When the Miami Marlins signed free agent Garrett Jones at the Winter Meetings, the question was whether or not he can produce offense consistently enough against a left-handed pitcher. Considering a possible platoon situation at first base, the Marlins are among the teams pursuing Jeff Baker, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.
marlins, nats among teams interested in jeff baker, who had .905 ops in '13. orioles possibly, too.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) January 28, 2014
Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish noted via Twitter on Wednesday that Baker was close to signing.
Baker hit .279/.360/.545 last season in 74 games with the Rangers. He posted an 187+ OPS against lefties but a mere 56+ OPS against right-handed pitchers. Baker has played every position, with the exception of shortstop, center field, pitcher, and catcher throughout his nine-year career.
Baker hasn't played in over 100 games since his fourth year with Colorado, during which he batted .322 and drove in 48 runs. He missed a month last season after spraining his thumb.
CBS noted that the Nationals are looking at Baker as an option to come off the bench. If starting time is one of Baker's primary concerns, should Miami sign him, he would see consistent time in the lineup in a division with several left-handed arms.
The Nationals would use Baker as a right-handed bat off the bench while the Marlins could give him regular playing time at first or third base. He's a limited player who can be very productive is used properly.
If the Marlins are able to add Baker to their roster, Manager Mike Redmond could feel confident in giving third baseman Casey McGehee a day or two off. Baker would also compliment Greg Dobbs nicely off the bench, pinch hitting against a lefty-reliever late in games.
Baker posted a .314 average against lefties in 2013, and would give the Marlins depth at first base should Jones continue to struggle against left-handed pitchers as his past suggests. MLB Trade Rumors noted that the quiet offseason for Baker isn't surprising considering his numbers against right-handed pitchers.
Despite huge numbers against left-handed pitching -- Baker slashed .314/.407/.667 with 10 homers in 123 plate appearances against southpaws last season -- it's been a relatively quiet offseason for the 32-year-old. The Rangers are known to have interest in re-signing Baker, and the Giants had talks with him a couple months back, though that was shortly before they elected to sign Mike Morse. The Morse signing would seem to indicate that Baker is no longer a consideration for San Francisco.
Baker has just a .647 OPS against right-handed pitching in his career, but he has an .875 OPS against lefties to go along with experience at second base, third base, first base and both outfield corners.