It's a deal that had been in the works before last week's non-waiver Trade Deadline but got pushed back when the Cubs had bigger trades to make. They also had dangled right-handed-hitting outfielder Reed Johnson, whom Tigers team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski confirmed they had also discussed.
Once the Cubs put Baker on trade waivers after the Deadline, the Tigers made a claim and finished their deal.
"They had so much going on right before the Deadline -- they traded [Ryan] Dempster, they had some other talks going on -- that they basically put this one on hold and said, 'Let's see what happens,'" Dombrowski said. "We did claim him on waivers, so we had until today to make a deal. So we were able to make that happen.
The 31-year-old Baker, an eight-year National League veteran who has played for Colorado and Chicago, is batting .269 this season with 10 doubles, four homers and 20 RBIs in 54 games, covering 134 at-bats. Two-thirds of those at-bats have come against lefties, off of whom he's batting .275 with eight doubles, three homers, 12 RBIs and a .771 OPS.
"Primarily, we were looking for somebody to just swing the bat versus left-handed pitching," Dombrowski said. "He's a good fit in that regard, has hit them well throughout his career. You look at our ballclub versus right-handed pitching, we like how our lineup shapes up at this time."
Baker has played second and first base this season, plus both corner outfield spots. He has also played third base in past years.
"It's a versatile team to manage right now," manager Jim Leyland. "Baker's going to play against left-handed pitching. He hits left-handed pitching real good. I'll probably pinch-hit for him against right-handed pitching. We've got some flexibility in the outfield."
In terms of Baker's place, Dombrowski said, "It's a lot like, really, what we were hoping Ryan Raburn would do. He has struggled for us this year. Now, of course, he's on the disabled list anyway at this point."
In many ways, Raburn has become the poster child for the Tigers' struggles against left-handed pitching. He had a .274 batting average and .807 OPS last year against lefties, including seven home runs in 146 at-bats, but slumped to a .165 average this year. He's actually hitting right-handers slightly better this season.
Except for a brief stint at Triple-A Toledo at the end of May, Raburn has stuck in the big leagues all year, in part because the Tigers haven't had a right-handed-hitting outfielder to replace him. Now that Baker fills that job, Raburn's role falls into serious question.
Raburn went on the 15-day DL on Sunday morning. Dombrowski said he doesn't know how long he could be out. Detroit recalled Danny Worth from Toledo on Sunday morning to take Raburn's spot, but optioned him back to Toledo after Sunday's win to make room for Baker in time for Monday's series opener against the Yankees.
"We figured that was probably how it was going to turn out," Leyland said. "[Worth] was just here for the one game."
The players the Tigers send to Chicago must be announced no later than Oct. 31.