The ability to move Baker helped the Cubs decide to promote top prospect Josh Vitters. Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said they had some talks with the Tigers at the Trade Deadline about Baker, and Detroit claimed the versatile right-handed hitter off waivers. The two teams then worked out a deal.
"I'm happy for Jeff," Hoyer said. "They wanted him a lot and he gets to go into a pennant race and we get to bring up Josh and give him a chance he's earned."
Baker wasn't surprised at the news. The Cubs now have dealt Paul Maholm, Ryan Dempster, Reed Johnson, Geovany Soto and Baker this week.
"When you see the direction they're going here now, you knew it was a possibility," Baker said. "When they made the moves with Maholm, Reed, and Demp, to be honest, I don't blame them. They've got to go young and see what they've got and see what they've got for the future. I just made up 21 games in the standings, so I'm definitely excited about that."
However, the changes mean there aren't too many veterans for the young players to look up to.
"I'm not going to lie, it's going to be tough for some of these guys," Baker said. "Coming off the bench, No. 1, it's not fun, and No. 2, it's not easy. There's a lot of different ways you can make excuses. There's a lot of different ways you can feel sorry for yourself. You see the people who have a lot of success tend to be veterans. They understand it's their role and they understand how hard it is.
"Adrian [Cardenas] picked my brain all the time, talking to me and Reed. It's going to be a tough time. To be honest, it's going to be [Anthony] Rizzo's team, [Starlin] Castro's team, and with those two, the leadership qualities, they have to step up and run with it."
He does understand what the front office is trying to do.
"They're doing it the right way," Baker said of the rebuilding project. "You've got to build it down to build it back up. ... You hope the fans will be patient with them."
Hoyer said both Baker and Johnson got a lot of interest at the Trade Deadline. Johnson was dealt to the Braves last Monday.
"There's a reason two contenders went out and traded for those guys," Hoyer said. "They're both leaders, they're both great in the clubhouse and they both fill a nice role on a contending team. We'll miss their presence in a lot of ways."
Baker, 31, has played first base, second base and right field this year, batting .269 with a .753 OPS, four home runs and 20 RBIs in 54 games. He started primarily against left-handed pitching to take advantage of his career .304 average against southpaws.
Baker has been with the Cubs since they acquired him in a trade with the Rockies on July 2, 2009. He hit .280 with 15 home runs and 85 RBIs in 283 games for the club.
Both Baker and Johnson have a good sense of humor, too. The two dressed up as Theo Epstein, Cubs president of baseball operations, and Hoyer on the team's "Super Hero" trip.
"The costumes got us," Baker quipped.
Andrew Simon is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less