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Was Javier Baez the right choice for the Tigers?

Written by 
Published in Baseball
Tuesday, 30 November 2021 09:15

If there seemed like one sure bet this offseason in the unpredictable world of MLB free agency, it's that the Detroit Tigers would spend whatever it took to land one of the premier shortstops on the market.

Now, that seeming inevitability has come to pass, with Detroit agreeing to a reported six-year, $140 million contract with former Cubs and Mets whirling dervish Javier Baez. The deal contains an opt-out somewhere in its midst, according to ESPN's Buster Olney.

That the Tigers signed a shortstop is no surprise. But that it would be Baez -- that was much less certain. Mainly because the Tigers have been viewed as an ideal fit for this year's No. 1 free agent, for months.

The reasons for that are obvious. Detroit is trying to climb out of a rebuild and into contention. The Tigers had money to spend and no long-term (or even short-term) answer at shortstop. And Correa has a long-time connection to Tigers manager, and Correa brunch pal, A.J. Hinch.

In order to compare the contract the Tigers offered Baez to what they would have had to offer Correa, let's run back this table:

This is an educated guess, but given Correa's age and track record, it seems he is headed toward a 10- or 11-year deal, if he wants something that long, for around $35 million in average annual value. So let's say it's 11 years for $385 million -- hitting the upper range of these estimates now that the list of available, All-Star shortstops is down to two.

Consider the win-now teams that need a shortstop: the Yankees, Astros, Angels, Phillies and (I would argue) the Cardinals. Two of those five teams are lined up to be the landing spots for Correa and Trevor Story, both of whom have to feel awfully good about how this offseason has lined up so far.

While we can't say for sure how deep into negotiations the Tigers got with Correa's representatives, we can look at this as a head-to-head comparison: Correa or Baez? (Unless the Tigers go the route of the Texas Rangers, who didn't choose between Marcus Semien and Corey Seager but signed them both.) This is apparently about a $200 million question, for reasons that become clear when you look more closely at the pair's stats over the past three seasons.

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