Most fans probably have little-to-no memory of Jeff Baker spending September 2012 as a part of the Atlanta Braves roster. After all, GM Frank Wren brought the right-handed hitting utility man to the team in a deal that received little attention as it went down on Aug. 31 of that same year. The move was made in an effort to help shore up the bench for the stretch run, but the results did little to inspire.
In the short time he spent with the Braves, Baker appeared in just 14 games managing to scratch out a mere two hits over 19 at-bats. After the season came to a close, the franchise decided to sever ties and let him enter free agency.
In January of this year, the Texas Rangers decided to give Baker a shot at adding depth to their bench when they came to terms on a one-year contract worth $1.75 million. That price ended up being a bargain as the 32-year-old proved to be a solid part of the offense, especially versus lefties. Baker crushed southpaws to the tune of a 1.073 OPS and belted 10 homers in 123 plate appearances against them. As he once again hits the free-agent market, that level of production is sure to bring him a heftier payday this offseason.
With the decision this week to decline the option on veteran Reed Johnson, the Braves need to not only fill but upgrade the role of reserve outfielder and pinch hitter. Baker fits that mold and the team should give strong thought to acquiring him once again. The potential benefits should more than justify the cost. As 2013 proved to Atlanta, a deep bench is crucial when it comes to attempting a push through the playoffs.