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Yesterday, the Texas Rangers invested more into their middle infield by signing former Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager to a 10-year, $325 million contract. The Rangers have committed half a billion dollars to Seager and Marcus Semien for those keeping score at home. While many are wondering if these two mega-signings even make the Rangers a playoff contender in 2022, one has to admit it’s impressive that one team got two of the top five available free agent middle infielders.
That class of free agent shortstops shrunk again with news being released after midnight by MLB.com’s Jon Morosi reporting Detroit had a deal with Javier Báez. This morning further reporting unveiled details that the Tigers offer of six years, $140 million, was the winning bid. If you enjoyed the debate of the better Chicago shortstop, Báez or Tim Anderson, you’re in luck as it shifts to an AL Central focus.
Báez was disappointing from an offensive standpoint in his last 150 games with the Cubs spanning 2020 and his first half in 2021. It appeared he was in decline since his terrific 2018 season when he hit 34 HR 111 RBI and .290/.326/.554. 2019 was another .800+ OPS season, but 2020 Báez never got on track, hitting a woeful .203/.238/.360 in 59 games. While Báez blasted 22 home runs in 91 games for the Cubs in 2021, it was at a .248/.292/.484 slash line at a 104 OPS+ clip. That’s not a hitter worthy of a $20+ million a season contract.
That changed when Báez arrived in Queens. In 47 games with the Mets, Báez hit .299/.371/.515 with nine home runs and 22 RBI and a 141 OPS+. A small sample size, but Báez was worth 1.9 bWAR during that stretch compared to the 2.7 bWAR in 91 games for the Cubs. There’s no doubt of Báez defensive ability. He’s terrific either at shortstop or second base. If Báez continues his offensive production from Queens to Motown, the Tigers will be pleased with their $140 million investment.
If Báez hits as he did with the Cubs, naturally, there are going to be moments of frustration from the Tigers faithful. Especially with the flirtation between Carlos Correa and AJ Hinch earlier this month suggested the ultimate big signing was a real possibility. Nevertheless, the signing of Báez is a significant upgrade at shortstop for Detroit. In 2021, Tigers shortstops combined for -0.1 WAR according to FanGraphs, hitting a woeful .201/.275/.321. Baez’s impact will be felt in their lineup.
On May 1, 2021, Detroit had the American League’s worst record at 8-20 but went 69-65 after their horrible April. In that post-April stretch, the Tigers were still eight games back of the White Sox. Still, if you believe heading into 2022 Detroit is more like their post-April 2021 self, the additions of Báez and LHP Eduardo Rodriguez help shrink that gap at least until the White Sox make a significant addition themselves.
Kendall Graveman deal official
The Chicago White Sox made Kendall Graveman’s signing official.
From the White Sox press release, general manager Rick Hahn said:
“Kendall is a veteran who provides us with end-of-game bullpen depth and an ability to induce ground balls. He’s a high character guy and a great teammate who will fit well within our clubhouse and bullpen.”
Now all Hahn has to figure out is who’s fielding ground balls at second base next season.
Yan Gomes signs with the Chicago Cubs
Speaking of the North Siders, they are signing Yan Gomes to a two-year deal worth $13 million. An interesting move since the Cubs still have Willson Contreras.
According to Baseball-Reference, Gomes splitting time between Washington and Oakland last year hit .252/.301/.421 with 14 home runs and 52 RBI and was a 2.5 WAR player. Framing-wise, Gomes had 0 Runs Extra Strikes and a 46.9% strike rate in 2021. For comparison’s sake, Yasmani Grandal also had 0 Runs Extra Strikes last year but a better strike rate at 48.3%.
For a contending team, Gomes would make a good backup catcher and security blanket. I don’t think many see the Chicago Cubs as a contender in 2022, so it brings back the rumors of a possible Contreras trade. A cryptic tweet from Contreras shortly after the news adds more intrigue.
If you are hoping the White Sox shore up backup catcher behind Grandal in 2022, well, the options are pretty thin. Yesterday, the Miami Marlins made a deal with Pittsburgh for Jacob Stallings. Pirates are reported to be in talks with Roberto Perez. For the White Sox sake, hopefully, more catching options become available after today’s non-tender deadline.