November 13, 2012

Scott Baker leaves Twins, signs one-year contract with Cubs

Two weeks ago the Twins declined their $9.25 million option on Scott Baker for next season while making it clear that they were interested in possibly re-signing him for a lesser salary, but today Baker signed a one-year deal with the Cubs. He gets $5.5 million in guaranteed money, plus another $1.5 million in potential incentives after missing all of this year following Tommy John elbow surgery in mid-April.

Baker is no sure thing to be ready by Opening Day, but even if he's healthy for 20-25 starts $5.5 million is a sound investment. Last offseason, for instance, the Twins spent $3 million on Jason Marquis, and this winter several back-of-the-rotation starters will likely get multi-year deals for more money. Baker's lack of durability and tendency to serve up majestic homers made him a natural target for criticism, but he's consistently been a solid mid-rotation starter.

He logged 135 innings with a 3.14 ERA and 123-to-32 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 2011 and since joining the rotation full time in 2007 he has a 3.98 ERA and 676/194 K/BB ratio in 821 innings. Among the 144 starters with at least 500 innings during that time Baker ranks 12th in K/BB ratio, 50th in xFIP, and 52nd in ERA. Only nine pitchers in Twins history have more starts with a better adjusted ERA+ and his K/BB ratio is the second-best behind Johan Santana.

It's unclear how close the two sides were on money, but Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that the Twins wanted any deal with Baker to include a team option 2014 while he wanted the ability to become a free agent again next offseason if 2013 went well. Those stances make sense for both sides and ultimately it all depends on how he comes back from the surgery, but $5.5 million would have been a reasonable risk to take.


  1. All of a suddden there’s a ton of Baker hater-ade being consumed by the twitter-verse people and I find it humorous and completely misguided. The fact that for once I’m actually agreeing with Gleeman is even more amusing. Oh well, first time for everything right?

    Comment by Brooklyn Twins Fan — November 13, 2012 @ 12:45 pm

  2. Sounds like a good move for both parties. Baker get a one year deal and a nice payout. I don’t think the Twins are looking for a one-year contract on a pitcher especially with Baker coming off surgery, so I don’t fault them for asking for an option year. We did pay Baker $6.5M this year not to pitch – right in line with a couple of years ago where we paid Nathan $11.5M not to pitch (maybe insurance softened some of that amount).

    Comment by wavedog — November 13, 2012 @ 1:13 pm

  3. i guess my first reaction was disappointment. he would have been a good, affordable fit for the twins in 2013.

    so the stumbling block was the option year? what a bunch of nonsense. sounds like the twins tried to fine-tune negotiations the same way they try to fine-tune every aspect of a player’s game.

    i wish baker well with the cubs.

    Comment by jfs — November 13, 2012 @ 1:34 pm

  4. I have to side with the Twins on this one. In this case, a one-year deal is a one-sided deal. Baker will probably not be fully recovered/rehabbed until 2014. Why should the Twins continue to finance his rehab, without getting to enjoy his full capabilities in 2014?

    Comment by Dave T — November 13, 2012 @ 3:15 pm

  5. 20 to 25 starts is probably a reasonable expectation for Baker in 2013. My question is why you think it would be reasonable to pay $5.5 million for them. Say he manages 40-50% quality starts, something I think would be pretty good for a guy coming back from TJ surgery. You end up paying $5.5 million for maybe 10 quality starts. Now, he may do a bit better than that, but guys coming back from TJ surgery don’t usually regain all their old effectiveness immediately.

    My guess is that if those 20-25 starts went to a Deduno or DeVries, you would have just as good a chance of getting 10 or so quality starts. I don’t think I would want to pay $5.5 million for them and then maybe loss Baker to free agency after the season, if all the good starts are at the end of the season.

    Comment by Jim H — November 13, 2012 @ 5:40 pm

  6. are the twins viewed favorably by pitchers around baseball? we’ve lost a few good ones. and nobody seems to be beating a path to ryan’s door, inquiring on employment. is there a problem with anderson, gardy, and/or the training/medical staff?

    Comment by jfs — November 13, 2012 @ 6:44 pm

  7. Yes.

    Comment by wrong em — November 13, 2012 @ 11:36 pm

  8. I remember reading over the summer that Baker wanted to return, that the Twins were all he’d ever known, blah blah blah. You know it’s probably crap at the time you read it, but there was some hope with me that he would come back next year. Even with his question marks, I would say he is the best pitcher on the Twins if he’s still on the team. Painful proof that baseball really is business.

    @ Jim H.: if you think Baker, even after post TJ, is comparable to Deduno or DeVries, pass it over because I need a hit bro. It’s especially ironic with Deduno, because while DeVries just doesn’t have the talent, Deduno is literally one of the most erratic pitchers in all of baseball. It’s an incredible contrast with Baker, a pitcher with some of the best control in all of baseball. It’s not even close. There is no one in the organization ready to fill Baker’s shoes, and he’s a big loss for our 2013 plans, whatever they are.

    @ jfs: I don’t think anyone wants to come to a team fresh off two 96+ loss seasons if they have a choice. 96+ loss seasons in the worst division in baseball, I might add. The Marlins drew some talent last year, but they spent a sh*tton on those guys, and they’re now unloading two of the players they signed (Reyes and Buehrle). The Twins offer about the same promise as the Marlins but they’re even cheaper, so the hope is even less. There is nothing appealing about this franchise at this point. When I read comments from Baker and Morneau about how much they want to stay, I am heartened, but part of me also wonders how they could be so crazy. Morneau could be on, say, the Red Sox or something. I mean, a team with a legitimate chance to do something big. There’s no way the Twins can objectively compare to that.

    Comment by Sean — November 13, 2012 @ 11:46 pm

  9. I wanted Baker to resign here, but if the team isn’t getting an option year, then I understand the desire to keep the guaranteed money low. Can’t assume ALL of the risk…

    As for Baker, it seems an odd choice to go to a lousy team in a hitter’s park, where even more of his flyballs will end up in the seats. But $5.5M guaranteed is persuasive, I guess.

    Comment by BR — November 14, 2012 @ 9:33 am

  10. I expect the money was a little high for the Twins but the lack of the option year was the real deal-killer for them, and rightly so.

    It’s very hard to expect that Baker will be ready to pitch on Opening Day, and I expect he won’t round into form until mid-summer at the earliest. $5.5M is a lot to pay for a guy that will only pitch about half the season, is an unknown on his post-injury effectiveness…and will be a free agent at the end of the season, having used you for his rehab year. I wanted Baker back, but not at a silly price or bad contract. Clearly, this wasn’t a good fit.

    Comment by Josh — November 14, 2012 @ 2:51 pm

  11. I think the human side of this that people forget is that if you’re Scott Baker, you probably signed that contract expecting to pitch well enough that the team would pick up that team option and pay the money. Baker did pitch well, and then got hurt, which was not his fault, and might have partially been the team’s fault for mishandling it in a way that he couldn’t make it back from TJ early enough to prove he was worth that option year.

    So the Twins are now telling you that you’re not worth what they thought you might be worth when they signed a deal, yet Baker’s attitude is obviously “I’m going to make it back and be the pitcher I was before”. Why wouldn’t you just go find a fresh start and a higher bidder, under those circumstances?

    Comment by Jeff H — November 15, 2012 @ 2:58 pm

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