I think we all know that the main priorities of this offseason for the Dodgers are going to be 1) give Clayton Kershaw all of the dollars for all of the years; 2) find someone, anyone, who can play third base; and 3) add another starting pitcher, whether that’s Ricky Nolasco or David Price or Masahiro Tanaka.
But as we’ve also discussed, the bench is going to be an issue as well, because just about everyone other than Tim Federowicz is now a free agent. And sure, maybe Nick Punto or someone else returns, but everyone won’t, and even if they do, the bench was hardly a strength this year. It’s something that needs to be fixed. It’s something that always needs to be fixed.
On top of that, as I say pretty much every single year, there was no one who could handle a tough lefty reliever. This has been a problem for the Dodgers for so many years, because guys like Andre Ethier, James Loney when he was around, and now Carl Crawford are never ever going to hit lefties. Ever. The team has occasionally tried to patch this with reserves like Juan Rivera and Reed Johnson, but it rarely works, and that’s how 160 more plate appearances were wasted by Ethier hitting .221/.275/.338 against lefties.
So in a never-ending attempt to solve this, I throw out a name I imagine most of you aren’t familiar with: Jeff Baker, who turns 33 in June and can kinda, sorta play the four corners and second base.
He can also destroy lefty pitching, and that’s the main point here. In 123 plate appearances against lefties this year, he hit .314/.407/.667. Before you can yell “small sample size!”, know that in his career, over more than 800 plate appearances, it’s .298/.353/.522. That’s a .375 wOBA, and that essentially makes him Jose Bautista if he’s only playing against lefties. (And only against lefties; he’s .236/.288/.358 and a .285 wOBA against righties.)
Baker spent the first five years of his career with the Rockies and most of the next four with the Cubs, though since leaving the Cubs in August of 2012 he’s bounced from Detroit to Atlanta to Texas, and he always seems to be undervalued. That’s partially because he’s not really great at any of those defensive positions, but if he can crush lefty pitching like that and be something of a Jerry Hairston-lite at five spots, it’s hard to think there’s not room for him on the bench. Hell, the Rangers got him on only a minor-league deal in January this year, and the $1.75m he ended up making was the most of his career.
The Dodgers need someone who can hit lefties. If that person can stand around at a few positions, all the better, especially in the National League and on a roster that has (for now, anyway) both Crawford & Ethier. Give him two million, give him an option, whatever. It’s less about money than it is about roster spots, and this appears to be a much more efficient way to use one than, say, another year of Skip Schumaker or Michael Young.