The Detroit Tigers and free agent middle infielder Javier Báez are finalizing a six-year, $140 million deal, Jon Morosi of MLB Network and Mark Feinsand of MLB.com reports and CBS Sports HQ insider Jim Bowden confirms. The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal adds the contract includes a 10-team no-trade clause and an opt-out after the second year.
Though some of the group have played other spots recently, Báez entered the offseason as part of a vaunted group of five star-caliber free agent shortstops along with Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, Trevor Story and Marcus Semien. Should every reported deal come to pass, only Correa and Story would remain unsigned with the CBA deadline rapidly approaching.
Báez, 28, was the last Cubs' first-round pick (2011, 9th overall) before Theo Epstein took over on the North Side and spent parts of eight seasons with the Cubs before being traded to the Mets on deadline day last year. There is perhaps no more all-or-nothing player in the majors. When he's on, he'll play like an MVP in the batter's box, on the bases and on defense. He's one of the most electric and fun players to watch. When he's struggling, he can look pretty bad.
Generally speaking, however, the results are going to be a net positive. Báez posted 6.4 WAR in 2018, 6.6 in 2019 and 4.6 in 2021 (he was pretty terrible in 2020, but that can be forgiven for myriad reasons).
Last season, Báez hit .265/.319/.494 (117 OPS+) with 18 doubles, two triples, 31 homers, 87 RBI, 80 runs and 18 steals. Lining up with his hitting, he has a plus arm with plus range at shortstop, but he will get into funks where he's throwing the ball away. He's also incredibly adept at making difficult tags.
For the Tigers, this marks a huge upgrade at a premium position over what was Niko Goodrum, Harold Castro, Willie Castro and Zack Short last season. According to baseball-reference.com's wins above average by position, only the Phillies and Angels got less out of shortstop last season in all of baseball.
Of note here: The Tigers were believed to be one of the favorites to land Correa earlier this offseason, reuniting him with former Astros manager A.J. Hinch. This seems to take them out of the running, though we've seen them get crazy before.