It’s still early, but the Detroit Tigers may have missed their guy
When the Detroit Tigers signed shortstop Javier Baez to a six-year, $140-million contract in the offseason, many fans felt disappointed. There were five marquee free agent shortstops last winter, and fans felt they were getting the worst of the bunch.
We’re a quarter into the season now, and while he isn’t quite the worst of the bunch, it’s pretty darn close. Baez is slashing .204/.248/.321 with a .569 OPS and three home runs. Baez is making $20 million this season.
However, it could be worse. The Texas Rangers signed Marcus Semien to a seven-year, $175 million deal in the offseason, and he’s struggled more than Baez. He’s currently slashing .181/.236/.241 with a .477 OPS and no homers. He’s making $25 million this season. Neither of these deals look great early on.
Now Baez has always been a streaky player, and he’s proven that this season. Baez got off to a hot start, then faded pretty quickly. He has been slumping mightily in the month of May, slashing .161/.212/.237. He only has two more hits this month than he did in just 11 games during the month of April.
Maybe he could find one of those patented hot streaks, but he just looks lost right now. At age 29 and five more years left on his contract, this could turn into an albatross if he doesn’t figure things out.
There is one shortstop the Tigers should have signed instead—and it’s not who you think it is.
Tell me a Story
There was no way Chris Ilitch was going to pony up for Carlos Correa. It just wasn’t going to happen. Instead, as it turns out, for virtually the exact same contract, the Detroit Tigers could have signed Trevor Story.
While Story’s slash line of .227/.315/.455 isn’t spectacular, it’s a heck of a lot better than Baez at the moment. He’s also got nine homers, including a three-homer game against the Seattle Mariners on May 19.
If you take a look at his Baseball Savant page, it’s littered with red circles. He’s in the 91st percentile in barrel rate, while Baez is in the 50th percentile. Story has actually struck out more than Baez so far this season, but he doesn’t chase nearly as much. His walk rate is the highest of his career so far at 10.1%.
Story has been better defensively as well, although he has been playing second base for Boston. He’s in the 90th percentile in outs above average, while Baez is in the 64th percentile.
Many people were concerned about the fact that he played in Colorado’s Coors Field for half of his games every year, and that his numbers were inflated because of that. But his wRC+ so far this year is 119, which is slightly above his career average of 112. Small sample size, yes, but Story is coming off a pedestrian season by his standards, so this is a good sign.
There were also concerns about a nagging elbow injury for Story, but that appears to have cleared up for now.
Another argument for why the Tigers went with Baez over Story is that they didn’t want to wait until after the lockout to sign a shortstop and risk not getting one. We don’t know what Story was asking for pre-lockout, but if it was somewhere around what Baez got, or even what Semien got, the Tigers could have easily gotten him instead.
Who knows, maybe Story didn’t want to play in Detroit. That’s always possible. But it has always felt like the Tigers could have done better than Javier Baez, and it’s showing right now.
In the end, Carlos Correa was just a pipe dream. Corey Seager was as well. Trevor Story seemed like the perfect consolation prize, but the Detroit Tigers went in another direction. Again, it’s still early, but the Tigers may regret going with Baez over Story.