When the Detroit Tigers signed Javy Baez this offseason, they expected they were getting an All-Star caliber shortstop who would lead their impressive crop of young players to contention. They handed the 29-year-old a six-year, $140 million deal and expected a commensurate return. They haven't gotten it. A few months in and the Baez deal already looks like a massive bust.
While the Tigers have won five in a row, they are 35-47 on the season. They qualify as one of MLB's biggest disappointments of the 2022 season. They weren't expected to be a World Series contender, but Detroit was a sexy, outside pick for a playoff spot if the franchise's young stars acclimated quickly to the big leagues. With Miguel Cabrera's career winding down, that group needed a leader. Many thought Carlos Correa could have been that guy, and given his connection to Detroit manager A.J. Hinch, it seemed like a perfect fit. But there was no deal to be had between the two sides, and the Tigers turned to Baez.
In 69 games this season, Baez is hitting .211, with a dismal .249 on-base percentage. Perhaps worse, he's only slugging .366 with eight home runs. If he was not hitting the ball or getting on base, at least he could be having an impact when he did make contact. Instead he's not doing any of the three. His OPS of .615 ranks 146th in baseball.
While Baez can be an dynamite fielder with an electric personality, none of that makes up for his lack of production at the plate. His fWAR of 0.4 is brutal. Given his career tendencies you would expect these numbers to mean he's striking out more than usual, but that's not the case. In fact, his strikeout rate of 24.9 percent is his lowest since 2016. Instead the problem is his batting average on balls in play, which has plummeted to .254 as compared to .352 in 2021.
So how has his BABIP dropped so much? Sometimes that can be due to bad luck, but a look at Baez's Statcast numbers show that's not the case here. He ranks in the 23rd percentile in average exit velocity, ninth percentile in xwOBA, 14th in xBA and 18th in Hard Hit percentage. .
He's simply not squaring the ball up like he should be and that's leading to a lack of hits and a lack of power.
None of this news is good for the Tigers who owe Baez $120 million over the next five seasons. This felt like an iffy deal at the time and obviously looks much worse now. All Detroit can do is hope Baez finds a way to at least become a league average hitter and hope his defense holds up as he ages.