CHICAGO -- Javier Báez dazzled Cubs fans for the past eight years with his acrobatics, aggressiveness and creativity. The shortstop went from a raw talent to one of the core players who helped bring a World Series championship to a starved fanbase.
The El Mago show is moving to the Big Apple.
Prior to Friday's 3 p.m. CT Trade Deadline, the Cubs sent Báez and pitcher Trevor Williams to the Mets for outfield prospect Pete Crow-Armstrong (No. 5 on the Mets' Top 30 list, per MLB Pipeline).The deal will pair Báez with his longtime friend, Francisco Lindor, giving the Mets one of the game's most electric infield duos once New York's shortstop returns from the injured list.
"It's still hard to say bye to the boys and to the organization," Báez said via Zoom. "But at the same time, I know it's going to be fun playing with Lindor and seeing this new chapter, see how it goes."
It was just two days ago that Báez told Spanish station 106.9 that teaming with Lindor would be the "only option" that would persuade the Gold Glove Award-winning shortstop to move to second base.
The trade comes after the Cubs also traded closer Craig Kimbrel to the White Sox earlier on Friday, and a day after Chicago dealt first baseman Anthony Rizzo (Yankees) and setup man Ryan Tepera (White Sox). The Cubs were not done there, following those moves with a last-minute blockbuster that shipped star Kris Bryant to the Giants.
Rizzo, Bryant and Báez were key parts of the '16 team that helped end the Cubs' 108-year World Series drought.
"It happened so fast. I feel like five years [ago] was like, last year," Báez said. "We did what we could. I'm only two months from being a free agency. We'll see how it goes over there and we'll see how it goes in the offseason with the talks."
Would Báez be willing to re-sign with the Cubs?
"To be honest, I would love to. But I don't know," he said. "I don't know what will happen this offseason with all these moves and the plan this organization has. Obviously, I'm grateful for everything they've done for me. I've never been in another organization, but I'm pretty sure this is one of the best ones, if not the best one."
This season, Báez has hit .248/.292/.484 with 22 home runs and 65 RBIs, while racking up 131 strikeouts against 15 walks. That all-or-nothing offensive style has been a signature of the shortstop's career, and that did not stop him from finishing as the National League MVP runner-up in '18, or starting for the NL All-Star team in both '18 and '19.
"I remember Javy, when we'd have meetings with him and he wouldn't even look up from his shoes," Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said, recalling the shortstop's early years with the team. "He would sit there and talk to us and he was just a shy, not-trusting kid from Puerto Rico. Now, he's El Mago. He owns the room. These are guys that we've watched grow up.
"Making those phone calls today and talking to Rizz yesterday, I mean, the decisions that we have to make in this game sometimes are really difficult."