What MLB fans and the media are saying about Javier Baez signing with the Detroit Tigers

The Detroit Tigers entered the offseason with shortstop as their top priority. With five star players available, the 2022 Major League Baseball free agent market fit those needs perfectly.

Joining the signing frenzy to beat the Dec. 2 deadline for the team owner lockout, the Tigers have their man. But he’s not the guy a lot of Detroit baseball fans wanted. Late Monday night through Tuesday morning, the team signed Javier Baez to a six-year, $140 million deal.

The news was first reported by MLB Network’s Jon Paul Morosi with contract terms reported by MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand.

Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal later added that Baez’s contract includes an opt-out after two years and a limited no-trade clause allowing him to list 10 teams he cannot be traded to.

Baez, 29, hitter. 265 with .813 OPS, 31 homers, 18 doubles and 18 stolen bases for the Chicago Cubs and New York Mets last season. During his career he finished second in the 2018 National League MVP (batting .290 with .881 OPS, 34 homers, 40 doubles, 111 RBI and 21 stolen bases) earned Gold Glove and Silver Slugger honors , and is a two-time All-Star.

Detractors will point to his 184 strikeouts, 28 walks and .319 on-base percentage, all of which are valid grounds for concern. But Baez also adds extra base power, excellent base defense and running, positional versatility, and star presence to a team that desperately needs improvement in all of those areas.

It’s an obvious upgrade for a Tigers club that produced a collective .201 batting average (last in MLB) and .595 OPS (worst in the American League). Defensively, Detroit’s shortstops compiled -15 defensive points saved (third-worst in baseball) and an end zone rating of -3.8 (sixth-worst).

But Baez is no Carlos Correa, which is a bummer for many Tigers fans who wanted the best available shortstop and superstar talent. Fans also thought Detroit might have a built-in advantage in signing Correa with his former manager AJ Hinch now in charge of the team. Here is a sample of the disappointment some feel:

However, the key aspect of Baez’s deal with Detroit is how much lower he is than Correa is likely to sign, especially after Corey Seager set the free agent bar high in his contract. 10 years and $325 million with the Texas Rangers. Most MLB insiders and beat writers who cover the Tigers reported that the team would rather not pay out a deal that exceeded $300 million and be locked into it for at least a decade.

Although the circumstances are obviously different, Detroit is nearing the end of the eight-year, $242 million extension (a 10-year, $292 million deal) given to Miguel Cabrera in 2014. Then 31, he was already on the decline of his career, essentially resulting in a lifetime service contract from owner Mike Ilitch.

With the passing of senior Ilitch in 2017, his son Christopher took over the Tigers. And he’s since cut payrolls and jettisoned aging players (with the exception of Cabrera and his non-tradeable contract) in a five-year rebuilding project that has left Detroit among baseball’s worst teams.

Tigers fans’ biggest fear is that Christopher Ilitch will stick to his low-spending approach, reneging on his promise to spend more money as the team improves. For many, opting for Baez over Correa confirms those concerns.

Still, many are pointing out that Baez’s deal will likely be half of what Correa will eventually get, in terms of money and possibly contact years. This arguably presents greater value and allows the Tigers to take what would have been spent on Correa to bolster other areas on the roster with another outfielder, starting pitcher or reliever.

Or maybe all three! Chris Taylor? Michel Conforto? Raisel Iglesias? Marcus Stroman to accompany previously signed Eduardo Rodriguez? Hope is still alive!

The promise of a rebuild is that it will eventually pay off, as young prospects hopefully turn into stars and the budget is cleared to make room for big deals again. That’s what Tigers fans have tolerated for the past five years (seven, really), waiting for the day when talents like pitchers Casey Mize, Matt Manning and Tarik Skubal progress to the major leagues with the slugger. Joining them soon is Spencer Torkelson and outfielder Riley Greene.

Detroit finished third in the AL Central last season, finishing above .500 (37-34) in the second half of the campaign and looking like a surging team. It’s time to add star players to a core of young talent, which is why fans — and many baseball media outlets — have pointed out that the Tigers are making a splash in free agency.

For some, Javier Baez falls short of high expectations. But the Detroit Tigers are definitely better than they were less than 24 hours ago. And they could still improve. If (when?) that happens, the sting of losing Carlos Correa will be lessened.

Neal T. Doss