Baez, 34, is just weeks into the second season of a two-year, $12.5MM contract that also contained a club option for the 2023 season. He missed the majority of the 2021 season due to shoulder troubles, however, pitching just 4 1/3 innings. He’s been limited to 2 1/3 frames thus far in 2022, during which time he’s been clobbered for six runs (three earned) on five hits and three walks with two punchouts. Baez’s fastball, which averaged nearly 98 mph at its peak and sat at 96 mph as recently as 2019, has averaged just 90.2 mph so far in 2022.
Houston will technically have a week to trade Baez or place him on outright waivers, but that’s a generally moot point. Another team isn’t going to take on the remainder of this season’s $5.5MM salary or the $2MM buyout he’s still owed on next year’s club option — not with his recent shoulder troubles and alarming velocity dip. Even if Baez were to be passed through outright waivers, he could reject an outright assignment to a minor league affiliate, elect free agency and retain his salary based on the level of big league service time he’s accrued.
The most likely outcome here is that the Astros will eat the remaining $4.91MM on Baez’s salary, as well as the $2MM buyout on next year’s option and simply release him. Baez would be free to sign with a new club, at which point that team would only owe him the prorated league minimum for any time he spent in the Majors. That sum would be subtracted from the $6.91MM the ’Stros otherwise owe him.
Disheartening as Baez’s brief time with the Astros was, he was a well-regarded late-inning arm for the Dodgers in the years leading up to his free agency. From 2014-20, Baez tallied 356 innings of 3.o3 ERA ball with 100 holds, three saves, a 25.3% strikeout rate and an 8.2% ground-ball rate. He tacked on another 29 1/3 innings of 3.99 ERA ball in the playoffs, and if you set aside a rough showing in the early stages of his career (2014-15), Baez notched a 2.70 mark in 26 1/3 postseason innings from 2016-20.