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Trade rumors are swirling around the current core of the Chicago Cubs, as Anthony Rizzo, Javier Báez, and Kris Bryant are all free agents at the end of this season. With the Cubs being nine games back in the division, it may be a good time for them to trade one or more of their core to prepare for the future.
Javier Báez has been trying to rebound from a down year in 2020, when he hit .203/.328/.360. 2020 was the worst season of his career, dating back to his first season in 2014. While he’s been going a little better this season, his .242/.286/.487 is still not up to his two all-star seasons of 2018 and 2019. So if Javier Báez is traded, what can that team expect from him going forward?
Báez has been having a down year for his standards. But historically he’s never been a player who walks frequently, and he strikes out a lot. This season his walk rate and strikeout rate are 4% (bottom 4% in the league) and 37% respectively.
In terms of quality of contact, he gets above average exit velocity and has the highest barrel rate of his career this season at 14%. That being said, he also hits a lot of ground balls at 47% of the time this season.
In terms of surface stat progression (AVG/OBP/SLG), unless he changes his approach I think Báez will maintain the same kind of numbers that he’s already put up this season. One reason why I think this is because his surface stats are actually outperforming his expected stats, despite his good quality of contact.
While the difference between his actual and expected stats is not significant enough to say there will be further regression, I do find it concerning how far away these numbers are from his two all-star seasons.
Another reason why we might not see progression from Báez is that he is having trouble making contact in-zone this season. He is only making contact on in-zone pitches 68% of the time. This is 15% less frequent than league average.
Báez is only 28 years old, he has plenty of time left in his career. However, unless he considers making an adjustment to his plate approach I’m not sure he’ll be able to get back to his all-star offensive performance.
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On a more positive note, there is no cause for alarm in Báez’s defensive ability. Báez has always been and remains a well above average defensive shortstop.
The past several seasons Báez has had above average outs above average and defensive runs saved.
Outs Above Average
Defensive Runs Saved
His sprint speed remains above average this season at 28.2 mph. He also has a plus arm and is more than capable of making highlight reel worthy plays on a consistent basis.
So what can Báez’s potential new team expect from him? Right now it looks like average offensive ability and excellent defense. No matter where he ends up, whether he is staying with the Cubs for the remainder of the season or being lent to a contender, he will definitely be impactful.