Javier Baez wanted to bet on himself.
So, the free-agent shortstop requested — and received — the Miguel Cabrera package for award bonuses as part of his six-year, $140 million contract with the Detroit Tigers, a source with knowledge of the contract details told the Free Press. The deal became official Dec. 1, ahead of the collective bargaining agreement’s expiration and MLB’s lockout.
The 29-year-old can opt-out after the 2023 season and has a limited no-trade clause — he can block trades to 10 teams each year. He is set to earn $20 million in 2022, $22 million in 2023, $25 million in 2024, $25 million in 2025, $24 million in 2026 and $24 million in 2027. The Tigers signed him to be an elite defender and impact the offense with his power swing.
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“As this unfolded, these little details at the end that are not little to team or agent, I wanted to fast-forward and get it done,” Tigers manager AJ Hinch said Dec. 1. “When I talked to Javy that night, really late in Puerto Rico, I just wanted him to know how excited I was and how good I felt that I was going to write his name in the lineup every day at the shortstop position. He is going to help us win.”
Turns out, Baez has one of the best bonus packages in the big leagues.
For comparison, these are some of the bonuses from Max Scherzer’s record-setting three-year, $130 million contract with the New York Mets, which became official Dec. 1: $200,000 for finishing first in MVP voting, $200,000 for a Cy Young Award, $150,000 for World Series MVP, $100,000 for LCS MVP and $100,000 for an All-Star selection.
And then there’s Francisco Lindor’s 10-year, $341 million contract extension with the Mets, which he signed before last year’s Opening Day: $100,000 for World Series MVP, $50,000 for LCS MVP, $50,000 for MVP, $25,000 for finishing second in MVP voting and $10,000 for finishing third in MVP voting, $50,000 for a Gold Glove Award, $50,000 for a Silver Slugger Award and $50,000 for an All-Star selection.
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For a Tigers comparison, Cabrera picked up his award bonuses — nearly identical to Baez’s structure — as part of an eight-year extension in March 2014, just before turning 31, though the extension didn’t begin until his age-33 season.
The two-time American League MVP will make $32 million in each of the next two seasons, the last on his deal. The 38-year-old, who plans to retire after the 2023 season, hit .256 with 15 home runs and 75 RBIs in 130 games last year.
Cabrera earns $2 million for finishing first in MVP voting, $100,000 for All-Star MVP, $100,000 for a Gold Glove, $100,000 for a Silver Slugger, $150,000 for LCS MVP, $200,000 for World Series MVP, $200,000 for finishing in the top five in MVP voting, $100,000 for finishing sixth-10th in MVP voting, $50,000 for an All-Star selection, $250,000 for a Hank Aaron Award and, finally, $1 million for winning the MVP, Hank Aaron and World Series MVP awards in the same season.
In August, Cabrera collected his 500th career home run. He enters 2022 13 hits from No. 3,000. Just six players have reached both plateaus: Albert Pujols, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Eddie Murray, Rafael Palmeiro and Alex Rodriguez.
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Before Cabrera retires, Baez hopes to learn from him about plate discipline.
“I haven’t had my best season yet, so I’m working to have a great season,” Baez said Dec. 1. “I want to talk to Miggy to learn something about swings, then I can keep the same swing for the rest of my career. I’m working on trying to see the ball better and chase less pitches.”
Here’s how Baez can get rewarded by the Tigers for his performance, with a few differences before and after the opt-out in his six-year contract:
• $200,000 for finishing second-fifth in MVP voting.
• $100,000 for finishing sixth-10th in MVP voting.
• $100,000 for All-Star MVP.
• $50,000 for All-Star selection.
• $100,000 for Baseball America, Sporting News, Associated Press postseason All-Star.
• $100,000 for a Silver Slugger.
• $100,000 for a Gold Glove.
• $150,000 for LCS MVP.
• $200,000 for World Series MVP.
• $1 million for winning the MVP vote.
• $100,000 for Hank Aaron Award.
• $2 million for winning the MVP vote.
• $250,000 for Hank Aaron Award.
• $1 million for winning the MVP, Hank Aaron and World Series MVP awards in the same season.