Here's when Baez 'will be at his absolute best' for Tigers


The Tigers didn’t just get a great player in Javier Baez. They got a gamer. Baez relishes the big moment. He wants the pressure. He feeds off loud crowds and bright lights.

Not all that long ago, Comerica Park was a grand stage. The Tigers ranked in the top five of MLB attendance from 2012-14 when the club was ripping off AL Central titles and playing into October. Then the lights went dim. The crowds stayed home. Amid a grueling rebuild, the Tigers have ranked in the bottom third in attendance since 2018.

But it's coming back around. This team is on the rise, and the fans can feel it. The Tigers have spent about $225 million this winter upgrading the roster, headlined by $140 million for Baez. Eduardo Rodriguez and catcher Tucker Barnhart are key additions as well. Detroit has a chance to contend in 2022 — and Baez has a chance to shine.

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"Javier Baez is one of the most electrifying players in the game,” MLB insider Jon Morosi told the Stoney & Jansen Show. “When you’re watching him play you have a hard time taking your eyes off him, because he is always going to do something. He will make a dazzling play. He will swing for the fences. He really has a unique love for the game and it comes out in ways where he is most engaged when the stakes are the biggest.

"When you look at this Tigers team, he is going be at his best when the ballpark is full, there’s a lot of excitement and the Tigers are playing for something. He will be at his absolute best.”

It’s true: Al Avila couldn’t take his eyes off Baez when the Tigers played the Cubs in Chicago in 2018. That’s one of the reasons Baez will be playing in Detroit next season. He impacts the game in every way imaginable. He's the only shortstop in baseball with at least 100 homers, 300 RBI, 50 stolen bases and 40 defensive runs saved over the last four seasons.

Now he has a chance to impact his teammates. Baez, who turned 29 the day he signed his six-year contract, will be one of the most credentialed players on a team full of young talent.

"I think the thing for Javy, he does love the game every day, but it’s going to be a matter of him really being that veteran leader to show the younger players the way," said Morosi. "He hasn’t always had that role. When he was with the Cubs, it was to some extent (Anthony) Rizzo’s and (Kris) Bryant’s team. But now with Miguel (Cabrera) being in the latter stages of his career, this is really going to be (Baez’s team). I think it’s important for Javy to really view it that way and embrace that part of it.”

From the sounds of it, he already is.

“I like to be the leader," Baez said at his introductory press conference. "I like to be the one that teaches everything to the guys who have questions. I like to be the guy that everybody follows. I don’t like to (talk about it), like, ‘I’m the leader,’ because I like everybody to join and build something together."

For Baez, 2022 can't get here soon enough. Same for a hungry fanbase in Detroit.

"He’s one of the more dazzling talents that we have in baseball," said Morosi. "The Tigers and their fans are going to be treated to someone who loves the game."