Despite getting off to a rocky start in his Mets career, Javier Báez is now looking like the superstar the team believed they were getting when they acquired him from the Chicago Cubs at the July 30 trade deadline.
Prior to the Mets' 11-4 series finale loss to the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday evening at Citi Field, Báez, who is set to become a free agent when the season concludes, played it cool when asked about the possibility of sticking around with the team in the long-term.
“I’ve always liked New York,” said Baez. “In the past, playing for the Cubs, I’ve normally been here for a weekend or something, but I’ve got a lot of family here, so it’s been great. … I obviously love New York.
“We’ll see,” Báez said of potentially signing with the team long-term. “I don’t have that decision right now. I’m just trying to put up my numbers. I mean, my numbers are there, but we’ll see what happens in the offseason.”
And the numbers have indeed been there, as the second baseman is slashing .306/.378/.587 with a .965 OPS, nine home runs and 18 RBIs in 34 games as a Met.
While Báez's low on-base percentage, lack of walks and surplus of strikeouts due to a high chase rate have been a concern when considering his candidacy for a long-term contract, he has completely transformed his game as of late.
Báez has been laying off bad pitches and has walked a total of nine times with the Mets, as opposed to posting a .292 OBP and drawing just 15 free passes in his first 91 games for the Cubs. His OBP clip is also nearing .400 during his time in Queens, which only adds to his value.
Another important factor that could play into Báez's looming decision, is the strong bond he has with his double play partner and fellow native of Puerto Rico in shortstop Francisco Lindor.
While Báez's natural position is at shortstop, he has previously said he would only sign with a team in free agency to play second base, if it meant that he could be teammates with Lindor.
Following these comments, he was traded to the Mets, where this dream has become a reality.
“We did it in the [World] Baseball Classic and you saw the combination and the communication that we had and that we have right here, so we’ll see,” Baez said. “We’ll see what’s their plan and what’s their decision at the end.”
If the Mets decide to dish out the bread to lock up Báez, it will give them a star-studded middle infield for the foreseeable future with Lindor's 10-year, $341 million deal set to kick-in next season.
Báez is not only an electrifying player, but a game-changer as well. At this point, the Mets must strongly consider re-signing the 28-year-old to a long-term deal following the 2021 season. Especially since the team dealt 2020 first-round draft pick Pete Crow-Armstrong to acquire him.
However, Báez won't come cheap. Prior to the 2020 season, Báez already turned down an extension offer from the Cubs, which was close to $180 million, per ESPN's Buster Olney.
While Báez's contract demands are currently unknown around the industry, maybe Steve Cohen and the Mets could work something out in the eight-year, $200-210 million range, which would give him $25-26.3 million annually and keep him and Lindor together in Queens for almost the entire next decade. But time will tell on how this situation plays out in the coming months.
On Wednesday, Báez hosted a group of pediatric cancer patients from Centro Médico hospital in his native Puerto Rico, whom he flew to New York to enjoy a pair of games at Citi Field.