McGraw: Do Baez, other ex-Cubs long for friendlier confines?

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • New York Mets' Javier Baez gestures at home plate after his two-run home run that also scored Michael Conforto during the fourth inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals, Sunday, Aug. 29, 2021, in New York.

    New York Mets' Javier Baez gestures at home plate after his two-run home run that also scored Michael Conforto during the fourth inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals, Sunday, Aug. 29, 2021, in New York. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 9/1/2021 10:30 AM

Javy Baez provided a demonstration Tuesday of how everything that happens this offseason is still unpredictable.

Two days after admitting his thumbs-down gesture was meant as a response to Mets fans that have been booing the team, Baez pinch-hit on Tuesday afternoon at Citi Field. Not surprisingly, he was greeted with both boos and fans giving the thumbs-down. There was a light cheer when Baez was hit by a pitch.

 

But in the ninth inning, it was all celebration as Baez sprinted around from first base to score the winning run on a single and bobble in the outfield.

So as the Cubs opened a two-game series in Minnesota on Tuesday, it's probably not a lock to say Baez will be seeking friendlier confines when he becomes a free agent this winter.

Heck, Mets team president Sandy Alderson spent 30 minutes on one knee near home plate searching for Baez' lost earring after the game ended, according to reports. In sports, most every relationship can be saved by winning.

This is a good time to update the ex-Cubs and look at the chances if any will consider returning to the North Side.

Baez

Maybe Mets management should have done a better job of educating fans on what Baez would bring to the team. They quickly grew frustrated with one of his signature moves -- the giant swing and miss on a pitch nowhere near the plate.

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Since joining the Mets. Baez has hit .210 with 4 home runs in 17 games. His strikeout rate has actually dropped slightly in New York. But the battle with fans certainly suggests Baez might prefer to play someplace where he's better appreciated. Unless something changes, he does seem to be the ring-wearer most likely to return to the Cubs.

Anthony Rizzo

The Yankees have gone 23-7 since Rizzo arrived on July 30 and moved past the Red Sox into playoff position. So it's a great fit, right?

Well, there has been some grumbling about Rizzo being a disappointment. His batting line in New York is .235/.333/.730, compared to .248//346/.792 with the Cubs. Rizzo has been better during the current West Coast trip, so maybe he's headed for a hot streak.

Frank Schwindel, who homered in the first inning against the Twins, has batted .344 since replacing Rizzo at first base for the Cubs. That's not to say Schwindel is a long-term solution, but Baez's strikeouts and Rizzo's cold stretches are among the many reasons the Cubs haven't succeeded in recent years.

Will Rizzo return to the Yankees? Money is usually no object, but they do have Luke Voit as an option. It might depend on whether the Yankees can make a postseason run.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Kris Bryant

In contrast to the other two, everything seems to be going great in San Francisco, where Bryant has hit .279 with 6 home runs as the Giants have continued to hold down the best record in the NL.

Everyone's happy, so Bryant figures to keep a home by the Bay, right? One potential drawback is the Giants have an older team, with a core of Buster Posey, Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford and the injured Evan Longoria all between 33-35. The window for success in San Francisco doesn't seem very wide, so it remains to be seen how much motivation the Giants will have to come up with a giant contract.

Kyle Schwarber

One of the great mysteries in MLB: Why did Schwarber crank up his production after leaving Wrigley Field, a supposed hitter's paradise? Schwarber hit .326 in his first 14 games with the Red Sox, after piling up 25 home runs in less than half a season with Washington.

Maybe the Cubs should try again with their former first-round pick. He has a mutual option for 2022, so it's possible he'll be a free agent.

Andrew Chafin

This is a reunion that could make a lot of sense for the Cubs. Chafin has been even better in Oakland, with a 1.15 ERA, but the A's have a history of making rental acquisitions.

The Cubs have some promising right-handed arms in the bullpen with Codi Heuer, Manuel Rodriguez and possibly Ben Leeper next year. Why not add a veteran lefty who can help mentor the young guys?

Ryan Tepera

After giving up a couple home runs early, he's been good for the White Sox. A strong bullpen is valuable, so the Cubs could consider making an offer. The only concern is that Tepera, 33, is having a career year. Will he be able to keep it up?

Craig Kimbrel

Teams that don't plan on contending for the playoffs shouldn't spend big money on a closer, so bringing back Kimbrel probably makes the least sense.

Kimbrel is having a rough go with the White Sox, with a 7.15 ERA, after posting 0.49 with the Cubs. He has a team option worth $16 million for next year, so he's likely to become a free agent.

Joc Pederson

His stats in Atlanta have been similar to what he did with the Cubs. Returning to the Braves seems possible if they think Ronald Acuna won't be ready for the start of next season.

• • •

Contreras hits rehab:

Cubs catcher Willson Contreras, on the injured list with a knee sprain, played a rehab game in Iowa on Tuesday. He homered in his second at-bat and also threw out a potential base stealer.

Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

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