August 5th, 2012
The Tigers added the kind of right-handed role hitter they’ve been seeking for the stretch run, acquiring utilityman Jeff Baker from the Cubs on Sunday for two minor-league players to be named later.
The players will have to be announced no later than Oct. 31.
It’s a deal that had been in the works before last week’s nonwaiver Trade Deadline but got pushed back when the Cubs had bigger trades to make. They also had right-handed hitting outfielder Reed Johnson, whom Dombrowski confirmed they also had discussed.
Once the Cubs put Baker on trade waivers after the deadline, the Tigers made a claim and finished their deal.
“They had so much going on right before the deadline — they traded [Ryan] Dempster, they had some other talks going on — that they basically put this one on hold and said, ‘Let’s see what happens,'” Dombrowski said. “We did claim him on waivers, so we had until today to make a deal. So we were able to make that happen.
The 31-year-old Baker, an eight-year National League veteran in Colorado and Chicago, is batting .269 this season with 10 doubles, four homers and 20 RBIs in 54 games, covering 134 at-bats. Two-thirds of those at-bats have come against lefties, off whom he’s batting .275 with eight doubles, three homers, 12 RBIs and a .771 OPS.
“Primarily we were looking for somebody to just swing the bat versus left-handed pitching,” Dombrowski said. “He’s a good fit in that regard, has hit them well throughout his career. You look at our ballclub versus right-handed pitching, we like how our lineup shapes up at this time.”
Baker has played second and first base this season, plus both corner outfield spots. He has also played third base in past years.
In terms of Baker’s place, Dombrowski said, “It’s a lot like, really, what we were hoping Ryan Raburn would do. He has struggled for us this year. Now, of course, he’s on the disabled list anyway at this point.”
In many ways, Raburn has become the poster child for the Tigers’ struggles against left-handed pitching. He hit lefties for a .274 batting average and .807 OPS last year, including seven home runs in 146 at-bats, but slumped to a .165 average this year. He’s actually hitting right-handers slightly better this season.
Except for a brief stint at Triple-A Toledo at the end of May, Raburn has stuck in the big leagues all year, in part because the Tigers haven’t had a right-handed hitting outfielder to replace him. Now that Baker fills that job, Raburn’s role falls into serious question.
Raburn went on the 15-day disabled list on Sunday morning. Dombrowski said they don’t know how long he could be out. Detroit recalled Danny Worth from Triple-A Toledo Sunday morning to take Raburn’s spot, but that could be the opening that Baker takes once the Tigers announce a corresponding move later Sunday.
Baker is expected to join the Tigers on Monday in Detroit for their series opener against the Yankees.
Yes, Ryan Raburn is batting just .165 off left-handed pitching this year, but the fact remains that he’s a right-handed hitter. The way the Tigers roster lines up, he’s the only right-handed hitting outfielder the Tigers had on their bench, so his move to the DL Sunday — and Danny Worth’s return to replace him — forced some juggling on Jim Leyland’s part to put in some right-handed bats against Chris Seddon, who was allowing a .194 average to left-handed hitters this year at Triple-A Columbus before the Indians called him up for this start.
“I was actually going to play Omar [Infante] in left and DH [Delmon] Young,” Leyland said. “But I said, you know what, this is a good opportunity to get [Miguel] Cabrera off his feet.”
That last part is the bigger news out of all this. Cabrera fouled a ball off his left shin earlier in the week, head athletic trainer Kevin Rand confirmed Sunday morning, and the drainage is causing soreness in his left ankle. That’s why Leyland used a defensive substitution to replace Cabrera in the ninth inning the last couple nights with the outcome pretty well secure.
- Austin Jackson, CF
- Omar Infante, 3B
- Miguel Cabrera, DH
- Prince Fielder, 1B
- Delmon Young, LF
- Jhonny Peralta, SS
- Brennan Boesch, RF
- Gerald Laird, C
- Danny Worth, 2B
P: Max Scherzer
- Jason Kipnis, 2B
- Asdrubal Cabrera, SS
- Shin-Soo Choo, RF
- Carlos Santana, 1B
- Michael Brantley, CF
- Travis Hafner, DH
- Ezequiel Carrera, LF
- Brent Lillibridge, 3B
- Lou Marson, C
P: Chris Seddon
Apparently Ryan Raburn sprained his right thumb earlier in the week, but the injury was neither apparent nor urgent because the Tigers haven’t faced a left-handed starter in so long. They have one today, however, with the Indians calling up Chris Seddon, so with Raburn still unable to go, the Tigers placed him on the 15-day disabled list Sunday morning.
The remove is retroactive to August 1, the day after Raburn pinch-hit in the sixth inning of that rain-shortened game in Boston against Red Sox lefty Franklin Morales. He’ll be eligible to come back off the DL on August 16.
Worth, meanwhile, returns after his brief respite back with the Hens. He has actually faced Chris Seddon this year in Toledo, so he’ll have some familiarity going. He’s starting at second base today, with Omar Infante moving to third and Miguel Cabrera DHing.