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Báez a Cub for life? 'Hopefully it happens'

@MLBastian
January 17, 2020

CHICAGO -- Cubs shortstop Javier Báez stepped in front of the mics and cameras on Friday night wearing a light gray suit jacket over a black turtleneck. Around his neck was a chain with a single star filled with diamonds. At the moment, Báez is also the one star that

CHICAGO -- Cubs shortstop Javier Báez stepped in front of the mics and cameras on Friday night wearing a light gray suit jacket over a black turtleneck. Around his neck was a chain with a single star filled with diamonds.

At the moment, Báez is also the one star that Chicago may be trying to lock up to a multiyear contract extension. There was no big announcement on opening night of Cubs Convention, but the door might be open, even as it has been shut this winter for other core players like Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant.

Báez would not bite when asked if there were ongoing contract talks between his representatives and the Cubs.

"I've got my mind more to bring the team to the playoffs again," Báez said. "This is a team that should be in the playoffs every year -- with the team that we have and with the talent that we have. If it happens, I'll be grateful to be a Cub for my entire career. Hopefully, it happens. If not, I'm obviously happy with everything that happened here."

That includes starting in the All-Star Game in each of the past two summers, winning a World Series with the Cubs four seasons ago and turning into "El Mago" among fans.

Rizzo, Hoyer address state of Cubs' core group

Last week, Báez and the Cubs agreed to a one-year, $10 million contract to avoid arbitration, but that deal does not hinder the sides from continuing to discuss a long-term pact. The shortstop did at least say that he hopes to ideally have something done before Opening Day, if an extension does come to fruition.

"My agency is doing a great job," Báez said. "Hopefully, if it happens, [it is] before the season, yeah. If not, there's no pressure. I've just got to play again."

While the Cubs have reached a point where extending the entire core group does not look realistic, Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein did say on Friday night that there has been at least some progress on that front.

"I'd say we’ve moved the ball forward a little bit, but it's a long process," Epstein said. "Not sure what the outcome is going to be. We've had some productive talks, but obviously nothing to the point where we can get anything done yet."

Theo weighs in on trade rumors at CubsCon

Báez cracked a smile when asked again if he wants to stay with the Cubs for his whole career.

"Yeah," he said. "I've already said that."

Cubs still waiting on grievance ruling
There remains no firm timetable for when an arbitrator will announce his decision on Bryant's service-time grievance, which stems from the timing of his promotion to the Majors in 2015. If Bryant wins the case, he will be a free agent next offseason, as opposed to after the '21 season. The ruling would have an impact on any trade talks involving Bryant.

"It's important to respect the process," Epstein said. "It's a significant case for the industry. There's a lot riding on it. It's important to Kris, obviously, otherwise he wouldn't have filed the grievance. So, I'm not going to sit here and complain about it. I understand that the union and MLB come together on issues like this from time to time and have to have the matter arbitrated."

Epstein added that he respects that the arbitrator is working through everything "methodically" before giving his final ruling.

"We're not going to worry about it," Epstein said. "Whenever it happens, it happens, and we'll proceed accordingly."

David Ross expects to write "Bryant" in his first lineup

Worth noting
• Former closer Brandon Morrow lost an entire season in '19 due to right elbow issues and a series of health setbacks. Morrow lobbied to re-sign with the Cubs on a Minor League deal this winter and will be back in the fold as a non-roster invitee with a chance to win a bullpen spot.

Morrow is healthy, but pitching coach Tommy Hottovy said the Cubs will likely have him on a conservative program at the start of camp.

"Look, his willingness and his desire to still be here is awesome," Hottovy said. "It just shows you the type of person he is. Obviously, the last year didn't go the way he wanted it to go and he's got something to prove. Personally, I'm excited to get to work with him again and have him in camp. He feels really good."

• Cubs starter Yu Darvish finished last season strong, posting a 2.76 ERA with 118 strikeouts against just seven walks in 81 2/3 innings (13 starts) in the second half. In the wake of that performance, the pitcher simplified his offseason workouts, rather than doing the heavy lifting and throwing program used in past winters.

"I was feeling way better than in the 2018 offseason, for sure," Darvish said. "Especially because I made a great routine for me, so I know what I have to do. That makes me feel better."

Jordan Bastian covers the Cubs for MLB.com. He previously covered the Indians from 2011-18 and the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian.