The free agency case for Javier Baez is certainly a weird one. On the one hand, this is a guy that put together back to back stellar seasons for the Chicago Cubs in 2018 and 2019 that saw him contribute in all aspects of the game. He was also quite good in 2021 which saw him post a 116 wRC+ for the season. However, he is also a flawed player that can charitably be described as free swinging who can be very streaky and also who strikes out a ton particularly when he is in a rough patch. His abysmal 2020 season also weighs on the minds of observers as well.
That said, his market this offseason appeared to be quite robust as infielders with his skillset are hard to come by. The Tigers appear to be the winners of that derby as they look to make a push in 2022.
Javier Baez and the Tigers are nearing a deal, per source. It is expected to be a six-year contract worth $140 million.— Mark Feinsand (@Feinsand) November 30, 2021
For Baez, he gets a very nice payday after an up and down career and really an up and down 2021 season. His time with the Cubs this season was decidedly mediocre, but after being traded to the Mets, he showed out with a .299/.371/.515 slash line in 186 plate appearances. While you can count this author as skeptical that he will maintain that sort of walk rate going forward, he should be a productive player for several years and he will be paid well for it.
As for the Tigers, they are a part of a fascinating set of teams that seemingly are not quite ready to contend next year, but have waves of prospects coming in that should make them good by 2023. As a result, teams like the Tigers and Rangers are not waiting for those prospects to arrive and instead are preparing for their arrival so that they are ready to contend without having to bet on just one free agent class. Whether Baez is a guy that will pay big enough dividends for that to happen remains to be seen, but you have to respect the effort.