Chicago Cubs should trade Javier Baez

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 26: Javier Baez
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 26: Javier Baez /

Amidst a disappointing 2017 season after a 2016 World Series win, the Chicago Cubs should look to move infielder Javier Baez, whether selling or buying at MLB’s trade deadline.

There’s no getting around it, the Chicago Cubs are struggling, as is their regular second baseman, Javier Baez. Should the Cubs be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline, it is time to bid farewell to the superstar tagger, should any team be interested in acquiring his services.

Baez, still 24, was thought to be just one of many Chicago Cubs players on the verge of a stellar breakout season, even after their historic World Series victory in 2016. The thinking was, 2017 could be the year Baez finally mates his above-average defensive qualities—including his tagging ability—with his powerful bat, and turns in an All-Star caliber performance.

Instead, Baez has continued to make outs at an alarming rate in 2017, and while his power tool has remained—his .198 ISO figure is the highest of his MLB career, per FanGraphs—it appears his defensive skill has begun to atrophy, as his overall Defensive Runs Above Average (DRAA) via FanGraphs is an ugly -0.3, down from a mark of 12.7 in 2016.

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Without the defensive prowess to excuse offensive ineptitude, as is the case with Addison Russell, Baez’s value to the Cubs shifts from marginal to detracting. The Cubs, playoff hopefuls as they still are, simply cannot afford to hand regular plate appearances to a player with a .310 wOBA and below-average defensive output.

This issue is only exacerbated by the Cubs concurrently deploying two other defense-first players at premium positions: Russell at shortstop and Jason Heyward in right field. With both Russell and the returning Heyward sporting OPS+ figures more than 10 percent below average, and both being well below average for their positions, Baez’s offensive struggles only tighten the grip on a team starved for runs, and deficient at run prevention.

Lately, Baez has been improving, and a resurgence timed with the fast-approaching trade deadline should be just the right ingredients to get team president Theo Epstein cooking on MLB’s hot stove. As June has turned into July, Baez’s rolling 15-game wRC+ has peaked over the league-average mark of 100 for the first time since May.

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With a positive trendline on power output in hand, Epstein would do well to ship Baez out of Chicago in exchange for cost-controlled starting pitching, something the Cubs desperately need. Whether arming for a playoff push in 2017, or re-distributing assets for another try in 2018, Baez has got to go.