Is Tigers' rehab plan for Javy Baez a way to keep him away from MLB roster as long as possible?

Detroit Tigers v New York Mets
Detroit Tigers v New York Mets / Dustin Satloff/GettyImages

Javier Báez has been out of the Tigers' lineup since June 9, but it's very hard to say that anyone has missed him. It's created a little bit of confusion at shortstop — Zach McKinstry and now Ryan Kreidler have been taking most reps there, but Justyn-Henry Malloy and even Mark Canha were used as fill-ins a few times — but we've also been saved from watching Báez swings at pitches way out of the zone turn into Twitter memes over these last few weeks.

He's been out with lumbar spine inflammation, the same issue that took Kerry Carpenter out on May 29. Báez has been rehabbing in Florida but isn't expected to return to the team anytime soon, and AJ Hinch said that he'll have to undergo an "extensive" rehab assignment when he's ready to return to competition.

Back issues can be tricky, so it makes sense that the Tigers wouldn't want to rush him and exacerbate the problem, but an "extensive" rehab is...interesting, and it sounds a little like a thinly-veiled way of trying to leave him out of the major league lineup for as long as humanly possible.

Javy Báez set to undergo "extensive" rehab assignment upon return to competition

Báez being out of commission with an injury like this always meant that he would have to undergo a rehab assignment, but it would make a lot of sense for the Tigers to keep him in the minors a while for performance-based issues under the guise of a rehab. It would sort of feel like José Abreu opting into a minor league assignment to try to improve for the Astros, but without the full transparency. (Of course, Abreu was eventually released by Houston after he failed to improve, and we can only dream of the same thing happening to Báez).

Before he got hurt, Báez was hitting .183 with a .456 OPS through 53 games. His .209 OBP was and continues to be the worst of all Tigers hitters, and even his defense — so often the only minorly redeeming thing about his game — was poor up to that point; he had a -3 OAA and landed in the 18th percentile of all position players.

Whether the Tigers mean it to be or not, his rehab assignment will be as much an opportunity to get his head back in the game as it will to evaluate his play against minor leaguers. If he can't shape up even during a visit to Single-A, then the Tigers really might have to consider eating that contract, even after years of standing by him.