Looking to add depth to the team’s bench for the 2013 season, the Texas Rangers signed veteran utility man Jeff Baker to a minor league contract today, with an invitation to Spring Training.
The 31-year old Baker, who played for three different teams in 2012, was traded twice as the elusive PTBNL, and will be given the opportunity to serve as a bench reserve all over the field during the 2013 season, provided that he can earn himself a spot on the roster.
The fact that Baker has the ability and experience and ability to play everywhere but shortstop and center field will help him in that regard, but the Rangers could be looking for him to do a little damage with the bat as well. Though Baker has never had a full time job since joining the big leagues in 2005, his 37 career home runs across 1478 PA shows that he’s got a little bit pop in this bat.
In fact, in the right situations, Baker could even provide the team a key tool as a pinch-hitting specialist against LHP. His 2012 splits did not demonstrate this, but Baker has actually made a habit of smashing lefties over his career, with a .296/.344/.498 triple-slash and 25 homers against lefties over 704 PA.
Not too shabby, considering the price tag that he’ll come with for the Rangers. In short, he’s essentially what the Chicago Cubs just got for two years in Scott Hairston, minus the major league salary and extra year of commitment.
His poor results against RHP (.654 OPS) means that a starting job will likely continue to elude him as he heads to Texas, and sure, he’s been a below-replacement player over the last couple of years. That said, there’s always value in versatility, and that the Rangers are paying him a minor league salary makes Baker a no-risk signing, with a decent chance of a positive return in his second go-around in the AL.