All-Star shortstop Javier Baez, who spent the second half of the 2021 season with the New York Mets, is expected to sign a six-year deal with the Detroit Tigers, as first reported by MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand on Tuesday.
The Tigers were expected to be major players for a premier free-agent shortstop this offseason — whether that was for Baez, Carlos Correa, Trevor Story, Corey Seager, or Marcus Semien. Both Semien and Seager, who were perceived to be targets for the shortstop-needy New York Yankees, have already signed with the Texas Rangers.
Over the last two weeks, speculation grew that the Mets were toying with the idea of bringing Baez back to Queens after they opened up conversations with the two-time All-Star, who turns 29 on Wednesday. He showed an ability to perform well with the Mets after he was acquired from the Chicago Cubs at the trade deadline. In 47 games, he slashed .299/.371/.515 (.886 OPS) with nine home runs and 22 RBI.
In total, the Mets added $254.5 million worth of contracts with those four deals while catapulting their 2022 payroll to a projected $265 million — which is by far the highest in Major League Baseball right now and the first time the Mets hold such a standing since 1989. But an active Thanksgiving period saw the Mets sign outfielders Starling Marte and Mark Canha, along with infielder Eduardo Escobar — who can play either second or third base — before they rocked the baseball world by acquiring three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer with a three-year, $130 million pact on Monday.
As one of the big stars of the game, Baez was always going to be slated for a sizable contract. However, the influx of cash that made its way to the Mets’ books in recent days suggested that Baez would have had to take a lesser deal — in terms of length or even dollars — to return to Queens.
On top of that, he would have continued playing away from his natural position at shortstop at second base to co-exist with his good friend in Francisco Lindor.
With Baez on his way to the Motor City, the Mets are instilling a vote of confidence — at least for now — toward Jeff McNeil at second base. Not only did the lefty have a down season in 2021, posting a batting average 68 points lower and an OPS 205 points lower than his first 248 career games, but he also had troubles co-existing with Lindor in the field up the middle.
Escobar can also play second, though he seems more of a logical fit at third base for the time being, as well as Robinson Cano, who returns from a year-long PED suspension but projects more as a DH option at 39 years old.