Javier Baez is entering his age-27 season as the centerpiece of the Chicago Cubs offense and infield. He's also two years away from entering free agency, which makes this offseason a rather important one for a Cubs team that would prefer to keep the shortstop in Chicago.
According to MLB insider Jon Heyman on the Big Time Baseball podcast, the two sides have agreed to negotiate all the way up until Opening Day before tabling the discussions.
"They're in talks," Heyman said. "There's no evidence that that one is closed. My understanding from what I've heard is they've set an Opening Day deadline in that situation. They aren't talking publicly. They only have awhile to go to get this done. I do think the Cubs are going to be motivated."
Baez is playing on a $10 million salary this season with one year of arbitration eligibility left. If there's a time to get a deal done, now is it. That being said, with only 14 days left until the season begins on March 26, the window is shutting quickly.
It's hard to understate just how much Baez has become the face of the Cubs over the past few years. His signature swim move when stealing bags has become iconic. Baez placed second in the National League MVP vote in 2018—losing to Milwaukee's Christian Yelich—and finished with 4.8 wins above replacement in 2019 after racking up 6.3 WAR a year earlier, per Baseball Reference.
All the while, Baez's slash line of .281/.316/.531 and 29 home runs in 2019 made him a feared batter in the box.
Locking up the shortstop for the foreseeable future will remain key to keeping the Cubs competitive. According to Heyman, convincing the two-time All-Star to remain shouldn't be a tough sell.
"Baez is a guy who has made it clear he wants to stay," Heyman said. "There is hope there for a deal."
Now it comes down to the timing.