Tigers acquire utilityman Jeff Baker for two PTBNLs
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.