The Cardinals have selected the contract of first baseman Luken Baker, per a team announcement. The club also formally announced that catcher Tres Barrera has been designated for assignment. The moves are hardly surprising after Barrera himself told reporters that he had been placed on waivers last night, leading to speculation that Baker, who wasn’t in the Triple-A lineup last night, could be his replacement.
A second round pick by the Cardinals in the 2018 draft, the 26-year-old slugger tore up the lower minors at every level from 2018-2021 before spending the full 2022 season at the Triple-A level. Baker faced his first pronounced struggles as a professional at the level, slashing just .228/.288/.394 with a 78 wRC+ in 124 games.
Baker appears to have put those struggles behind him, however, as the slugger has torn up Triple-A in his return to the level this season. In 244 plate appearances at the level this season, Baker has slashed a phenomenal .313/.434/.641 with a wRC+ of 165. In addition to the vastly improved slash line, Baker has cut his strikeout rate to just 21.7%, his lowest figure since his professional debut in 2018, while his walk rate has skyrocketed to a whopping 17.6%.
That performance has paved the way for Baker to make his MLB debut later today, batting seventh against the Pirates. Going forward, Baker figures to compete with the likes of Juan Yepez and Alec Burleson for DH at-bats with the big league club, while potentially also spelling Paul Goldschmidt at first base on occasion.
As for Barrera, the 28-year-old catcher managed to get into just six games for St. Louis, drawing only two plate appearances. Should he go unclaimed on waivers, he’ll have he option to elect free agency, as he’s received an outright assignment previously in his career. Barrera figures to be an attractive catching depth option on a minor league deal should he hit the open market.