Javier Báez is taking his high motor to Motor City.
Báez has agreed to a $140 million, six-year contract with Detroit, giving the Tigers a dynamic bat for the middle of their order.
Báez, who turns 29 on Wednesday, hit .265 with 31 homers and 87 RBIs in 138 games with the Cubs and Mets this season. The move likely puts Báez back at shortstop after he finished the year at second base while playing alongside good friend Francisco Lindor in New York.
The contract is pending a physical, according to a person with direct knowledge of the situation who spoke to The Associated Press on Tuesday on condition of anonymity because the deal had not been finalized.
Báez and Detroit reached an agreement right before what likely will be Major League Baseball’s first work stoppage since 1995. The five-year collective bargaining agreement expires at 11:59 p.m. EST Wednesday, and owners are expected to lock out the players if the sides can’t reach a new labor deal in time.
Detroit had been looking for a shortstop since it went 77-85 this season, finishing third in the AL Central behind Cleveland and the Chicago White Sox.
Looking to build around a young core that includes pitcher Casey Mize and slugger Spencer Torkelson, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 amateur draft, the Tigers also traded for catcher Tucker Barnhart and signed left-hander Eduardo Rodríguez to a $77 million, five-year contract in free agency.
Báez was selected by the Cubs with the No. 9 overall pick in the 2011 amateur draft. The two-time All-Star made his big league debut in 2014, quickly becoming one of baseball’s most popular players with his big-time power, slick defense and aggressive baserunning.
In his first full season in the majors in 2016, Báez helped the Cubs win it all for their first championship since 1908. He batted .290 with 34 homers and 111 RBIs in 2018, finishing second to Milwaukee’s Christian Yelich in voting for NL MVP.
Báez was traded to New York on July 30 in a deal that shipped promising minor league outfielder Pete Crow-Armstrong to Chicago. Báez ran afoul of Mets fans when he criticized them for booing the team, but their relationship turned around when he put together a strong finish.
Báez, who also can play third base, batted .299 with nine homers and 22 RBIs in 47 games with New York. There was talk about a possible return, but the Mets remain in search of infield help after Báez decided to join the improved Tigers.