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Yankees free agent target: Jeff Baker

With a surplus of left-handed batters, Jeff Baker would make sense in a utility type of role.


The Yankees, once again, made a massive splash, as they signed Jacoby Ellsbury, a left-handed bat, to a seven-year deal on Tuesday. Later in the night, they agreed to a deal with Kelly Johnson, another left-handed bat, to a one-year contract. This is coming from a team who already sported plenty of left-handed bats, thus adding a right-handed bat would make plenty of sense.

Enter Jeff Baker. Baker is just a career .267/.321/.440 hitter with a 96 wRC+ in over 1600 plate appearances. However, he does hit lefties very well; he's a career .298/.353/.522, 128 wRC+ hitter in 827 plate appearances against southpaws. Last season with the Rangers, Baker demolished lefties to the tune of a 183 wRC+ in over 100 PA's. And, in the last three years, Baker is a 124 wRC+ hitter against them.

As an added bonus, Baker provides versatility. In his career, Baker has seen time at the corner outfield spots, first, second, and third base. This doesn't come without any caveats, however, as he grades out as at least a below-average defender according to the respective advanced defensive metrics. At the same time, Mark Reynolds, who most want the Yankees to re-sign, is a complete disaster at third base and can't at least fake it in the outfield like Baker can.

Assuming the Yankees re-sign Robinson Cano (and I feel like that's a bigger "if" as the days continue to pass), Baker wouldn't have to see much of second base at all, but could see time at third base in place of Kelly Johnson if they decide to platoon him (73 wRC+ vs. LHP since 2011) or a corner outfield spot if they want to platoon Gardner (101 wRC+ vs. LHP since 2011) or even Ellsbury (96 wRC+ vs. LHP since 2011). He could also see some time at DH, of course. Finally, Baker, in theory, wouldn't cost a whole lot, as he made just less than $2 million last year.

If acquired, the Yankees would presumably cut ties with Vernon Wells. He was brought in with the purpose that he would hit left-handed pitching, but is simply incompetent in that regard, to go along with everything else. Adding a lefty masher like Jeff Baker and losing a complete waste of a roster spot like Vernon Wells is the very definition of addition by subtraction and is definitely something the Yankees should look into.