Player: Danys Baez
Born: September 10th, 1977 (Currently 37 years old)
Position: SP, SU, and CL
Drafted: Wasn't drafted, signed as an amateur Free Agent by the Cleveland Indians on November 5th, 1999
Start of Tenure: Signed as a free agent on January 6th, 2004 for 2 years and $6.5 million. The contract included an option for a 3rd year at $4 million with a $1 million buyout
Teams: Cleveland Indians, Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Los Angeles Dodgers, Atlanta Braves, Baltimore Orioles, and the Philadelphia Phillies
Retired: February 27th, 2012. A career span of 14 years (1999-2012)
Rays Stat Line: 2.9 WAR, 9-8 (W-L), 3.21 ERA, 4.22 FIP, 71/82 SV/SVO, 129 G, 140.1 IP, 103 K, 6.6 K/9
In the Summer of 1999, Danys Baez was one of Cuba's premier talents. He was a star pitcher for the Cuba National Team and he was playing in the Pan-American Games in Winnipeg, Canada, but he desperately wanted to defect from Cuba. The games were coming to an end and the championship game would be between Cuba and the United States. The Cuban team was stationed at a hotel, protected by armed guard and when any player left the hotel, they had to be escorted. As Baez's teammates were preparing to head to the stadium, Baez darted out of the hotel in a car that had been waiting for him. Cuba won the game and the team was heading home, but Baez was hiding in the bathrooms of hotels and hiding under a cover in a car for 10 days. Both Canadian and Cuban officials were searching for him and Baez wouldn't be safe until he reached Costa Rica, who were willing to harbor people defecting from Cuba.
Finally, Baez reached Costa Rica and spent a month there. He put on a showcase in San Jose, Costa Rica that attracted a number of teams. Baez was definitely going to sign with a Major League team, so he went to the U.S. to become a legal citizen. Once all the paperwork was completed and processed, the bidding for Baez's services began. It came down to 4 teams; the New York Yankees, Atlanta Braves, Tampa Bay Devil Rays, and the Cleveland Indians. Baez decided the Indians would be his best option due to them being a perennial contender at that point having won their division title the past 5 years in a row. He also chose to sign there because of the chance to pitch in majors was expected to be sooner as well.
On November 5th, Baez signed a 4 year, $14.5 million with a $5 million option for a 5th year. At the beginning of the 2000 season, Baez was ranked 39th on Baseball America's top 100 prospect list and #2 in the Indians' organization only behind CC Sabathia. He started the year A+ Kinston and performed decently enough to advance to AA Akron and that's where he finished to 2000 season. Baez didn't really put up the strong numbers that were expected after signing a big contract and dropped on Baseball America's top 100 list down to 88th, but he did remain 2nd on the Indians' list, still behind Sabathia.
In 2001, the Indians thought about converting Baez into a reliever, and he did put up better results after being moved up to AAA Buffalo. On May 13th, Baez was called up to Cleveland and made his debut later that day against the Devil Rays. It was the top of the 7th and Cleveland was being shut out, 7-0. Baez first opponent would be Second Baseman, Russ Johnson. Johnson worked the count full than lofted a fly ball to Marty Cordova in right for an out. Next came John Flaherty. Baez got Flaherty to pop up to his Catcher, Einar Diaz for the 2nd out of the inning. The 3rd batter of the inning would be Feliz Martinez. Martinez worked the count full also against Baez and on the 6th pitch of the at-bat, Martinez list a fly ball down the left field line that Indians' Left Fielder, Jacob Cruz, misplayed in foul ground to extend the at-bat. On the next pitch, Baez struck Martinez out looking to end the inning. Baez would come out for the 8th, but didn't fare too well. He walked both batters he faced, Randy Winn and Gerald Williams, both on full counts as well. Indians manager, Charlie Manuel had seen enough and replaced Baez with Ricardo Rincon, who was able to get out of the inning without allowing any more damage.
Danys Baez was only up for a little more than a week, than he was sent back down to AAA until the beginning of July. He wouldn't return to the minors until 2007 with Baltimore. When Baez returned to the big leagues in July of 2001, he became one of the more dominant set-up men of the season. In the 2nd half of the season, Baez went 5 -3 with a 2.91 ERA in 38 games. He limited opposing batters to a .185 AVG against him. His 39 appearences in the 2nd half were the most in the AL and 2nd only to the Cardinals' Steve Kline's 39. Baez also didn't allow a run in his first 8 appearances, a total of 10.1 IP. On July 28th, he recorded his first MLB win against Detroit.
After the 2001 season, Cleveland wanted Baez to convert back into a starter. He won his first MLB start against Detroit on April 5th, 2002. In 26 starts, he went 9-10 with a 4.44 ERA. On August 27th, the Indians converted Baez back into a reliever and gave him the Closer job where he had a record of 1-1 with an ERA of 3.97. He also recorded his first career save against Detroit on August 28th.
Baez was against Cleveland's closer in 2003, but he had a disappointing season and ended up losing the closing job to David Riske on August 15th. He tied with the Texas Rangers' Francisco Cordero for the Major League lead in blown saves with 10 and Baez also led all relievers in losses with 9. Baez was 25 of 35 in the save department and he finished the season with a record of 2-9 and an ERA of 3.81. Baez did have one highlight though, he broke the Indians record for most appearances by a right-handed pitcher, appearing in 73. He broke Steve Karsay's previous record of 72 set in 2000.
At the end of the season, Cleveland declined Baez's option for 2004 and tried to resign him for a lesser amount. Baez decided to test the free agency market. He signed with Tampa Bay on January 6th, 2004 and was given the closer role, pushing All-Star, Lance Carter back to the set up job. Baez had a good 2004 season, he recorded a career high 30 saves and became only the 2nd D-Ray to hit that mark, the other being Roberto Hernandez. He had a record of 4-4 and an ERA of 3.57. He was 30 of 33 in Saves, and at one point, Baez saved 18 straight opportunities, one shy of the club record of 19, set also by Hernandez.
In 2005, Baez was the lone Rays representative, but did not appear in the game. The 2005 Trade Deadline brought a lot of speculation the Rays would trade Baez. There was almost a deal in place that would have sent Baez and short stop, Julio Lugo to the New York Mets and outfielder Aubrey Huff to the Boston Red Sox. In return the Rays would have received prospects Kelly Shoppach and Anibal Sanchez from the Red Sox and from the Mets, the Rays would have received Yusmeiro Petit and Lastings Milledge. Also, the Sox would have shipped Manny Ramirez to the Mets and received Mike Cameron in return. The deal fell apart when Boston felt they needed more from New York and caused talks to fall apart. The 2005 Tampa Bay Devil Rays finished the season with 67 wins and Baez had a save in 41 of them, or 61.2% of the Rays' wins. Since 1969 saves became an official statistic, only 5 pitchers have had a greater percentage of saves in their teams' wins. Baez saved 41 games in 49 chances and had a record 5-4 with a 2.86 ERA.
On October 30th, 2005, the Devil Rays exercised their options on both Baez and Lugo, but Tampa badly wanted to reduce payroll. So on January 14th, 2006, Tampa dealt Baez and Carter to the Los Angeles Dodgers in return for prospects, Chuck Tiffany and Edwin Jackson. Baez struggled in 48 games for LA, so than he was dealt again on July 28th to the Atlanta Braves along with Willy Aybar for Wilson Betemit. Baez struggled in 11 appearances for Atlanta and at the end of the season he became a free agent.
On November 27th, 2006, Baez signed a 3 year, $19 million contract with the Baltimore Orioles. In 2007, the first year of the deal, Baez struggled mightily. He appeared in 53 games and finished with an ERA of 6.44 and a record of 0-6. On September 12th, Baez was shut down and examined by a team doctor. Baez was sold that surgery was likely needed, so he want to Dr. James Andrews for a second opinion and he confirmed the diagnosis. On October 7th, 2007, Baez received Tommy John Surgery which would sideline him for a season.
Baez wouldn't return to a MLB mound until April 8th, 2009 against New York. Baez pitched 2 scoreless innings and struck out a batter. Baez had a mediocre season with Baltimore finishing with a record of 4-6 and an ERA of 4.02. He appeared in 59 games and registred 71.2 IP.
Baez was again a free agent and signed a 2 year deal with the Philadelphia Phillies on January 5th, 2010 worth $5.25 million. Danys Baez spent the next 2 seasons pitching out of the Phillies bullpen and struggled more and more. He finished 2010 with a record of 3-4 and a 5.48 ERA in 51 games, with 47.2 IP. In 2011, he was released on August 1st after putting up a record of 2-4 with ERA of 6.25 in 29 games and 36 IP. Baez was unable to find another Major League deal and in February of 2012, decided it was time to retire.
The video below contains some of Baez's career highlights with Tampa, LA, and Baltimore.
Career Stat Line: 5.8 WAR, 40-57 (W-L), 4.25 ERA, 4.38 FIP, 114/153 SV/SVO, 533 G, 697 IP, 505 K, 6.5 K/9
Other Classic Player Profiles: