Scouting The Trade Market: Jeff Baker

Martin & Granderson slam Red Sox in opener
Game 100: Triple Digits
(Brian Kersey/Getty Images)

The trade deadline is just three days away, and Alex Rodriguez‘s broken hand has given the Yankees a clear need for help at third base. Marco Scutaro, Ryan Roberts, and Omar Infante have all been dealt already and apparently Ty Wigginton is off limits since Placido Polanco is hurt. The infield pickin’s are slim, but not barren.

Once again we’re going to turn our attention to a non-contender for potential help, this time the Chicago Cubs. They’re looking to move significant pieces like Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza, and Alfonso Soriano, but the best fit for the Yankees may be complementary player Jeff Baker. The 31-year-old utility man is have a solid season (105 wRC+) as the team’s right-handed bat off the bench, but when you’re as deep into a rebuild as the Cubbies, no player is untouchable. Let’s see if he’s a fit for the Yankees….

The Pros

  • Baker can hit a little, with a 108 wRC+ against lefties and a 101 wRC+ against righties this season. Since the start of 2010, he’s tagged lefties to the tune of a 129 wRC+ with a .186 ISO and a measly 14.1% strikeout rate.
  • He’s versatile, having spent lots of time at first, second, third, and in right field during his career. Second base doesn’t happen too often these days, but Baker can play there in a pinch.
  • A rental player scheduled to become a free agent after the season, Baker is making $1.375M this season. That’s roughly $525k the rest of the way. He also has a minor league option remaining, though at his service time level he can refuse the assignment so it doesn’t really matter.

The Cons

  • Baker’s a strict platoon guy. He has nice numbers against righties this year, but since the start of 2010 it’s just a 23 wRC+ with a 34.2% strikeout rate. The breaking ball away gives him fits.
  • Despite all that versatility, Baker is a considered a below average defender at every position he plays by the various defensive metrics. Much like Wigginton, he’s a first baseman who plays other positions because his manager tells him to.
  • Baker hasn’t been the most durable player in the world — he visited the DL twice with groin strains last year and missed more than two months with a hand issue in 2009. He’s been healthy this year though.

The Yankees aren’t necessarily looking at an upgrade over Eric Chavez or Jayson Nix, at this point they’re seeking an upgrade over Ramiro Pena as the extra infielder. That might be Brandon Laird or Eduardo Nunez, but Baker also makes some sense as a lefty masher who can fake multiple positions. Adding marginal wins means very little to New York at this point given their nine-game lead in the division, but the goal really isn’t to improve the team’s chances of winning. It’s to keep Chavez healthy and limit his exposure — so he can be a pinch-hitting weapon in the postseason — while still having a competent player at the hot corner.

Scutaro was traded just last night for an okay infield prospect, and that gives us some kind of reference point for a trade package. The Cubs insist on pitching in any move though, so perhaps a second or third tier arm like Mikey O’Brien or Shane Greene gets it done. If it doesn’t, then acquiring Baker probably isn’t worth the effort. He’s a nice role player for platoon situations but nothing more.

Martin & Granderson slam Red Sox in opener
Game 100: Triple Digits
  • chase headley

    I still wish you guys would get me…..Ill shave I promise!

    • RetroRob

      We’re all going to look back a few years from now laughing at when we thought Chase Headley was Mike Schmidt.

      • FIPster Doofus

        He may not be Mike Schmidt, but he’s a very good player.

        • Cuso

          Let us know when he does something to show it.

          And the “Away from Petco Park….” preface is not an illustrious example, it’s an apologist’s claim.

          • Ted Nelson

            He’s 5 among 3B in fWAR the last 2.5 seasons, playin half his games in Petco.

            And home park is not irrelevant.

        • RetroRob

          No doubt.

          Headley seems to have gone from an undervalued commodity a year back to someone who now appears to be overvalued based on some of the trade rumors. It comes down to the price, and I don’t want them stripping their high-end talent for him.

  • ADam

    I’d like this…. He’d be perfect for spotting chavy. Nice pop against the LHP as mike said

  • Jacob

    Chris johnson of the Astros!…

    • JohnnyC

      He’s a butcher in the field.

      • Jacob

        We are not looking for a gold glove we are looking for a nice bat

        • Ted Nelson

          We are looking at the overall package.

        • Ralph

          He has little to offer besides an empty average

  • jjyank

    Seems like an upgrade if he’s cheap enough. Someone with a better stick than Ramiro Pena would be nice. The biggest thing here for me is the need to keep Chavez healthy and rested.

  • Raul Ibanez AKA Tom Marvolo Riddle

    I just want someone who can push Nix into Pena’s spot and Pena back to AAA. I really think Jayson Nix is a waste of space, but I think a lot of that stems from how much John and Suzyn love to blow him and how annoying I find the two of them to begin with.

    • jjyank

      …but…but…he’s a BASEBALL PLAYER….

      • Mister Swackhammer

        He looks like a BASKETBALL player to me!

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Ah. Didn’t read this before my comment below.

  • Thomas

    My sister and Baker were both at Clemson at the same time. According to her, Baker had two nickname:

    1. Homer Run Baker (obviously)
    2. Hot Buns Baker

  • Raul Ibanez AKA Tom Marvolo Riddle

    I really hope that if we do make another move though that Mike breaks it here before at mlbtr again, that was awesome when he did it for the Ichiro move.

  • Robinson Tilapia

    See….to me, the idea IS an upgrade over Nix, and I don’t see where this guy is it.

    • Raul Ibanez AKA Tom Marvolo Riddle

      108wRC+ is better than Nix against LHP, but I have to give it to Nix, he’s decent with the glove (at least at third and short). So I guess it’s a matter of opinion, is the 10 point differential against lefties in wRC+ (in favor of Baker) worth the lesser defense.

      • Andruw’s Smile

        I think the fact that Nix can even fake it at SS as well as in the Outfield and 2B automatically puts him over Baker.

    • Raul Ibanez AKA Tom Marvolo Riddle

      Also, Ra’s always strikes when and how we least expect it. Who saw the Pineda move, the Pettitte signing, or the Ichiro move before they happened.

      • Jacob

        He is going to get Wade boggs to come out of retirement and play for us.

  • viridiana

    HOw about lining up some of our more competent prospects for rolling audtions? Laird, Russo and Adams (not to mention Mustelier, if he was healthy) could be brought in for several games at a time– if one gets hot, keep him around. If not, move on to the next. I think argument can be made that one or more of these guys will prove better than Nix– or some of the market alternatives we’ve heard about.

    • Laz

      Laird hasn’t been any good in AAA. Mustelier and Russo are doing good in AAA, but what people often look over is the fact that they are both 27/28, so they should be decent in AAA by now. Adams I think could be a decent player. I think they should just give each player a try, to see what they got. But who knows what they think, I thought that Cust should be playing as our DH. In previous seasons he was decent, could hit 25-30 hr, and get on base alot. Sure he is just like adam dunn but thats better than ibanez. Career obp is .375, I’ll take that.

  • Marcy

    You know, at some level I’m just interested/curious to see Cashman & Theo do a trade.

  • Jose M. Vazquez..

    I know one thing and that is: in the playoffs you cannot give outs away and right now unless Chavez is playing we will be giving away two , maybe three outs if Jones continues to swing the way he has lately. Bringing in Ichiro, Cashman made a move like George Weiss used to do in the fifties by bringing in a fading superstar to contribute near the end of the season and into the post-season. I am not worried about Ichiro. I am quite sure he will contribute plenty to the efforts of the team in the final weeks of the season and beyond.

    • Andruw’s Smile

      Look at the ’10 Giants lineup… They don’t have to be all-stars at every position and hit 300/380/550

      • Jose M. Vazquez..

        Granted the Giants won it all with a so so lineup. The difference being that they were opportunistic. They hit in the clutch unlike our guys in the last postseason where they were unable to push across important runs. You are right.You don’t need a hitter in every spot in the lineup just one who will do the job when needed.

    • Jose M. Vazquez..

      I am assuming that Arod may not be able or ready to play in the first round.

      • Jacob

        He is expected to be there a few weeks before the postseason

      • Havok9120

        Then you’re expanding his injury a month passed what we’re being told is the worse case. A 50% increase.

        I’m all for planning for the worst, but it gets counterproductive at some point.

  • Jacob

    I think chances are high that in september I am sure cervelli will be back, that he could take stewarts roster spot for the postseason(on the high chance we make it)

  • Andruw’s Smile

    I would actually like for a trade candidate to be able to play SS and actually be capable at it. It would really push a 3B platoon of Nix/Chavez and the other guy would be replacing Pena. Maybe Nunez is that guy, as long as they keep him the hell away from 3B.

  • Kosmo

    What makes matters worse is Baker hasn´t played 3B this year. There must be a reason for it.


  • Brian S.

    Swisher not in the lineup again >:(

    • Steve (different one)

      Killed them last night, just as you predicted.

    • Havok9120

      Why are we supposed to be pushing a key piece back from a nagging injury 2 weeks into the Dog Days with an 8.5 game lead in the division?

      I’m all for the Geno Rule in this situation: “Oh, you say you’re good to go tonight? That’s fine, we’ll see you in two days.”

  • mryankee

    Whats with all the suck asses in these trade suggestions? Jeff Baker? Who the fuck is he?

    • FIPster Doofus

      What do you expect? The best 3B available is Headley and there’s going to be a bidding war for him. The Yankees are looking for a Band-Aid until A-Rod comes back.

    • Havok9120

      A potentially useful piece that can be had for cheap. You know, the only kind of guy we really need to add at this point.

  • RetroRob

    Improving on the edges over the course of a season is always a good idea, but not really sure how much of a difference Baker will make over the next five or six weeks. He’s also played in Coors and Wrigley, two very hitterish home parks in his career and it shows in his stats. He’s kind of the anti-Headley in that way. His splits however have favored his road hitting the last year-and-a-half.

    If the price was cheap, really cheap, I’d go for it, but Nix has okay pop against lefties. If they need to try something else, I’d rather see Laird called up.

  • Paul VuvuZuvella

    I’d prefer The Butcher and probably even The Candlestick Maker.

  • Jake

    I get why the Yanks have played it relatively quiet the past couple years, but part of me misses the days when we were in on every big name. The trade deadline and free agency are not nearly as exciting as they used to be.

  • Jacob

    Guess where Scutaro is playing for theGiants tonight guys, I will give you a hint it is the base Stuart A has never gotten too…

    • Bubba

      That could be any of them

  • Jacob

    Kottaras is about to go to the A’s guys but we have lived through russ and stewie this far I am sure if they get any worse Cervelli will take stewarts spot in october.

  • vicki

    alex gordon.

  • cranky

    Baker isn’t worth acquiring. He’s not any better than Jayson Nix. In fact, given that Nix can hit with some power and has been playing a bit above what was expected, Baker isn’t even as good as Nix.
    The only third baseman worth trading for is Chase Headley. He’s a good hitter, a good fielder, and can play the OF, as well.
    Some combination of Laird, Betances, Warren, Joseph, Adams, Murphy.