After Ascendant 2018, Cubs' Javier Baez Eyes More

"I can improve everything," Baez says.

Bruce Levine
January 22, 2019 - 4:10 pm
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(670 The Score) Can you and your team top the outcome of the 2018 season?

That was the theme of many questions thrown at National League MVP runner-up Javier Baez at Cubs Convention last weekend as he and his teammates prepare for the start of spring training in mid-February. True to form, Baez believes he has another big season in him and that it will help lead to greater success for the Cubs, who fell in the wild-card game in 2018.

"Oh yeah, it's coming," Baez said when asked if he can replicate his big numbers from last season. "I keep getting better every year. Hopefully, it's going to keep going that way, and I will do some things better than last year."

Baez was the MVP front-runner for much of 2018 before Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich closed with a monster finish and won the award be securing 29 of 30 first-place votes. Baez hit .290 with 34 homers, an NL-leading 111 RBIs, an .881 OPS and 21 stolen bases in 2018. All of those marks were career-high numbers. Baez also was a Gold Glove finalist at second base.

"It was great to be considered one of the top three players with Yelich and (Nolan) Arenado," Baez said, referring to the three MVP finalists. "I know all of us had really great years.

"I can improve everything -- more homers, better defense, more stolen bases. Everything can improve. I just need to stay healthy. I want to be a big part of my team's success."

Baez, 26, has come a long way from when he enter the big leagues in 2014 as a swing-and-miss, home run-or-nothing youngster. He developed steadily from there, gaining acclaim as a key member of the Cubs' championship team in 2016 before his ascendant 2018 that featured his rise to stardom.

After his standout season, the arbitration-eligible Baez agreed to a $5.2 million salary for 2019. That's about eight times more than his $657,000 salary in 2018.

"It's really great," Baez said about his new millionaire status and productive baseball season. "After the season, I have been thinking about my season and what I can do to be better as a player and teammate. I will try to control myself a little bit more after seeing a drop-off in the second half. As for my swing, I will not give up on things I do naturally. My adjustment was to use both eyes in my stance and let the ball get deeper in my swing."

Baez also weighed in with the assessment of the Cubs' quiet offseason, as utility infielder Daniel Descalso has been the only addition to the 25-man roster.

"Obviously, we have a lot of talent already here," Baez said. "We believe in our team and what we have here. We just have to compete as a team and try to stay together. We don't have to worry about who we are playing against if we stay together.

"Our goal is winning again and having another great parade. I think we have the players to win. We have pitching that is as good as anyone. We really believe in our guys. At the end of last year, we were not playing together. We have the ability with the guys here to win again. We will be on top of that this year to make sure it doesn't happen again."

For the first time in his career, Baez will open the season as the Cubs' everyday starting shortstop, as Addison Russell continues serving his suspension for violating the league's joint domestic violence policy.

"To be honest, I am looking forward to the chance to win the Gold Glove," said Baez, who has split in time across second base, shortstop and third base in recent seasons. "I don't care if it's at shortstop, second base, right field or catcher. I am looking for a chance to win the Gold Glove."

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine​.​