Detroit Tigers need big things from Javier Báez in 2024.
The Detroit Tigers expect Javier Báez to return from the off-season with a renewed approach. At a minimum, maybe Báez can get through the season, performing at a higher clip for Detroit. The Tigers shortstop has reportedly spent most of the off-season looking to improve his abilities in the batters' box.
Improvements from the shortstop would be huge for the Detroit Tigers, especially after he opted into the remaining four years, with $98 million left on his initial six-year deal. He has not exactly lived up to the standards in his time with Detroit. There's been a lot of inconsistency from the right-handed bat, but he's hoping for better times ahead in 2024.
Báez has a chance to make a statement in 2024, and for a 31-year-old shortstop, the hopes for monumental changes from a veteran like him are low. But his offseason plans were seemingly geared toward development, staying stateside in Tampa Bay rather than returning to Puerto Rico as usual.
For the Tigers, Báez is entering year three. This comes after 2023, where he played in 136 games, totaling 547 plate appearances. He slashed .222/.267/.325 with 19 doubles, four triples, and nine home runs, driving in 59 runs. This comes while walking only 24 times, striking out 125 times.
It certainly differs from the number you would expect from a player getting $23.3 million a year. It was a step down from 2022, which was not much better at .238/.278/.393, with 27 doubles, four triples, and 17 home runs, driving in 67 runs. It was better than 2023, but still not quite the clip most would be hoping for.
With two seasons of Báez being up and down by the week, the Tigers are hoping that he can right the ship and get things moving in the right direction. If this off-season of hard work did indeed go well, there may be some improvements with his numbers in 2023, but heck, a player on the wrong side of 30 years old who's known for being inconsistent? I don't love those odds.
The Tigers need big things from him, though. There is no star shortstop waiting in the wings. I love me some Kevin McGonigle, but he's unlikely going to be able to make a move to shortstop. Colt Keith is a 2B/3B, as is Jace Jung. Ryan Kreidler is not the answer. But Báez is underway for the next four years either way.
However, Detroit may want to consider some other options to patrol shortstop down the line. But, this spring, it will be interesting to see how Báez adjusts after his off-season of "putting in work."