06 August 2012
The Detroit Tigers announced on Sunday afternoon that they had acquired veteran utility extraordinaire Jeff Baker from the Chicago Cubs for two minor league players to be named later. Baker has played first base, second base, third base, and both corner outfield spots in his career, but with the recent addition of Omar Infante to fill the second base void, Baker is likely to see the majority of his action in the outfield.
The Tigers had made it no secret that they were looking for a right handed bat around the trade deadline – there were even rumors of the team asking about Alfonso Soriano – but with a myriad of quality-ish left handed hitting outfielders already on the roster, a platoon-type player was always the most likely addition. And that’s exactly what they’re getting here.
Jeff Baker is a career .270/.320/.437 hitter, which is non-terrible, but he displays an incredibly even platoon split. Against right handed pitching in his career he’s been a very bad .240/.292/.367 hitter (757 plate appearances), but against lefties he’s produced a very good slash line of .304/.352/.516 (654 plate appearances). With those types of platoon numbers, it’s little wonder that the 31 year-old has found it difficult to secure an everyday job in his previous stops with the Colorado Rockies and Chicago Cubs (he’s played in 100 games just once in his career).But the Tigers won’t need him to hit righties, Andy Dirks and Quintin Berry should both be more than capable there, so we’ll see Baker in the lineup strictly (and consistently) when a left-hander is on the mound for the opposition.
As previously mentioned Baker’s playing time has been sporadic and spread across multiple positions, so he doesn’t have a large defensive sample to pull numbers from. Surprisingly (for me, at least), he’s only accumulated 386.1 defensive innings in the outfield in his career (roughly a quarter of a season) so his +0.6 UZR probably tells us very little about his actual defensive abilities there. He’s likely quite average with the glove in the corner outfield.
Ryan Raburn was placed on the disabled list with a sprained thumb this weekend, and Danny Worth was recalled to fill his roster spot for Sunday’s game, but he will likely be optioned back down to make room for Baker. We’ll have to see what the Tigers do with Raburn when his thumb is healthy, but the club could avoid a messy roster move by keeping him on the DL until rosters expand in September.
Matt Snyder is the editor of The Tigers Den. He can be reached on Twitter @snyder_matthew.