One bright spot in the Mets' dark finish to the season has been the production, and new-found approach from star infielder Javier Báez.
Since coming over to the Mets at the July 30 trade deadline, Báez has made an impact in just about every facet of the game. And after a slow start, mixed with a brief IL stint due to back spasms, Báez's bat has been red-hot, slashing .303/.377/.538 with a .914 OPS, nine home runs and 20 RBIs in 41 games.
Despite being known as a free-swinger, Báez has shown improved discipline at the plate, drawing 12 walks as a Met, as opposed to the 15 he had with the Cubs in 91 games this season.
With the 2021 campaign coming to a close, Báez is set to become a free agent this winter, and the Mets might not let him out the door.
In fact, Báez made it pretty clear that he is open to staying in New York for the long haul as well.
“I obviously don’t like the traffic. I don’t like the cold,” Báez told Gordon Wittenmyer of NBC Sports Chicago. “But if they make the offer, and they make it happen, I would love to stay in New York.”
Báez was traded to the Mets before the July 30 trade deadline by the Chicago Cubs, the organization he spent the entirety of his professional career with. He also helped Chicago capture a World Series title in 2016, which means he will always hold a special place in the hearts of Cubs fans and the organization.
Unsurprisingly, Báez was shocked by the trade to the Mets and never saw himself leaving Chicago. According to ESPN, Báez nearly signed an extension in the neighborhood of $180 million to stay with the Cubs prior to spring training back in 2020.
Alas, he turned them down, and now, he has found a new home with the Mets.
“When I was in Chicago I never thought I was going to get traded. I never was planning on being with another organization,” said Báez. “And after I came here, things have been different, but at the same time good.
“I feel like I kind of needed this to know a little bit more of myself and work a little bit harder.”
An additional aspect that has helped Báez become more comfortable in his new situation, comes from the close friendship he has with his double play partner, Francisco Lindor.
“Obviously, Frankie wants me to stay,” Báez said. “He wants to make sure they make an offer if it’s possible, and see what happens in the offseason.”
According to Báez, Lindor has been lobbying for him to stick around. Lindor and Mets owner Steve Cohen have built a close relationship together and it is no secret at this point that Lindor has his ear. He also played a big role in getting the Mets to trade for Báez initially at the deadline as well.
Báez is one of a slew of talented free agent shortstops on the market this winter. And as he has previously said, he will only consider signing somewhere to play second base if it means he gets to play next to Lindor.
Well, this dream has been a reality since Lindor returned from the IL in late-August. And with Báez's decision looming, this short-term partnership has the potential to become a long-term relationship, as Lindor's 10-year, $341 million contract is set to kick in next season.
“I think me and Lindor are closer than KB [Kris Bryant] and [Anthony] Rizzo,” Báez said of his two former Cubs teammates. “It’s a really special thing here. … I would love to stay here and play with [Lindor].”
Having Báez and Lindor gives the Mets one of the best middle infields in baseball. And Báez certainly believes they are No. 1 in the game.
"And we haven’t been playing really well as a middle infield; we can do much better,” Báez added. “But we’ve been here like two months. If it’s going to be a whole year, or 10 years. we obviously are going to get those adjustments to click and be [in sync].”
Although there has been some speculation that the Cubs might want to bring back Báez, the 28-year-old understands their current situation of being in a rebuild.
“Depends on their plan,” he said. “Right now I think they have to rebuild and restart to a new system and new players.”
While Báez is aware of the reality that he will have plenty of options on the open market, he is loving his time in New York, as well as playing with Lindor.
Most importantly, he also believes he can win here, as this current Mets team reminds him of the Cubs' championship squad he was on before winning the 2016 World Series.
“This team wants to win as bad as we did in ’16,” Báez said. “I promise you, they’re going to win. They’re going to win soon, whether I’m here or I’m not.”