The Miami Marlins knew, when they signed Garrett Jones to a two-year free agent deal, that he would need help in the form of a platoon partner who could ease the load against left-handed pitching. Jones is a terrible hitter versus lefties, so it makes sense that he would cede playing time to a righty who could take his lineup spot from time to time. Initially, it was believed Miami would turn to an internal option, but instead they signed a player in Jeff Baker to handle that role and serve as a second backup utility player.
Baker has essentially done one thing well throughout his career: hit left-handed pitching. Thanks to his time in Colorado, his career .267/.321/.440 (.330 wOBA) batting line is actually four percent below the league average, but he did most of that limited damage versus lefties. Baker has hit .298/.353/.522 (.375 wOBA) versus lefties in his career, with a better strikeout and walk rate and highly increased power. His extreme platoon split, however, prevents him from being a full-time starter; over the course of his career, he has evenly split his plate appearances between lefties and righties.
Baker will serve a similar purpose here in Miami, soaking up lefty plate appearances from Jones. If the Marlins can keep his usage to just that level, they can find a modicum of success in him. In the last three seasons, Baker's lefty-righty plate appearance splits have favored lefties to the tune of a 66-33 percent split. That kind of ratio would be a good target for the Marlins again this year.
But Baker does not only have issues as a hitter versus righties. He also has not rated as a good defender at any position, including first base. In name, he can play second and third base as well, but at best he is likely average at any of these spots. He could provide relief in those areas as well, but the Marlins have a better defensive player and a right-handed hitter in Donovan Solano to provide that.
The projection systems do not think much of Baker and his hot streak with the Texas Rangers from last season. The average projection looks like a .318 wOBA akin to the Jarrod Saltalamacchia-type line from yesterday. Baker strikes out a decent amount (24 percent career) without drawing walks (7.1 percent career), and his power has often been just average. He gets by with picking up a lot more homers and hits versus lefties, but he has had that situation the last three seasons and only managed his typical .262/.311/.427. Expect a little less than the usual from him, except with the higher expectations of the first base position.
The presence of Baker and Jones puts Dobbs in a small conundrum. He was re-signed as owner Jeffrey Loria's personal project, but his role on the team has diminished greatly. Whereas he was expected to fill in at first base or the outfield before, he now finds himself strictly out of spots to play. Baker and Jones should fill out the first base platoon, Casey McGehee figures to be the full-time third baseman, and the outfield corners are held by Brian Bogusevic. This leaves Dobbs to his typical veteran leadership-grit role along with pinch hitting duties.
For the Marlins, that is a good thing. Dobbs has been among the worst Major Leaguers in the last three years, occasionally miscast as a full-time starter on a team with limited talent. These signings at least accomplish the task of leaving Dobbs on the bench for an extended period of time barring injury and avoiding using him in spots he cannot handle. Dobbs's best positions is first base, and now that it is full, Miami should be careful to use him elsewhere.
That said, the Marlins love Dobbs, and pinch hitting will probably still at least earn him 120 plate appearances along with a sporadic twice-monthly start. One more year, Marlins fans. One more year of the same weak (career .127 ISO), hack-tastic (career 52 percent swing rate) ways.