By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — There are several key points to make regarding Cubs infielder Javier Baez and the trade market.
One, don’t expect him to be traded for a top pitcher anytime soon. And two, don’t expect opposing teams to stop calling about him either. That’s simply a fundamental dynamic that will be in play for as long as the Cubs search for another top-flight pitcher, as is their current goal and challenge.
In the present, the Cubs don’t expect such activity, as most executives are focused on the amateur draft in early June. Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein expects talks to heat up come early July and then the last week of that month.
“Trades are not made this time of the year,” Epstein said “Trades are made in July. I don’t think we have been overly patient to this point. We have shown an appropriate sense of patience but also the desire to get it locked in. Right after the draft, everyone takes a day or two, catches their breath and decides what they need. That is when more chatter picks up. Trades are basically made at the same time every year. There is a little flurry around July 2. It ticks up again in mid-July and then plenty in late July.”
Baez is one who finds his name in trade rumors consistently because he doesn’t have an everyday starting spot with the Cubs. He could be a quality starting shortstop for 15 or so clubs across MLB, but for the Cubs, he’s a super-utilityman who can play anywhere in the infield and is one of the game’s most electric defensive players.
“Sometimes people are being pushed to the front of the line when trades come up and they are not doing well,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “Another part of trade narrative is based on depth. If you have other pieces like that, other people are going to promote those ideas.”
The fact that the 24-year-old Baez is young, talented, affable, marketable and versatile will make him a prime target for opposing teams who are interested in a mega-deal with the Cubs in the near future. Baez is hitting .268 with seven homers and 22 RBIs this season. He’s tied for second on the team in RBIs despite having fewer at-bats than six others who play more regularly.
“Javy will be in that position for a bit,” Maddon said of Baez trade rumors. “With no intent on our part, he is still going to be mentioned in those moments. The reason, as I mentioned, when he is going well you say, ‘They will never trade him.’ When he is going poorly, it would be more difficult. I just think with the nature of our team, young guys are going to hear (trade rumors). If you are going to attempt to get pitching, you are going to hear the typical names mentioned. From our players’ perspective, I hope they don’t take it to heart that often. If they hear it enough and are asked that question enough, of course it will leave a mark.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.