Detroit Tigers: Javier Baez to sign six-year $140 million contract

The Detroit Tigers have agreed to sign free-agent shortstop Javier Baez to a six-year $140 million contract.

The soon-to-be 29-year-old was a key cog in the Chicago Cubs lineup that bucked a 108-year championship drought. He also finished second in the 2018 MVP race after posting career highs in nearly every offensive category.

Throughout his eight-year career, Baez has established himself as an elite and flashy defender. In 2020, his stellar play led to the Gold Glove award. Tigers fans can also expect Baez to continue wreaking havoc for the opponent on the bases.

He’s also, however, still a free swinger. In 2021, Baez led major league baseball in strikeouts while also ranking 3rd in strikeout percentage. The Cubs sent their star infielder to the New York Mets just before the July trade deadline, where a new approach led to a reduced strikeout rate and increased walk rate.

Javier Baez signed a six-year $140 million contract with the Detroit Tigers
Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated

Tigers fans had been loudly clamoring for Carlos Correa since the 2021 regular season. Yet, this move should not come as a surprise. General Manager Al Avila and owner Chris Illitch have already been on record saying they do not wish to pay a single player $300 million, and they didn’t.

At $140 million, the Tigers are still in the market for another bat or arm. Utility extraordinaire Chris Taylor is still available, in addition to left-handed slugger Kyle Schwarber.

On a larger budget, Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, and Nick Castellanos wouldn’t be the most unrealistic moves in the world for a team that once boasted Prince Fielder, Miguel Cabrera, and Justin Verlander all making over $20 million annually.

This move sets the Tigers up to begin their next championship window. Young phenoms Riley Green and Spencer Torkelson are expected to be lineup mainstays for the 2022 campaign. Pitchers Tarik Skubal and Casey Mize will also be off of any pitching restrictions.

The current CBA is set to expire Wednesday, which will likely freeze any further free agency deals for the time being.

Tigers Owner Hinting At Aggressive Offseason

“I am very much supportive of the approach that [Avila] and his team have taken of building a young core of talent and now having the desire to bring in high-impact players to fill that team out”

“This winter?”

“Undoubtedly that could happen this winter.”

Folks, it just may have arrived.

At a groundbreaking ceremony for the historic Hamtramck Stadium, Tigers owner Chris Illitch announced that the Detroit Tigers could become fierce competitors this offseason to bring in pieces to solidify the Tigers as championship contenders yet again. 

The Tigers have not seen a winning season since 2016 (86-75) a feat which they may achieve this season.  However, Illitch’s words elicit more than just hope for the continuous improvement of a rebuild.  Fans might be lucky enough to enjoy an aggressive offseason that will allow the Tigers to make significant strides competitively.

Is it premature to position the Tigers in such a position?  Not with the current foundation in place.

Torkelson and Greene are knocking at the door,  Miguel Cabrera has found a resurgence after several injury-filled seasons, and the young trio of Mize, Skubal, and Manning has already given us enough glimpses into a future rotation of three quality young starters.

Not to mention the emergence of rookie sensations in Akil Baddoo and Eric Haase.

The current state of the Tigers is a young ambitious roster, powered by a multidimensional and resilient offense.  Where they lack in a middle-of-the-order presence, they overcome with timely hitting and athleticism.  

If the front office is ready to make a move, where should they start?


It has been long documented the Tigers should go after one of the premier shortstops in this free-agent class.  Following the pitching-heavy 2021 draft, it appears they will do as such as the middle infield remains a glaring weak spot.

Potential Candidates

Carlos Correa 

Age – 27

2021 Salary – $11.7 Million

2021 Slash – .271/.367/.474

Correa has been the fan consensus for a while, and for good reason.  He would be reuniting with his former manager AJ Hinch and would fill the need for a middle-of-the-order impact bat.  His power numbers will most likely decline coming from the hitter-friendly Minute Maid Park, but his other offensive tools and glove will stabilize the lineup.

Corey Seager

Age – 28

2021 Salary – $13.75 Million

2021 Slash – .268/.365/.420

Seager would be a tad risky due to his injury history.  But when healthy, his glove and his bat are as dependable as any at his position.  In the Tigers lineup, Seager would fall closer to Jhonny Peralta or Ian Kinsler. A fantastic addition, but might not necessarily be the immediate impact bat they need.

Javier Baez

Age – 29

2021 Salary – $11.65 Million

2021 Slash – .286/.290/.483

If your opponent ran out a lineup of nine Javier Baez’s for a game, you would be completely exhausted by the 5th inning.  Baez is chaos personified on a diamond.  He can play short or second at an elite level while putting steady pressure on both the pitcher and the defense.  Some would look at his affinity to the strikeout as a negative, but after watching Miggy and V-Mart lead the league in double plays for their careers, it might be a refreshing result.

Honorable Mention – SS
Brandon Crawford – The most reliable defensive player of our generation not named Yadier Molina.

Andrelton Simmons – Remember debating him vs Jose Iglesias?

Trevor Story – Good bat, down year.

Jose Iglesias – Come home, my son.

Other Impact Bats

Kris Bryant

Age – 30

2021 Salary – $19.5 Million

2021 Slash – .266/.358/.506

The former MVP would likely have to find a new position if the Tigers offered. Otherwise, if he wishes to return to remain at third, the Tigers would have to make a decision with Spencer Torkelson. But despite that, Bryant is the exact kind of hitter every lineup needs.

Freddie Freeman

Age – 31

2021 Salary – $22.4 Million

2021 Slash – .289/.393/.501

Freddie Freeman could end up being a perfect fit in Detroit.  Schoop has played himself into a larger contract with an immediate contender, and the 2020 MVP could step in as the new centerpiece.  However, with Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuna Jr. giving the Braves an incredible discount, Atlanta might just hand Freeman a blank check.

It will take more than just one or two offensive pieces for the Tigers to emerge as contenders.  The bullpen desperately needs to be addressed and the rotation is lacking a bonafide ace.  

If Illitch and Avila are both prepared to push the poker chips to the center, a reunion with Justin Verlander or Max Scherzer might not be completely out of the question.  

The bottom line, the light at the end of the tunnel is right in our faces.

The Tigers Keep Winning, The Deadline Keeps Looming

Okay, Tigers. You have our attention.

7-3 in their last ten games and 20-15 dating back to May 28th. A far cry from May 7th when they were 15 games sub .500.

They have momentum.

Enough so where a decision must be made before the July 31st trade deadline. Albeit an easy one.

Currently, the Tigers boast a record 39-46, putting them 10.5 games out of the lead and 9.5 games out of a Wild Card spot. So yes they have momentum, not enough to turn them into buyers, unfortunately. But they DO have enough to turn current pieces into quality future assets, which they should strongly consider.

Jonathan Schoop

(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Schoop has been on a rampant tear, hitting .343 for June with ten big johnsons. At age 29, it’s not likely he will be included in the Tigers five-year plan, and as a free agent after this season, he could draw a handsome return from a contender.

The Brewers could be very interested in reuniting with Schoop, plugging him at first base where they desperately need some production. The Tigers may be overly ambitious in requesting any of the Brewers top hitting prospects such as Garrett Mitchell or Brice Turang, but additional bats are needed.

Specifically, bats that are ready in the next few seasons, if not now.

Boston is also starving for production at first base. And with the best record in the American League, adding even an average bat would greatly bolster their lineup. 22-year-old Jeter Downs would check all the necessary boxes for the Tigers and would be ready to contribute immediately if needed. However, yes, another overly ambitious request.

Maybe.

If Boston gets desperate, we have them throw in Blaze Jordan and the Tigers could rob the Red Sox blind of any incredible future marketing that Manfred would eventually ruin.

Nomar Mazara

(Kirthmon F. Dozier/Detroit Free Press)

Mazara’s abysmal production and bad defense would be more about opening a spot up in the lineup for somebody that would benefit the Tigers more. However, he is still a lefty bat with incredible power. Any team making a move on him would simply be looking at a pinch-hit role or a platoon spot.

So far it’s worked out for the Dodgers and Pujols. He’s playing like he’s 41 again.

Think Astros or Rays in this scenario.

But If They Were Buyers…

Now just because we can, we are going to say the Tigers erupt in July, The White Sox implode, and Terry Francona has an existential crisis, plugging himself in at shortstop every game.  

Suddenly, the Tigers are only three games back.

It will be tough to make moves while maintaining most of their future pieces, but let’s try it anyway.

Trevor Story is set to be a free agent and would provide a steady upgrade both defensively and offensively. It’s not likely the Rockies will trade him, especially after the Arenado debacle, but they are on the verge of another overhaul.

Joey Gallo would play the role that Nomar Mazara was expected to. If the Tigers wished to go with more seasoned hands in the outfield, Gallo would fill in nicely, and at a much lower cost than the next two.

If for some reason the Cubs find themselves in a selling position, teams will be hounding Jed Hoyer about Kris Bryant and Javier Baez. Detroit would most likely have to part with two of their top prospects for the Cubs to even return their phone calls.

They would have a chance at resigning one of the two for a longer deal, signifying the Tigers will officially be making their push for the next window.

As long as the Tigers keep winning, they will have the leverage.