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Bob Wojnowski: Tigers finally get their star shortstop, at a price worth paying

Bob Wojnowski, The Detroit News on

Published in Baseball

DETROIT — The Tigers weren't kidding when they said they'd be aggressive this offseason. They also weren't kidding when Al Avila said he would avoid the "drunken sailor" approach to spending.

The sobering reality for some is, the Tigers didn't land the biggest free-agent shortstop prize. The important reality is, they got much, much better for much, much less cost Tuesday by signing Javier Baez, who's dynamic in the field and has pop in the bat.

Chris Ilitch said he'd spend and he did, as we figured he would. If you want to quibble with the quantity, feel free. It's hard to quibble with the quality, as the Tigers addressed one gigantic weakness at shortstop, getting Baez for $140 million over six years. They already signed lefthanded pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez for $77 million over five years and traded for two-time Gold Glove catcher Tucker Barnhart, paying him $7.5 million for one season, with the possibility of more. An MLB lockout looms at midnight Wednesday so there was some urgency to these deals, and the Tigers managed to be prudent and proactive at the same time.

Everyone wanted Astros star Carlos Correa, who's still waiting for someone to fulfill his 10-year, $350 million dream. The Tigers waited as long as they could. A.J. Hinch did some gentle prodding of the guy he once managed to a World Series championship, but the Tigers know better than anyone how the exhilaration of an enormous signing can fade as the years unfold.

If Baez got 50% of the money Correa might land, it's a steal. Because he's much more than 50% of Correa as a player, and less injury-prone. Baez, who turns 29 Wednesday, has played at least 138 games in each of his six full seasons. Correa, 27, has done it twice in his six full seasons.

Lots of cash, lots of flash

 

Baez is one of the best defensive shortstops in the game, both flashy and efficient (as is Correa). Building a team around a batch of young pitchers, the Tigers absolutely had to improve their defense, and they significantly upgraded at shortstop and catcher.

Baez comes with a little baggage but at least it's less-expensive baggage. He strikes out a lot, the most in the majors. He doesn't walk a lot. He got into an unnecessary spat with booing Mets fans last season and flashed a thumbs-down sign when he crossed home plate after hitting a home run.

Bad look: The thumbs down.

Good look: It was a home run. He later apologized, but he certainly doesn't mind expressing himself.

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