Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reported Friday a new deal for Baez, who's under team control through 2021 via arbitration, is "much more feasible" than getting an extension done with third baseman Kris Bryant (another potential 2022 free agent).
Baez enjoyed a breakout campaign for the Cubs in 2018 when he posted career highs in OPS (.880), home runs (34) and stolen bases (21). Although he couldn't quite match that production in 2019, he remained one of the position's top players with an .847 OPS and 29 homers.
His 9.7 WAR over the last two seasons ranks sixth among all MLB shortstops, per FanGraphs.
Part of that high ranking comes from his strong play in the field. His 15 defensive runs saved tied for eighth in baseball with the Boston Red Sox's Mookie Betts and Atlanta Braves' Josh Donaldson, according to FanGraphs.
The 26-year-old Puerto Rico native said in September he wanted to remain with the Cubs.
"I grew up here and hopefully I stay here my whole career," Baez told reporters. "We'll see."
Although Chicago features one of MLB's best cores, the coming years will prove pivotal in trying to keep enough of that talent under contract to remain at the forefront of the annual championship conversation.
Along with Baez and Bryant, first baseman Anthony Rizzo, second baseman Addison Russell, outfielder Kyle Schwarber and starting pitcher Jon Lester can all hit the open market in 2022. That's a lot of talent to retain for a club that already ranks fourth in projected 2020 payroll at $185.3 million, per Spotrac.
A disappointing 2019 season also plays into the process. The Cubs' 84-78 record wasn't enough to qualify for the postseason. It marked the first time they didn't make the playoffs since 2014, and they've won just one series since winning the title in 2016.
Getting one key player signed to an extension would help provide a clearer picture for the future, and it appears Baez may be the closest to a long-term deal.