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    Javier Baez still being on the Tigers is an inditement against team owner

    By Andrew Kulha,

    Detroit Tigers shortstop Javier Baez.

    Javier Baez, what would you do here?

    That's the question Detroit Tigers owner Christopher Ilitch should be asking the man once known as "El Mago."

    Either that, or "where's my $25 million?"

    It was no secret that former general manager Al Avila strapped Detroit to a terrible contract when he signed Baez to a six-year, $140 million contract in 2021. Baez was once arguably the hottest player in the game who earned the nickname comparing him to a magician, but his first two years in Detroit were more trick than treat. Now that he's fully settled into his new digs, "El Mago" has seemingly performed his greatest trick yet.

    The 2024 season has been a complete disappearing act.

    Baez has the literal worst OPS (on-base plus slugging) among qualified MLB hitters at .422. His batting average (.167) is second worst in MLB and his WAR (wins above replacement)? Forget about it.

    Baez boasts a -1.0 WAR.

    WAR compares a player's relative wins compared to a replacement player, meaning a player a team can sign off the street or call up from Triple-A ball on a league-minimum salary.

    What that number is saying for Baez is that not only could the Tigers find a better overall player in their farm system, but more likely than not, they could throw some batting gloves and a helmet on a random popcorn vendor at Comerica Park and get better production out of that person than they are out of Baez in 2024.

    That's bad, but that's not even the worst part.

    The aforementioned popcorn vendor? They would make the league minimum. Baez, on the other hand, is Detroit's highest-paid player by a mile. The value of his contract is $140 million. Rookie Colt Keith has the second-biggest contract on the payroll, and he's making just $28.6 million over six years.

    The Tigers are paying Baez $25 million to be the absolute worst player in baseball, and they still have to pay him another $25 million in 2025 and $24 million in both 2026 and 2027.

    He signed a fully guaranteed contract, so there's no way president of baseball operations Scott Harris can get the Tigers off the hook for this one, but at what point isn't Detroit sending the wrong message to its young and impressionable clubhouse?

    Ilitch could lose $98 million in his couch cushions and not even realize it. He's throwing the money spent on Baez away anyhow. Why not DFA (designate for assignment) Baez and send a message to what used to be a proud organization?

    Harris and Ilitch would be making a point that negative results are unacceptable in Detroit.

    Of course, that would presume that Ilitch actually cares about producing a winning product rather than simply filling seats and selling fancy daiquiris, and there's sadly not much reason to believe that would be the case.

    With a league salary cap of $237 million, the Tigers are spending just $110 million on a pieced-together roster of young guys who are struggling and veterans who haven't been as reliable as Harris had wanted them to be.

    The result?

    Average, to below-average baseball. At the time of this writing, the Tigers are 21-22, and they just got shut out two games in a row at the hands of the Miami Marlins.

    Of course, the argument could be made that average is better than putrid, which is what Baez has been in 2024, but as long as he's on this roster, average to below average will be Detroit's plight.

    A real owner would take action and make a statement. Unfortunately, in Detroit, the owner seems more interested in selling pizzas than winning baseball games.

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