Rangers sign Jeff Baker to minor league contract

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Drew Davison of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports that the Rangers have signed utility infielder Jeff Baker to a minor league contract. The deal carries an invitation to spring training, where Baker will attempt to win a spot on the Texas bench.

Baker, 31, batted .239/.279/.378 with four homers and 25 RBI in 201 plate appearances last season between the Cubs, Tigers and Braves. He is a .266/.316/.428 career hitter in the major leagues.

Baker has played every infield position but shortstop over his eight-year MLB career and is also capable of serving as a fill-in at the corner outfield spots. He’ll be competing this spring with the likes of Leury Garcia, Yangervis Solarte and Brandon Snyder.

Kyle Schwarber is “probably, arguably” in The Best Shape of His Life

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Joe Maddon just held his annual media availability here at the Winter Meetings. During the scrum he said that Kyle Schwarber “looked great the other day” at a Cubs community event and that . . . wait for it . . . “he’s in, probably, arguably in the best shape of his life.” Maddon went on to say that, if Schwarber looks good in spring training, he might even be the Cubs leadoff hitter in 2018.

Schwarber is only 24, but the former catcher turned outfielder is going to spend most of his career as a DH, with another team obviously, unless he shows the Cubs that he can be a regular defender. The Cubs would love to see him in better shape whether they keep him or shop him, and if it’s the latter, they’ll want to show potential trade partners that he can play defense so as not to limit his market. It’s in everyone’s interests for him to be lean, mean and a bit more flexible once spring training starts.

To that end, according to a recent report, Schwarber “has been on a mission this offseason to transform his body.” And now Maddon is playing up the BSOHL angle. Whether that’s salesmanship or not, all eyes are going to be on Schwarber come February.