The Detroit Tigers officially announced the signing of shortstop Javy Baez on Wednesday. The two sides have agreed to a six-year, $140 million contract that those involved expect will carry him deep into the young Tigers team's contention window. While Baez may not have been the team's top choice, he's just the kind of player the Tigers, and the city of Detroit need right now.
Detroit is a great sports town. Legends have been built there in every major sport. From Gordie Howe to Ty Cobb, Al Kaline, Steve Yzerman, Isiah Thomas, Barry Sanders and Joe Louis, Motown produces stars. Unfortunately, the city's scene is relatively cleared of them right now. The Pistons may have drafted one in Cade Cunningham, and the struggling Red Wings may have some magic brewing with Lucas Raymond. But other than the aging Miguel Cabrera, the city doesn't have a truly magnetic star right now. Enter Baez.
There are plenty of knocks on Baez's game. He strikes out too much and doesn't get on base enough. But he's a damn star. The guy has his own orbit. People gravitate towards him like he has his own orbit. He makes the spectacular look routine and he hits bombs.
The Tigers needed a shortstop and almost certainly were priced out of the Carlos Correa market. Baez brings Gold Glove defense at short, has a championship pedigree as a key part of the Chicago Cubs' 2016 title run and is still on the right side of 30.
In 2021, Baez slashed .265/.319/.494 with 31 home runs, 87 RBIs and an OPS+ of 117. His fWAR of 3.6 was a big improvement after a down year in 2020, but below his career-best of 5.4 in 2018. That said, he struggled on a Cubs team that was just treading water early in the season and endured a midseason trade to the New York Mets. He'll now be in a stable situation where he could thrive once again.
The Tigers now have a face of the franchise. He's a guy who can lead as a cohort of young players arrive or continue to develop. Detroit has potential stars in Casey Mize, Spencer Torkelson and Riley Green. Mize just finished his first full season, while Torkelson and Green are knocking on the door. With Cabrera and Baez leading the way, those young guys have a chance to learn and grow.
This was the move Detroit had to make. The franchise and the city needed a star. Javy Baez can be that guy.