Scouting The Waiver Market: John Baker

O'Brien homers again in Charleston loss
Stark: Yankees "already have interest" in Ricky Nolasco
(Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty)
(Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty)

Although the Yankees need a corner outfield bat more than anything right now, looking for an upgrade behind the plate shouldn’t be on the back burner. Chris Stewart (91 wRC+) has produced to the best-case scenario since being pressed into everyday duty, but Austin Romine (-14 wRC+) has been a disaster as the seldom used backup. Frankie Cervelli (140 wRC+) has yet to resume baseball activities and is still several weeks away from returning from his broken hand.

Quality catching help is hard to find any time of the year, but especially at the trade deadline. Part of the problem is that the second wildcard spot creates more contenders and fewer sellers. Another part of the problem is that there just aren’t many decent catchers out there to start with. Teams that have one tend to hold on for dear life. The best the Yankees can realistically hope for behind the plate is a warm body who unexpectedly puts up a few big weeks.

A warm catching body hit the waiver wire yesterday as the Padres designated the 32-year-old John Baker for assignment. Actually … he probably isn’t on waivers yet, but that could come in a few days. Does Baker make sense for New York? I don’t know, but like every other catcher these days, he has to be considered an option. Let’s break down his game.

The Pros

  • Baker, a rare left-handed hitter catcher, is a career .269/.349/.377 (95 wRC+) hitter against right-handers in 865 plate appearances. He doesn’t have much power obviously, but his walk rate (10.8%) is strong and his strikeout rate (19.0%) is manageable.
  • The various catcher defense rankings have rated him as about average behind the plate in three of the last four years, including 2013. They said he was below-average last year, however (2010, 2011, 2012, 2013).
  • Baker will earn $930k this season — owed roughly $555k from now through the end of the season — and remains under control as an arbitration-eligible player through 2015.
  • He has an option remaining for this season, so any team who acquired him would be able to stash him in Triple-A as depth through the end of the year. Baker will be out of options next season.

The Cons

  •  Baker can’t hit lefties, so much so that he almost never plays against them: .198/.301/.282 (63 wRC+) line against them in 155 big league plate appearances. The Triple-A numbers are actually worse.
  • Despite the favorable-ish defense rankings, Baker has thrown out just 48 of 246 attempted base-stealers in his career (19.5%). He had Tommy John surgery in 2010, but his throw-out rate is the same before and after surgery.
  • Baker is, obviously, unfamiliar with the pitching staff. That was a pretty big deal when Romine was originally called up and would presumably be a concern for any new catcher brought in.

The Yankees currently have an open 40-man roster spot, so that’s not an issue. Acquiring Baker would allow them to send Romine to Triple-A for regular at-bats first and foremost, but it might also give them a little extra production against right-handed pitchers. Joe Girardi loves Stewart and would presumably continue to catch him everyday, giving Baker some time to learn the staff during bullpen sessions and side work.

We’re talking about a backup catcher upgrade, not replacing Stewart as the starter. It’ll take a minor miracle for that to happen at this point. Romine has been completely overmatched though, and I think the Yankees should pounce on Baker if they get a chance to acquire him. If he makes it to them on waivers in a few days, great. I think they should look into swinging a minor trade — based on similar deals, it’ll take a player to be named later or cash, something like small that — before Baker is placed on waivers just to make sure they actually get him. The Yankees have already shown the willingness to make marginal upgrades (Reid Brignac over Chris Nelson, etc.), and although we’re only talking about the backup catcher here, going from Romine to Baker is a move worth making.

O'Brien homers again in Charleston loss
Stark: Yankees "already have interest" in Ricky Nolasco
  • The Real Me

    For cash or a PTBNL, why not? The most important part of acquiring him is that it allows Romine to go back to AAA and get regular ABs. He needs to regain his confidence so he’s better prepared next time he’s called up.

  • mitch

    It should be noted the last time he wasn’t terrible at the plate was in 2009. Having said that, I wouldn’t be against the idea of bringing him in for a few weeks until Cervelli comes back.

    • jsbrendog

      right, but honestly he can’t be WORSE than Romine….right? RIGHT!!?!?! please tell me i am right!

      plus it allows romine to play every day and try to not feel like he is teh epic suck

      • mitch

        Any move that involves Romine to AAA is a positive. It’s not doing him or the team any good having him play once every 5 games and stewing on a .150 OBP the rest.

        • jsbrendog


  • trr

    Myself, I would be OK with this simply becuase Romine had been such a disappointment. It’s understood this would be a meginal upgrade, but every upgrade counts for something over the long haul.

  • Bavarian Yankee

    pick him up and send Romine down.

  • BTG

    Where have you gone, Jorge Posada?

  • http://RAB I remember the CBS years

    Writing of upgrades: Ciriaco over Brignac?

    • Mike Axisa

      Ciriaco brings nothing to the table. Don’t get caught up in what he did against the Yankees last year.

      • A.D.

        But when the comparison is replacing Brignac, he maybe more valuable don’t you think?

        • Kosmo

          Brignac for his glove trumps Ciriaco.

          the dumpster diving sure takes some getting used to.

          Baker can´t hit LHP, well let´s see Romine can´t hit either so I´m in on Baker.

        • Mike Axisa

          Based on what? If had been released by anyone other than the Red Sox, no one would think twice about him.

      • trr

        Fair enough Mike, but Brignac has shown a good glove and precious little else. I’m not necessarily endorsing Ciriaco, but don’t you feel some kind of change needs to be made, especially in like of the fact that we don’t know if Jeter will be able to play the field upon returning, and that Nunez wasn’t showing much before he was injured?

        • Kosmo

          Jeter play the field ? He hasn´t had any range for years, recovery from a broken ankle would have to decrease his range even more. I think his days as an everyday SS are done. Next year Jeter will be a 40 yr old SS. Doesn´t sound good to me.

          Yanks will probably ride with Nix and Nunez. I´m hoping for a trade but it doesn´t appear likely.

          • trr

            yeah….at SS, as at C, there are no easy or obvious upgrades

  • Jacob the OG

    another one of those “makes to much sense to actually happen” scenarios ala kottaras-mode

  • Rick

    As long as it’s not Rube Baker, I’m game. Actually, I take that back. I’d like to sign Rube Baker.

    • MannyGeee

      There have been a metric shit ton of “Major League 2” call backs this week. Not sure how I feel about that.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      I’d like to sign Ox Baker, master of the HEART PUNCH.

  • OldYanksFan

    Yeah…. every upgrade helps.
    But it’s rearranging chairs on the Titanic.
    The bottom line is Teix and Cano MUST carry the offense.
    One of Jeter, ARod and Grandy MUST contribute.
    Youk and Wells MUST step it up.

    Our Offense is pathetic.
    The scrubs and no-names have done their jobs a lot better then those we count on.

    My guess is the Yanks pay Cano some serious coin to resign.
    And it will be ARod/Teix all over again.
    I said before, I hope the Yanks make the PS and Cano sucks, so maybe he just costs us a leg…. as opposed to an arm AND a leg.

    • sas

      Yeah, we are in last place and can’t win a game! We are terrible! It must be horrible watching a team lose every game!

      Fans like you are why people hate Yankee fans.

  • Jim Is Bored

    Meh. Shrug.

    Not gonna lose sleep either way.

  • MannyGeee

    Obvious marginal upgrade is obvious.

    • shittyshittybangbang

      Marginally obvious is a marginal upgrade. Wait …., what ?!

  • Chris in Durham

    Waste of time article. Love the site, but the bashing of the catchers is pointless. The Yanks are not making a deal for a Major League catcher. Ain’t happening. They like Stewart. They have zero interest in replacing him. Romine is replaceable, but Cervelli is coming back. is the -14 from Romine good? No. But he’s better than that and the Yanks are going to show patience at least until Cervi comes off the DL.

    • JMK

      Waste of time article? You’re a dick.

      With that out of the way, I agree that the Yankees, for whatever reason, seem to be comfortable with the catching personnel. But your absolute belief that they won’t upgrade is curious.

      Let’s recap: Stewart is a subpar hitter. The defense from my vantage is poor as well, but let’s assume the Yankees think it’s good. Sure, that’s the defacto starter. Moving on.

      Romine is clearly overmatched. Clearly. There’s no debate about that. He may be “better than that” but at a certain point the can’t afford to say, “Maybe he’ll get going, let’s just keep throwing him to the wolves.”

      By my math, we’re then banking on Cervelli. He is scheduled to come off the DL, that’s true. But a broken hand could take longer than expected to return from. And take a look at his injury history – Frankie is no guarantee to stay healthy, period.

      Looking to upgrade at an obvious position of weakness could certainly be a priority for the team. Maybe they will, maybe they won’t. But saying they won’t in absolute terms (and knocking Mike for pondering potential candidates in the process) is just stupid.