Javier Baez Says Cubs Contract Extension Talks on Hold Due to COVID-19 Hiatus

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistMay 6, 2020

PEORIA, ARIZONA - FEBRUARY 24: Javier Baez #9 of the Chicago Cubs bats against the Seattle Mariners during the MLB spring training game at Peoria Stadium on February 24, 2020 in Peoria, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Chicago Cubs star Javier Baez is delaying contract negotiations with the team during MLB's ongoing pause during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Obviously, we want to reach an agreement, but right now everything is on hiatus," Baez said to ESPN's Marly Rivera. "Just like it happened with baseball, we decided to leave it there. We haven't talked about it anymore."

The two-time All-Star added that the move wasn't due to any hostilities from either side: "I'm very happy in Chicago. I believe it's one of the best organizations in the major leagues. We had several conversations but never focused on a deadline. They were very amicable conversations where we communicated well with each other."

Baez is coming off another excellent season in which he had 29 home runs, 85 RBI and a .281/.316/.531 slash line. He was tied for fifth in WAR (4.4) among shortstops despite only making 138 appearances, per FanGraphs.

Putting any discussions about an extension on hold isn't an uncommon step.

Cleveland Indians star Francisco Lindor told The Athletic's Jason Lloyd he was suspending negotiations with the team since the 2020 season was on the horizon. His comments came shortly before MLB canceled spring training and pushed back Opening Day due to the pandemic.

According to Rivera, Baez and the Cubs were planning to remain at the table until a week before what was scheduled to be the team's opener March 26 against the Milwaukee Brewers. They were "making progress" before the pandemic threw everything into disarray.

Baez has one more year of arbitration before hitting free agency in 2022. The Boston Red Sox's decision to trade Mookie Betts this offseason will likely lead some to wonder whether the Cubs would take the same approach with Baez should they fail to get something in place prior to the 2020 season.

Kris Bryant is a free agent in 2022 as well, so Chicago may ultimately choose one of Bryant or Baez to re-sign since ownership has tightened the purse strings in recent years.

In the event the coronavirus wipes out the entire 2020 season, it wouldn't impact Baez's status since players will receive a full year of service time regardless of how many games are played.