Javier Báez to the 10-day IL, Ryan Kreidler recalled from Toledo

Bless You Boys

The Tigers announced Tuesday afternoon that shortstop Javier Báez has been placed on the 10-day injured list with lumbar spine inflammation. Infielder Ryan Kreidler has been recalled from Triple-A Toledo in his place.

Báez has reportedly been managing the issue all season, but couldn’t play on Sunday against the Milwaukee Brewers. He and manager A.J. Hinch had a meeting and determined that it was time for an injured list stint to try and get the back issue resolved rather than trying to manage it day to day.

Obviously it’s been a truly awful season at the plate for the former star shortstop. He’s batting just .183/.209/.247 with one home run to date on the year. And while there have the regular bursts of defensive brilliance from Báez, his defensive marks have overall been pretty pedestrian this season. When you’re one of the five worst qualified hitters in the game, and no longer playing above average defense at a key position, there isn’t much else to say.

The fact that Ryan Kreidler was the one recalled will probably irk some fans hoping for more of an offensive boost. However, Kreidler is comfortably the best defensive shortstop the Tigers have beyond Báez and already has a 40-man roster spot. In terms of a snap decision, this was really the only one available.

The problem is that Kreidler himself has rarely been healthy the past three seasons. After breaking out with 15 homers at the Double-A level in 2021, Kreidler has suffered multiple hand fractures from getting hit by pitches, as well as a few other soft tissue injuries along the way. He only has about 650 total plate appearances anywhere going back to the beginning of the 2022 season. It’s been an odyssey of fluke injuries without much chance to settle into a groove and play 50+ games in a row without issue.

In his MLB call-up in 2022, Kreidler appeared in 26 games but hit .178/.244/.233. A brief look in 2023 didn’t go any better. He was again hit in the hand this spring, going on the injured list back on April 7 with a fractured finger. He got 22 plate appearances on a rehab assignment in Low-A Lakeland, and has just 29 more since returning to the Toledo Mud Hens last week.

Kreidler has a decent eye for the zone, average power, and is a solid fastball hitter. He’s shown no ability to adjust to spin or offspeed, and particularly as he’s just getting geared back up after the injury, it would be unwise to expect much of anything offensively. He’s just the best defensive shortstop available, and does have a modest track record of hitting lefties. He may make a decent platoon partner with Zach McKinstry, but the fact is that the Tigers are going to remain very weak at the shortstop position unless Kreidler really shocks us.

Of course, the bar is set very low. As long as Kreidler plays solid defense, he can’t really do any worse than Báez at the plate. He’s not quite Báez’s equal defensively, and you won’t see many highlight reel plays. Kreidler doesn’t make many mistakes either, and should be a stable presence at the position.

The Tigers may have a better hitting option in Andrew Navigato, who is largely manning the position for Toledo this year with Kreidler and Eddys Leonard both out, but the 26-year-old Navigato is shaky at shortstop by major league standards and is largely taking advantage of a lot of experience as a minor league hitter. Despite his superior offensive numbers at the Triple-A level, I’m not sure he’s any more likely to hit major league pitching than Kreidler, and would also require a DFA of someone to open a 40-man roster spot. Perhaps if Báez ends up having to hit the 60-day IL, the Tigers will revisit the possibility.

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