Cubs Insider

Why Lindor contract puts more pressure on Cubs than Báez

Cubs Insider

So much coin landed with such force in Francisco Lindor’s bank account from his employer that you could hear the impact all the way from New York to Chicago when Lindor’s $341 million deal with the Mets was announced Monday.

At least Javy Báez could hear it.

“Grateful” was the first word Báez used.

“I think it helps other free agent shortstops,” said the Cubs’ own pending free agent shortstop. “No one was going to get more than Lindor, and you’ve got to be honest about it. But I think it opens the door for a lot of people here.”

Whether Cubs ownership heard the same sound the same way might ultimately make the biggest difference in whether the most popular Cubs player is back next season.

And if the Ricketts family didn’t quite hear the coin drop in New York, nobody could miss the sound of Báez’s bat in Monday night’s fourth inning against the Brewers when he lined a homer into the right-field basket.

“I’m still the guy,” Báez said a few hours before that line shot off Brett Anderson when asked about showing people he’s still the two-time All-Star player who finished second in the 2018 MVP race.

“I really don’t want to get my mind set that I’ve got to prove something to anyone,” he said. “I think 30 teams know what I can do and when I’m on my [game] I can be really good and do a lot of damage to the other team.”

 

Lindor headed an historic class of five elite shortstops eligible for free agency after this season. The rest figure to command something below that ceiling and above the six-year, $120 million offer Houston’s Carlos Correa turned down.

Báez called his friend Lindor “the most complete shortstop” in the group.

Báez, the National League’s reigning All-Star starter and Gold Glove winner at the position, could make a case for being next on a list that also includes the Dodgers' Corey Seager and Colorado's Trevor Story.

“They know me by my defense. I’ve got to get better in my offense,” said Báez, who had a miserable year at the plate during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. “I’m one of the tops. I just will say that. Obviously, I care about being the best, but I just want to play my game and let everybody see it.”

Báez softened his original position about setting a deadline on talks and says he’s fine with his agent talking to the team while he focuses on playing.

He also said, “I’m counting on being here next year,” even though he’s only one of multiple core players in walk years the team has discussed extensions with.

And even though there are no indications a deal is close.

And, perhaps most important, even though team president Jed Hoyer might not have as much to say about it as some players might like. The perception in some of those camps is that he doesn’t have the resources to push much beyond team-friendly deals and could be hamstrung from reaching toward fast-rising market projections.

The fact is there’s a lot of money in the game, with Forbes’ latest franchise valuations — which often come in lower than sale prices — showing increases for all but the Rays (no change) ahead of the start of a new national TV deal.

The Cubs, for instance, ranked fourth at $3.36 billion — two spots ahead of the Mets ($2.45 billion).

And the Cubs annually ranked among the top three in revenues even before starting their own TV network last year — and before slashing player payroll and laying off over 100 other employees because of pandemic-related losses.

Whether Cubs owners are listening to all that Lindor Ka-ching, or hearing what Báez has to say on Zoom or with his bat on this night, Mets owner Steve Cohen offered one more message Monday that could be heard in Chicago all the way from New York.

“We’re going to be significant players for free agents down the road,” Cohen said, “and we’re going to act like a major-market club.”

Hard not to read that comment with extra emphasis around here.

Act. Like. A. Major. Market. Club.

The $341 million question — or even $170 million question? — is whether the Cubs are listening. And whether it results in anything beyond the sound of silence when it comes to Báez, or Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant.

 

“They don’t have to act the same [as the Mets],” Báez said. “They’ve both got a plan; they’ve got different plans; they’re different people.

“I know they want the best for their teams,” he added. “They want to build something that gives the possibility to bring a championship to the city. That’s what we’re here for. That’s what we play for.

“We’ll see how it goes.”

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