for me and with this 60 games and be ready for next season.