Baker, a 30-year-old California native, hasn’t logged many innings since 2009 behind the plate, partly due to injuries. In 2009, Baker was very productive, with a triple-slash of .271/.349/.410 and 9 HR, 25 2B and 50 RBI, while striking out less than 90 times in 373 AB. The year before in 2008, Baker also was productive in a limited role where he batted .299/.392/.447 with 14 2B, 5 HR, 32 RBI in 197 AB.
Defense is not his strong suit. Given the Padres emphasis on offense, pairing Baker with starting catcher Nick Hundley, in hopes of complementing Hundley with a left-handed batter, could bode well given Baker’s overall track record. Baker who had Tommy John surgery in 2010, Ironically on the same day Steven Strasburg did, could look for a bounce back type year in San Diego. The typical healing period for such an injury is usually between 12 to 18 months. Baker can provide some pop and his on-base skills, due to solid pitch selection, will make you think his skill set is right out of “Moneyball.” He fell off the Marlins radar because of his sub-par defensive tools, but his bat should carry his defense, especially as a back-up catcher.
The Padres give up LaBlanc, a pitcher who greatly befitted from pitching in PETCO Park’s extreme pitching confines. Wade was a very good asset to the Padres as a swing-man/starter, who often would be utilized as a pitcher jumping from the minors to the majors due to varies injuries. Now, with the new CBA agreement, adding a player to the roster making the total at 26, he would be a perfect player to come out of the pen or spot start. LeBlanc went 5-6 last year with a 4.53 ERA. At home, he posted a 3.65 ERA in contrast to his underwhelming 5.86 road ERA. He’s a career 4.54 ERA pitcher.
LeBlanc is the perfect example of a PETCO Park-aided pitcher. His home/road splits are staggering. Career 2.97 ERA at home vs. 6.16 ERA on the road. Bottom line, the Padres have pitching depth — and many pitchers are higher on the depth chart and can provide a better shot to win at home and the road.
I like this move for the Pads. Bringing in an offensive-minded catcher with pop and plate discipline (something the Padres need to emphasize more), in hopes of adding more offense pairing with Hundley, gives manager Bud Black more match-up options since Baker is a left-handed bat. Baker is also a hands-down upgrade from Rob Johnson, last year’s incredible disappointment, even as a back up catcher. Having said that, Baker is a much more viable option if Hundley were to hit the DL, which he has to avoid, considering he has somewhat of an injury history. Baker is a career .271/.356/.401 MLB hitter in 661 at bats.
Josh Byrnes’ first trade as Padres GM gets a B- from me. It’s a minimal-risk move when you have the depth the Padres system has, especially since it provides Hundley with a viable back-up catching option.