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MLB Roundup 12/1: Javier Báez signs in Detroit

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The Tigers make a big splash in free agency.

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New York Mets v Boston Red Sox Photo By Winslow Townson/Getty Images

Javy Báez signs with the Detroit Tigers

This one actually first broke late Monday night slash early Tuesday morning, but it was after my bed time so we’ll cover it today. This was the latest major free agent to go to a team that has been rebuilding over the last few years, with Báez hoping to be part of the crew to take the Tigers back into contention. The middle infielder is set to earn $140 million over the course of his six-year deal with Detroit.

Báez did not have draft pick compensation attached to his free agency because he was traded midseason, heading east from Chicago to New York for the Mets stretch run. Overall it was another really solid year for the infielder, as he finished with a 116 wRC+ along with elite defense and baserunning. The offensive profile is certainly risky as he strikes out a ton without drawing many walks, but he makes loud contact and has that aforementioned defense and baserunning to provide him a solid floor. Entering his age-28 season, he fits the timeline for a Tigers team hoping to just start an upwards trajectory, even if they’re taking on plenty of risk in the process.

Why Red Sox fans should care: Báez was a potential target for the Red Sox to fill their hole in the middle infield, as we covered on these pages earlier in the week. In that linked post I ultimately came on the side of Báez being a good fit, and while I still think that’s the case needing to go six years is a bit too much for my blood. I could have closed my eyes and been okay with five, but even that felt like pushing it a bit given that his offensive profile could feasibly crater in a way that isn’t true of most free agents of his ilk. The Red Sox still need help at second base in my mind, but I do get backing off here.

Tampa Bay Rays trade Joey Wendle to Miami Marlins

This week has been mostly about big-time free agents finding new homes, but the non-tender deadline on Tuesday also led to the trade market heating up just a tiny bit. The Rays had some decisions to make with their arbitration-eligible players, and both Wendle and Kevin Kiermaier were involved in rumors. Only the former ended up being traded, getting sent just a little south to Miami in exchange for minor leaguer Kameron Misner.

Wendle can play all around the dirt, though he settled in more as a third baseman in Tampa Bay this past season. He joins a Marlins team that is trying to build up towards contention and can expect to fill in all over the diamond, particularly if the DH is added to the National League as expected. His numbers don’t jump off the page, but he’s been solidly above-average nearly every year of his career and had a 106 wRC+ this past season. The Rays will now be handing more playing time to Yandy Díaz, with prospect Taylor Wall having a clearer role now as well. Misner is a former 35th overall pick back in 2019 who .253/.355/.433 between High-A and Double-A this past season.

Why Red Sox fans should care: The Rays are obviously one of Boston’s biggest rivals and competitors, so anything they do is at least of some interest to Red Sox fans. That said, on that front while Wendle is a good player they have enough depth for their lineup to not feel too much of an effect. To me, Wendle would have been a smart target for Boston to fill that second base hole. Granted, a trade between division rivals is easier said than done, but in a vacuum the player does make some sense from a fit perspective.

Washington Nationals sign César Hernández

It seems like every year César Hernández is available in either free agency or trade, and every year I am enamored with him as a cheap second base option. That speaks to his skillset, which is quiet but effective, but also the black hole that has been second base for the Red Sox. He is once again off the board and not coming to Boston, agreeing to a one-year, $4 million deal with the Nationals.

Hernández is never going to be mistaken for a superstar, but he is a solid player who has proven extremely durable and plays good defense. The offense has fallen a bit the last few years, and he finished with a 90 wRC+ this past season. However, that mark was 112 in the year prior to that, and his career numbers are right around league-average. He should play everyday for the Nationals and should get plenty of run scoring opportunities in a lineup with Juan Soto.

Why Red Sox fans should care: I do think he would have been a good low-tier option for the Red Sox, though I do see the argument that he’s not much of an upgrade over Christian Arroyo. My counter to that would be that it’s only true on a rate basis and Hernández will be available nearly every day on a way we can’t count on for Arroyo. All that said, while I do like the player and think he’s underrated he’s also not nearly the caliber of player about whom we should get anywhere near worked up.

Other notable moves

Those are all the moves we’ll write up for today, but there were other notable moves to mention.