Cubs top prospect Javier Baez has drawn raves all spring for his quick bat and power potential, but the club announced this morning that he has been reassigned to minor league camp.
Baez hit .310 (13-for-42) with five home runs in 14 games during Cactus League play. However, he also struck out 13 times and failed to draw a walk. Today’s move isn’t unexpected, but the bruised right heel he suffered yesterday pretty much sealed it.
While Baez has been playing second base in recent days, fueling speculation that perhaps the Cubs were considering bringing him up to the majors earlier than anticipated, Cubs manager Rick Renteria told David Kaplan of CSNChicago.com that he’ll play shortstop in the minor leagues. Either way, there’s a good chance he’ll make his major league debut by midseason.
Baez, 21, batted .282 with 37 home runs and a .920 OPS over 130 games last season between High-A Daytona and Double-A Tennessee and was recently ranked as the No. 5 prospect in the game by Baseball America.
Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reports that Phillies owner John Middleton flew to Las Vegas for a meeting with Bryce Harper on Friday. Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, it’s “more of a meet-and-greet than a sign-a-deal” affair, but as the club is still at the forefront of trade rumors involving the All-Star slugger, there remains a possibility (however slight) that something could be completed in the days to come.
Even now, the Phillies aren’t alone in the race to sign Harper, but recent rumors have helped whittle down the competition from five or more teams (Phillies, Nationals, White Sox, Giants, and Padres) to three strong contenders. The Giants are said to be interested in a lucrative short-term deal with the outfielder, while the Padres remain in the conversation despite inking Manny Machado to a mammoth 10-year, $300 million contract this week. It’s not yet clear just how far either team would go to outbid Philadelphia as talks with Harper intensify.
As for the Nationals and White Sox, the former officially bowed out earlier today, and MLB Network’s Jon Heyman adds that the latter won’t make a strong play for Harper as they feel the asking price and competing offers are “getting too high” for the 26-year-old’s services. If a mystery team is still in the mix, there’s been no word on their standing with Harper in the last month or so.