• Contemplating Bringing Scott Baker Back

    The Twins held their organizational meetings last week and there are plenty of decisions for the club to make about the pending offseason. Some of those decisions might have already been revealed as the club announced the new members of their coaching staff and the readjustment of the men that were left after the firing frenzy. Phil Mackey from 1500 ESPN has the complete rundown of some of the items discussed by the organization but one of the most interesting items might be the fact the team is looking to add three starting pitchers in the coming months. These pitchers could join the Twins in a couple of different ways including trades and free agency but the team knows this is a weak point for the club.


    One intriguing option for the Twins is a man that could already be under contract for 2013. Scott Baker injured his elbow during last year's spring training and he was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery. The Twins hold a $9 million option on Baker but there doesn't seem to be much of a chance of the club exercising that option. This would leave Baker as a free agent when he is still recovering from the surgery he had seven months ago. There could be other team's interested in Baker but the 31-year old right-hander has only known the Twins organization and this could play to his favor.

    At the end of the season, Terry Ryan and Ron Gardenhire spoke to season ticket holders in a conference call to answer a bunch of different questions about the organization. The topic of Baker came up in one of the questions and Ryan had very positive things to say about the pitcher. His rehab was progressing well at the time and he called him "one of the good guys" for the organization. This could be a good sign of things to come with Baker and it seem like a strong relationship exists between the pitcher and the general manager.

    This isn't the only sign from the front office about the pending return of Baker to the Twins for 2013. Reports out yesterday have Ryan saying the Twins would like to keep Baker around for next season. With the very good chance of the Twins turning down Baker's option year, this would mean the team would be free to work out an incentive-laden contract for the future. It would also be nice if the team could include a reasonable option for 2014 for the chance Baker performs better than expectations on his way back from elbow surgery.

    The most recent medical reports have Baker on track to be ready to pitch in game action by the time the Twins are in spring training. This is great news for Baker but one would have to wonder if he will be on some kind of innings limit for next year. He has only reached the 200 innings mark in one previous season so some of the innings limit might take care of itself with time spent on the disabled list. When pitchers are in their first season back from a major surgery, there can be a few bumps along the way. For example, Joe Nathan spent a little bit of time on the DL in his first year back with the Twins. From the Twins point of view, they already have Kyle Gibson working his way back from Tommy John surgery so it might not be ideal to have two recovering pitchers on track to be part of next year's rotation.

    In the last season Baker spent on the mound for Minnesota, he got off to the best start of his career. He went 7-5 in the first half of 2011 with a 3.01 ERA and he was on pace to throw over 200 innings. Injuries forced him to the sidelines for much of the second half of the season and he would only make four more starts during that time. Even with his limited action down the stretch, he would still lead the pitching staff in WAR for the entire season. In his last three full seasons with the Twins, he has averaged 13 wins a year with 181 innings pitched and a 4.11 ERA. If Baker was able to reproduce these results in 2013, he would be a very welcomed member of the Twins starting rotation.

    There are plenty of decisions for the Twins to make in the coming months and Baker will only be a small part of a much larger plan. It's nice to think the Twins would be loyal to a player the organization drafted and developed to see if he can come back strong from a tough injury. Baseball is a business though and the Twins have been at the wrong end of the American League for two consecutive seasons. Loyalty to players might have to be thrown out the window if the Twins want to get back to the top. The comeback story of Baker would be great to follow in 2012 but only if the team can work out an appropriate contract for the team and the player.
    This article was originally published in blog: Contemplating bringing Scott Baker back started by Cody Christie
    Comments 31 Comments
    1. jorgenswest's Avatar
      jorgenswest -
      Now that the Twins have navigated through the winter and made additions to their rotation we can look back at the decision on Scott Baker.

      While other pitchers like Joe Saunders chose other teams in spite of the Twins interest, Baker was the one pitcher the Twins could have guaranteed signing. They simply needed to pick up his option at 9.25 million. If he is healthy this year, he will achieve the performance bonus and earn 7+ million with the Cubs. The Twins would have overpayed by 2 million, but it is clear now that they were going to have to overpay someone. Had they offered the 9 million to Saunders, he may have taken it. He could have been a Twin for a year. I would rather have had Baker. It seems like there was a better chance that Baker would be open to an extension and Saunders a one year rental.

      I think Baker will be healthy and pitching well by the end of May. I would be much more confident in their rotation this year if Baker were in camp.
    1. glunn's Avatar
      glunn -
      Quote Originally Posted by jorgenswest View Post
      Now that the Twins have navigated through the winter and made additions to their rotation we can look back at the decision on Scott Baker.

      While other pitchers like Joe Saunders chose other teams in spite of the Twins interest, Baker was the one pitcher the Twins could have guaranteed signing. They simply needed to pick up his option at 9.25 million. If he is healthy this year, he will achieve the performance bonus and earn 7+ million with the Cubs. The Twins would have overpayed by 2 million, but it is clear now that they were going to have to overpay someone. Had they offered the 9 million to Saunders, he may have taken it. He could have been a Twin for a year. I would rather have had Baker. It seems like there was a better chance that Baker would be open to an extension and Saunders a one year rental.

      I think Baker will be healthy and pitching well by the end of May. I would be much more confident in their rotation this year if Baker were in camp.
      It will be interesting to see how well he does this year. I share your feeling that it would have been good to keep him, but only time will tell whether he is able to perform post-surgery.
    1. LoganJones's Avatar
      LoganJones -
      I would have liked to see Scotty succeed here. I just never really saw it happening.
    1. John Bonnes's Avatar
      John Bonnes -
      I would stand by the decision not to pick up that option. No way they can guarantee that kind of money coming off of TJ.
    1. 70charger's Avatar
      70charger -
      Quote Originally Posted by John Bonnes View Post
      I would stand by the decision not to pick up that option. No way they can guarantee that kind of money coming off of TJ.
      This. Besides, it's hard for me to get behind the idea that "now that the free agent market has shaken out, we can assess..." That's like saying "now that I know I have a losing lottery ticket, I can assess whether I should have played the lottery." No; you do the best with what information you have beforehand. I think a lot of us, myself included, were pretty darn surprised at the money Baker got from the Cubs. People around here were talking about resigning him for $1 or $2 million.
    1. jorgenswest's Avatar
      jorgenswest -
      Quote Originally Posted by 70charger View Post
      This. Besides, it's hard for me to get behind the idea that "now that the free agent market has shaken out, we can assess..." That's like saying "now that I know I have a losing lottery ticket, I can assess whether I should have played the lottery." No; you do the best with what information you have beforehand. I think a lot of us, myself included, were pretty darn surprised at the money Baker got from the Cubs. People around here were talking about resigning him for $1 or $2 million.
      My comments on the Twins decision on Baker are absolutely consistent with a comment I wrote in this thread on 10/24. I said at that time that he was the one pitcher the Twins could guarantee on the roster. While others counted on the Twins opening their pocket books for the numerous free agents dreaming of the chance to play in Minnesota, a few had a more realistic outlook. Baker has more upside than any other free agent they signed.

      and John... Instead of giving the money to Baker, haven't they simply put it in their pocket? The 9 million didn't go anywhere else.
    1. Kwak's Avatar
      Kwak -
      I didn't get any of that $9MM.
    1. John Bonnes's Avatar
      John Bonnes -
      Quote Originally Posted by jorgenswest View Post
      and John... Instead of giving the money to Baker, haven't they simply put it in their pocket? The 9 million didn't go anywhere else.
      Well, sure, but there isn't a pitcher or player you can't say that about.

      Even now, I would call it borderline crazy to promise Baker 9.25M. I understand you have lots of confidence in Baker. I don't.
    1. Oldgoat_MN's Avatar
      Oldgoat_MN -
      I'll just weigh in as another that does not see $9.25 million as a good idea for Baker this year.
      I wish him all the best and expect he'll do OK, but that is too much to guarentee to a guy with his injury history.
    1. jorgenswest's Avatar
      jorgenswest -
      Quote Originally Posted by John Bonnes View Post
      Well, sure, but there isn't a pitcher or player you can't say that about.

      Even now, I would call it borderline crazy to promise Baker 9.25M. I understand you have lots of confidence in Baker. I don't.
      The difference is that every other player can choose whether or not to play with the Twins. So maybe you can look at the list of guys that signed in the 5-7 million and say if the Twins bump it up 2 million they surely would sign with the Twins. Had they done that and offered Saunders 9 or 10 or Myers 9 then I have a lot less to support the argument. On the other hand, I have no less confidence in Baker than any of the other guys that signed in his range. He is an injury risk with an upside of solid starter. Are any of the other guys more than a borderline league average starter?

      I think the market has changed. I think Parker foreshadowed it in his article about the cost of relief pitching. I don't think the Twins anticipated the change. If they had, they may have preferred a Baker over the other guys.

      Now they have 9 million in their pocket. I would rather have Baker. I said in October and I say it now. If at the all star break he isn't pitching, I will come back and give the Twins credit for their good decision.
    1. howeda7's Avatar
      howeda7 -
      It's crazy to criticize the Twins for not picking up the option. Could they have tried harder to sign him after declining? Perhaps. But at the time it seemed reasonable not to jump the gun given the other options available. There are plenty of things to criticize about the pitching decisions this winter, but Baker is not at the top of the list.
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