Why the Tigers signing Javier Báez is good news for the Cleveland Guardians
The Detroit Tigers have signed infielder Javier Báez to a six-year deal worth $140 million – here’s why that’s good news for the Cleveland Guardians.
The entire baseball world knew the Detroit Tigers would start spending money again this offseason as they inch ever closer to contention. The fun started when Detroit signed left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez to a five-year, $77 million deal.
But bigger names are now starting to come off the board around baseball, and the Tigers have snagged one for themselves, signing infielder Javier Báez to a six-year, $140 million deal, which includes an opt-out after two years and a limited no-trade clause.
The Tigers have previously been linked heavily to shortstop Carlos Correa, who of course shared a Houston connection with Tigers manager (and former Astros manager) A.J. Hinch. And while they might still be in the Correa sweepstakes, it certainly seems less likely now that he ends up in Detroit.
So if the Tigers do end up with Báez over Correa in their lineup, that’s great news for the Cleveland Guardians.
The Tigers signing Javier Baez is good news for Cleveland… how?
We can table the criticism of the Guardians still lurking in the free agency shadows for just a moment. Let’s just consider this from the perspective of who Cleveland would rather face nineteen times a year, regardless of what the Guardians’ own roster looks like. If it’s between Báez and Correa, Cleveland is taking Báez every time.
Not to say Báez is a bad player; obviously nobody is saying that. He’s a two-time All-Star and Gold Glove winner who sported a 116 wRC+ in 2021 after a disastrous run in 2020. But he’s also sported a wRC+ over 130 just once in his eight-year career (131 in 2018). He’s had a wRC+ under 100 five times, and for his career, his wRC+ is 95. That’s… a little less than league average.
That’s not to say Báez doesn’t bring a lot to the table. Defensively, he’s obviously a stud, though he had just three Outs Above Average in 2021, the lowest total of his career. He’ll also give you plenty of pop from a position (either second base or short) where it’s hard to find, having hit 30+ homers twice in his career.
But the thing is, Báez also strikes out a ton, and actually led the National League in strikeouts last season with 184. He doesn’t really make up for it by getting on base, either; he has a career on-base percentage of .307. So the Tigers are certainly taking the good with the bad here for about $23 million a year.
If the Tigers are really looking to start contending in the AL Central, Carlos Correa would be the superstar bat they could put in the middle of their lineup that could ultimately transform the entire team. Báez just isn’t that player, and a decent amount of money is now going to be tied up with him, giving Detroit a little less flexibility when it comes to future moves (potentially). The Tigers are likely not done spending this offseason, but the thought of Correa staying out of the division is the slightest of wins for the Guardians.
Steve DiMatteo is the host of the California Penal League Podcast, which you can find on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and anywhere else you get your podcasts.