Javier Báez Agrees to a Deal with the Tigers

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There was some late action Monday night into early Tuesday morning as Javier Báez is now off the board. The 28-year old shortstop is heading to the Detroit Tigers on a six-year deal worth $140 million. Per MLB insider Ken Rosenthal, the deal includes an opt-out after 2023 and a limited no-trade clause. Javier Báez was only one member of a star-studded class of free agent shortstops this offseason. With Corey Seager and Marcus Semien already off the books, this Báez deal surely has implications for the kind of contracts Trevor Story and Carlos Correa will receive. Javier Báez is one of the most interesting players in the sport and this deal signals great things ahead for the Tigers.

Javier Báez’s Career

Báez made his major league debut with the Chicago Cubs in 2014 at the age of 21. He spent the first seven and a half seasons of his career with the Cubs. He was traded to the New York Mets at the trade deadline in 2021. Báez owns a career slash line of .264/.307/.477 (.783 OPS and 104 OPS+) along with 23.4 career bWAR. He was a two-time all-star, Gold Glove winner, and World Series champion with the Cubs. Finishing as high as second in NL MVP voting back in 2018, Báez clearly has a high ceiling but has been quite mercurial throughout his career. He is a high-strikeout, low on-base type of hitter with power. With a career .307 OBP and 953-156 strikeout-to-walk ratio, it is very clear to see that Báez’s ceiling is limited despite still being relatively high.

However, Báez greatly helped his free agency case more than in his two months with the Mets. He drew 15 walks in 91 games with the Cubs but draw 13 walks in only 47 games with the Mets. With an increase in walk rate from 4.3% to 7.0% with the Mets, it is possible for Báez to continue improving this aspect of his game. Despite this, walks just are not a part of his game. However, he makes up for that with his elite speed and defense. His sprint speed of 28.6 ft/s ranks in the 86th percentile while his 3 OAA ranks in the 82nd percentile. Going back to being a full-time shortstop with Detroit should help his defense even more as he posted a cumulative 40 OAA at the position in 2019-2020.

How this Impacts the Detroit Tigers

Javier Báez is a great pickup for the Tigers. On the heels of winning more games (77) in 2021 than anyone expected, the Tigers’ window of contention is starting to appear. They have several great young pitchers who are still pre-arbitration and will be cheap for years to come. Detroit started their offseason by signing Eduardo Rodriguez to a five-year, $78 million contract. The move signaled that they will not be afraid to spend money this offseason. Whether Detroit wanted to actually spend upwards of $300 million on a shortstop is unclear, they wanted to upgrade their offense. Javier Báez is no Seager or Story in terms of offensive consistency. However, he brings so much to the table that will improve the team.

Despite the frustrating nature that marks Báez’s style of play, he is one of the most well-known and attractive players in the sport. Per MLB.com, he has the fourth most popular jersey in 2021. The Tigers ranked 23rd out of 30 in attendance per-game in 2021. Adding Báez to the team will no doubt increase the attendance as he brings so much to the table. Additionally, not spending $300 million on a shortstop this offseason likely means the Tigers are not done shopping. A lot of work must be done to improve the offense but signing Báez is definitely a great start.

Players mentioned: Javier Báez, Trevor Story, Carlos Correa

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