Javier Báez is one of the most fascinating players in the 2021-’22 MLB free agency. An electrifying fielder capable of making stunning highlights with the glove and bat, Báez’s personality and passion for baseball represent the direction this game is headed.
In a loaded class of free-agent shortstops, Báez offers a resume that competes with all of them. A two-time All-Star, a 2016 World Series champion, playoff hero and a 2020 Gold Glove Award recipient. But the Puerto Rican native also comes with some risk and an on-field reputation that might make him the wrong fit for a few clubs.
Even if some stay away, the combination of talent and marketability “El Mago” brings to the table will land him a lucrative contract. With that in mind, let’s examine the best free-agent destinations for Javier Báez.
Javier Báez signs with Seattle Mariners
Seattle Mariners president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto knows what he wants this winter. With J.P. Crawford entrenched at shortstop, Seattle is looking for an infielder who “who is adaptable and willing to move around the field and maybe get a little uncomfortable.” That is Javier Báez in every single way.
- Javier Báez stats (2021): 31 home runs, 87 RBIs, 18 stolen bases, .265/.319/.494 slash, 117 OPS+, 3.6 fWAR
Since the 2017 season, Báez has played 486 games at shortstop, 320 at second base, 104 at third base and appeared in the outfield for 4.2 innings (FanGraphs). This is a player who is more than willing to handle the double play, staring down an incoming runner hurtling towards him before firing off a throw to first base.
There are massive flaws with his approach at the plate, but Dipoto’s desire for a free-agent addition is specific and Báez checks off the boxes. He would bring energy to the stadium and the way he plays the game would mesh perfectly with a young team.
New York Mets keep All-Star infielders together
Admittedly, New York might feel a bit uncertain regarding a Báez return. It has nothing to do with how he performed in the Mets lineup after the trade (.299/.371/.515, 143 wRC+ in 47 games), but ties into comments and actions made during the season. However, fans who reacted emotionally should put that in the past for a player who wears his heart on his sleeve and did something in defense of his teammates. More importantly, Báez is still a very good player.
- Javier Báez contract prediction: 4 years, $84 million
A four-time recipient of a Fielding Bible Award, the Báez-Lindor combination is one of the best in MLB defensively. They also have a strong bond and given how many years Lindor is under contract for, making this the best environment possible should matter. As for Báez’s issues at the plate, he is always going to strike out a ton and never draw walks. But a player who hits 25-plus homers, drives in 80-plus run and plays stellar defense is what a playoff contender needs.
Texas Rangers bring excitement to Globe Life Field
The Texas Rangers are going to spend money this winter, a lot of it. Entering the offseason with only a $51 million payroll and a need to bring fans into the seats of Globe Life Park in its second full season, this franchise will make a splash with at least one everyday player.
One thing to consider, Báez had one of the most popular MLB jerseys before the 2021 season. While that doesn’t impact the Rangers on the diamond, it’s a factor ownership will consider. More importantly, Texas desperately needs to upgrade at shortstop and second base. Rangers’ shortstops ranked 22nd in wRC+ (85) last season. As for the team’s second basemen, they finished 18th in Defensive Runs Saved (-1). Either spot could be upgraded and whether it’s Javier Báez or Trevor Story, Texas must add one.
Detroit Tigers make offseason splash with Javier Baez
This is the team to watch during the winter. The Detroit Tigers already signed Eduardo Rodriguez, but that is just the start of this club’s offseason plans. Improving the lineup and defense are both huge priorities for the front office, Báez addressed each of those in a single move.
- Javier Báez fielding stats: 16 Defensive Runs Saved at second base, 4.2 Defensive Rating, 82nd percentile Outs Above Average
Carlos Correa is the priority target and deservedly so, but Detroit would still be lucky to sign Báez. He boasts a 7.9 fWAR since the 2019 season with a higher isolated power (.225) than Correa (.211), he is also better on the basepaths and more versatile defensively. Given Báez’s rough 2020 season (55 wRC+, 59 OPS+) is dragging down his asking price some, there might even be some added value in signing Báez.