Detroit Tigers reportedly close to signing SS Javier Baez to six-year deal

Detroit Free Press

The Detroit Tigers appear to have found their new shortstop.

But it’s not the man many hoped for.

MLB Network/Fox Sports reporter and Free Press alum Jon Paul Morosi reported early Tuesday morning that the Tigers are close to signing shortstop Javier Baez to a six-year deal.

Baez, who will turn 29 on Wednesday, is a two-time All-Star and former Gold Glove winner who hit .265 with 31 home runs and 87 RBIs in 138 games between the Chicago Cubs and New York Mets last season. He did, though, lead the National League with 184 strikeouts over 502 at-bats. He stole 18 bases and walked 28 times, registering a .319 on-base percentage and a .494 slugging percentage (.813 on-base plus slugging).

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For his career, the right-handed-hitting Baez is a .264 hitter with a .783 OPS and a 23.4 WAR. His career fielding percentage is .965 at shortstop. He made $11.6 million last season.

It is not yet clear how much money the deal is worth. But two other marquee middle infielders in this free-agent class signed for major money on Monday, both with the Texas Rangers. Marcus Semien, 31, who played second base last year with the Toronto Blue Jays, got seven years and $175 million, and Corey Seager, 27, the former World Series MVP with the Los Angeles Dodgers, received a 10-year, $325 million deal.

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Many fans’ dream scenario was for the Tigers to sign free-agent shortstop Carlos Correa, but it is believed that his asking price would be north of $30 million a year for perhaps a long as a decade. The 27-year-old, considered the class of what was a shortstop-rich free agent class, is a two-time All-Star who hits for power and won a Gold Glove this year and has been a member of the Astros, who have been to five straight American League Championship Series and three World Series since 2017.

His relationship with Tigers manager AJ Hinch, who managed Correa to two of those World Series, including the 2017 championship, was thought to help. But as Tigers general manager Al Avila has said, the team is not looking wildly spend.

“The resources will be there,” Avila said on Oct. 5, speaking broadly about free agency.  “But I will caution you, this is not going to be spending like a drunken sailor.”

The Tigers have spent elsewhere: trading for Reds catcher Tucker Barnhardt and exercising his $7.5 million option for next season; signing starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez to a five-year, $77 million deal. If the Tigers do add Baez, they would have one more spot available on their 40-man roster, lending to the idea that they may not be done with free agency. However, time is running short with the current collective bargaining agreement scheduled to end at 11:59 p.m. Wednesday and no new pact between the owners and players’ union on the horizon.

The native of Puerto Rico was drafted by the Cubs ninth overall in the 2011 draft out of Jacksonville (Fla.) Arlington Country Day. He debuted in 2014 and played in 52 games.

Baez played in only 28 games in 2015, but he burst on the scene in 2016, the year the Cubs won the World Series. Playing more second base and third base than shortstop, he hit .273 in the regular season and .253 in the postseason as the Cubs beat Cleveland in seven games in the Fall Classic.

His best individual season was 2018, his first year as an All-Star. He hit .290 with 34 home runs and an NL-leading 111 RBIs that year, finishing second in the MVP voting.

Last season, as the Cubs traded away several key members of that World Series team to begin a rebuild, Baez was sent to New York to pair up with longtime friend Francisco Lindor. But Baez could not fix the issues and injuries in the Big Apple as the Mets faded down the stretch. Though he hit .299 with an .886 OPS in 47 games (167 at-bats) after the trade.

Free Press sports writer Tyler Davis contributed to this reporContact Kirkland Crawford: kcrawford@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @HiKirkHere.

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