Panic button time has arrived for the Detroit Tigers big money shortstop

It's time to press the panic button on Javier Báez. The Detroit Tigers have to be supremely concerned with how things are going with their veteran.
Detroit Tigers shortstop Javier Baez (28) looks on during a Spring Training game after yet another swing-and-miss.
Detroit Tigers shortstop Javier Baez (28) looks on during a Spring Training game after yet another swing-and-miss. / Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Tigers are in a spot where it's time to worry about the future. Shortstop Javier Báez has reached dire straits. It's been time to start worrying, but it's time to hammer down on the panic button. While some folks, including myself, have been at that point for some time, it's really time to start worrying.

Things are not going well for Javier Báez this spring at the Detroit Tigers camp in Lakeland. It's not pretty -- he's been making news but not for the right reasons. This also comes after he was the "best shape of his life" player when Spring Training began. Then again, he couldn't get a vote of confidence from his own manager.

After spending the off-season working and aiming to improve, it was tough to see his own manager be unable to bestow faith in him. A.J. Hinch struggled to talk positively about Báez and did not give him his stamp of approval or vote of confidence. It's a tough look for Báez, and it has to be tough on Hinch to be in that position.

But, for a player who's taking home north of $23 million each year, it's tough to see him being able to perform at this level. The Tigers cannot afford to pay that much to a player who will swing-and-miss as much as Teoscar Hernandez did in his record-setting performance.

Detroit Tigers fans need to be panicking about Javier Báez.

This spring has been unkind to Báez. He has not looked good at all. It's been ugly in the box, and the results speak for themselves. He's been to the plate 22 times this spring, registering just one hit. It's tough to put a lot of stock into Spring Training stats, and I want to try and say it's not rational to be this concerned, but Báez is not helping himself.

The bad whiffs, ugly swings, and weak contact are still there. Poor swing decisions and an inability to put the barrel on the ball have plagued his chances this spring. In his 1-for-22 stretch, he's walked just once and struck out 11 times. For the math majors, he's been punched out in 50% of his at-bats in Spring Training.

It's tough to watch. In a spring where he's seen just 94 pitches, knowing that, at a minimum, 33 of those are at-bats resulting in punchouts, not even accounting for foul balls or just balls within the count. It's incredible how poorly things are going for the 31-year-old.

But with all of this in mind, Tigers fans must be panicking. After all, Báez avoided the free agent market this off-season, opting into the remaining four years of his contract, with a $98 million bill for the Tigers to foot. It's problematic for the Tigers, who are trying to finally get over the hump and get out of the rebuild.

Even if 2024 is not the year, footing the yearly $24+ million contract to Báez for a meager output will get old. His contract was a parting gift from Al Avila before he was fired, and now Scott Harris is stuck managing it. He's slated to make $25 million in 2024 and 2025, which is just abysmal.

Without improvement, Detroit Tigers fans will be tormented (again)...

The Tigers are going to be in the market for a new shortstop, but they're paying Báez to underperform and produce a highlight reel of bad punchouts. It's pretty tough to see a decline like this, but Báez tried to put in the work this off-season, and it seemingly has done more damage than benefit.

Hopefully, Báez gets his act together as the spring turns into the regular season. (My hopes are not high.) If not, the next four years at the shortstop position are going to be long and tormenting.