Javier Báez's Major League career has been something of a roller coaster, featuring both exhilarating highs and frustrating lows. But it’s always been interesting. In the field and on the bases, there has been wizardry. At the plate, there have been wild swings, monster home runs and lots of whiffs. Along the way, Báez became a two-time All-Star, won Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Awards and finished as the 2018 NL MVP runner-up. Now, after being traded from the Cubs to the Mets at the Deadline, he’s a free agent.
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Birthdate: Dec. 1, 1992 (Age 29 in 2022)
Primary position: SS
Height/weight: 6-foot, 190 lbs.
Place of birth: Bayamón, Puerto Rico
School(s): Arlington Country Day School (Fla.)
Drafted: 1st round (ninth), 2011, by Cubs
MLB debut: Aug. 5, 2014
Qualifying offer: Not eligible to receive one
STAT TO KNOW
Báez ranks 10th among all position players in bWAR over the past four seasons (18.4) and third among players whose primary position is shortstop, trailing only fellow free agents Marcus Semien and Trevor Story.
Few players chase pitches out of the zone more than Báez (42.7% over the past three seasons), and as a result, his 415 strikeouts since 2019 are the third most in MLB (including an NL-high 184 in 2021). Of the 159 batters with 1,000-plus plate appearances in that span, Báez has the third-highest K rate (30.9%), fifth-lowest walk rate (4.7%) and lowest walk-to-strikeout ratio. That sort of profile may make him a risky investment, especially in the long term.
'El Mago' makes the impossible happen
Báez’s nickname is Spanish for “The Magician,” and it fits. We’ve seen it repeatedly over the years, with his ability to make jaw-dropping defensive plays and daring baserunning maneuvers. How about just a few recent examples? Remember back in Spring Training when he got an out at second by scooping a no-look glove flip through his legs? There was the time this May when Báez hoodwinked Pirates first baseman Will Craig by getting into a rundown between home plate and first base, allowing a run to score. And early in his Mets tenure this August, he scored on what looked like a sure out at home with a Matrix-esque slide. Plus, don’t forget that Báez has turned a simple baseball task (applying a tag to a runner) into an art form.
He and Francisco Lindor are tight
There are all sorts of connections between the two. They were born less than a year apart in Puerto Rico. (Báez is older.) They played together growing up, and both later went to high school in Florida before being selected in the first round of the 2011 Draft -- Lindor one spot ahead of Báez. They faced off in the 2016 World Series and formed a double-play combo for Puerto Rico in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. The two shortstops were reunited on the Mets for the final two months of this season, with Báez again sliding over to second base in deference to Lindor. Now the question is whether that reunion will last.
He’s not the only MLB star in his family
Báez and Blue Jays pitcher José Berríos -- a fellow native of Bayamón -- are brothers-in-law. (Báez's wife, Irmarie, and Berríos’ wife, Jannieliz, are sisters). In fact, Berríos gave the best man speech at Báez’s wedding, according to a story in The Athletic, and Báez even did some catching for Berríos during the 2020 shutdown. Head-to-head meetings in the Majors have been rare, however, with their only regular-season confrontation coming in 2020 and Báez going 0-for-2. They also faced off in both the 2018 and ‘19 All-Star Games, with Berríos retaining bragging rights.
He’s bounced back from tough seasons
It hasn’t always been easy for Báez. A high Draft pick and top-10 prospect, he reached the Majors at age 21 but was overmatched at the plate (.551 OPS in 52 games in 2014). Yet by 2016, Báez was an everyday contributor in the Chicago lineup. The pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign brought another low point. Two seasons after Báez finished second to Christian Yelich in the NL MVP voting, he hit just .203/.238/.360 in 59 games. Yet he rebounded again in 2021, especially after joining the Mets (.299/.371/.515 with nine homers in 47 games).
His tattoos speak to his baseball life
Báez has numerous tattoos, and each one has meaning. Many honor his family and Puerto Rico, but baseball is another theme. At 16 years old, long before he debuted with the Cubs, Báez got the MLB logo put on the back of his neck. On his right forearm, there is a globe with a baseball’s red stitches and the words “Welcome to my world,” in Spanish. After the Cubs won their long-awaited championship, he added the World Series trophy to his left shoulder.
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