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  • Baker Follows a Good Deal

    It didn't come as a surprise that Scott Baker signed a contract just a couple weeks into this offseason. He's not the first recognizable pitcher to come off the board, as Bartolo Colon and Hisashi Iwakuma preceded him.

    Baker is, however, the first to land with a new team. And I think that does come as a surprise to a lot of people, given the Twins' well publicized efforts to bring him back.

    Baker didn't spend much time testing the open market, as his new one-year, $5.5 million contract with the Cubs was announced Tuesday. Including an additional $1.5 million in incentives, it's undeniably a great deal for the 31-year-old right-hander, and one that the Twins were wise not to try and match (assuming he gave them the chance). Baker is a very good pitcher when healthy, but he's eclipsed 175 innings only once in his career and guaranteeing him $5.5 million in his first season back from major elbow surgery Ė despite a saturated pitching market Ė seems crazy to me. The Cubs didn't even mitigate their risk by including a team option that might get them a bargain in 2014. Many pitchers don't return to full strength until their second year back from Tommy John.

    It's natural to wonder what led the hurler to sign elsewhere so quickly. People will inevitably think back to the weird exchanges that took place between Baker and Twins coaches when he was complaining of elbow soreness back in the spring. Was there friction there?

    He certainly didn't move on to the Cubs because winning was his highest priority, so there's a temptation to ascribe motives. Why would he ditch the organization that raised him, even if an extra million or two was being offered by another club?

    To me, this is a case where Baker just wanted to do what was best for him, and it's hard to argue with his decision. He's already 31 and won't have many more chances for a big payday. So, coming off surgery, he jumps on the chance to earn a nice guaranteed sum throwing in the more pitcher-friendly National League for a season. He's not tied down past next year so he'll have a chance to hit the market again after hopefully proving that his surgery was a success.

    Good for him. Meanwhile, the Twins quickly lose out on one of their most accessible options and have to readjust their plans after probably expecting they'd be able to bring Baker back. Your move, TR.
    This article was originally published in blog: Baker Follows a Good Deal started by Nick Nelson
    Comments 27 Comments
    1. twinsfaninsaudi's Avatar
      twinsfaninsaudi -
      The NL may be more pitcher-friendly but Wrigley field is not gonna jive too well with his fly ball tendencies.
    1. Curt's Avatar
      Curt -
      "Why would he ditch the organization that raised him, even if an extra million or two was being offered by another club?"

      Asked and answered. "an extra million or two." Who wouldn't? Is that not a lot of money? A player's time is short. It is really short for a 31 year old pitcher coming off TJ surgery.

      So often I read posts tinged with anger and/or disrespect for the player when they choose to leave. Where is the anger towards the club when his productivity falls and he is placed on waivers, cut or non-tendered? "He doesn't get to that ball in the hole anymore but maybe they should give him a couple of years because he has been so loyal to the organization?" Ha! You will never hear it.

      Players are contractors with a limited career span. How many contractors do you know, in your real life, that stay where they are when a better contract becomes available elsewhere?

      Teams constantly evaluate a player's price and worth. They have several replacements already training to take his spot when he loses a step and the cost/benefit changes. They use every bit of leverage they have. Why expect less from the player?
    1. Jim Crikket's Avatar
      Jim Crikket -
      Did the Cubs overpay? Or are you (and many of the rest of us) undervaluing players this offseason perhaps by not taking in to account many teams being willing to use a bit of the MLB tv rights windfall that kicks in next season?

      After the past couple of seasons, I think players and agents are smart enough to know that when they get an offer they think is good, they need to take it. Waiting around has bitten more than one player in the butt recently. I don't blame Baker at all for his decision.

      Whether I blame the Twins for not being willing to pony up is a question I don't think I can answer yet. If, in the end, they end up with 3 new starting pitchers at least as promising as Baker, then that's great. Everyone gets what they want.

      But if it turns out the Twins are unwilling to cough up what it takes to get better starting pitchers than Baker and they're left scraping the bottom of the bargain bin in January because Baker got a couple million more than they were willing to give, you're damn right I'll blame the Twins for letting him go over what's really a piddly amount of money in the grand scheme of things.
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      when does overpaying turn into not really overpaying? If a bunch of teams are willing to 'overpay' does that not turn into market value and become NOT overpaying?
    1. CDog's Avatar
      CDog -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jim Crikket View Post
      Did the Cubs overpay? Or are you (and many of the rest of us) undervaluing players this offseason perhaps by not taking in to account many teams being willing to use a bit of the MLB tv rights windfall that kicks in next season?

      After the past couple of seasons, I think players and agents are smart enough to know that when they get an offer they think is good, they need to take it. Waiting around has bitten more than one player in the butt recently. I don't blame Baker at all for his decision.

      Whether I blame the Twins for not being willing to pony up is a question I don't think I can answer yet. If, in the end, they end up with 3 new starting pitchers at least as promising as Baker, then that's great. Everyone gets what they want.

      But if it turns out the Twins are unwilling to cough up what it takes to get better starting pitchers than Baker and they're left scraping the bottom of the bargain bin in January because Baker got a couple million more than they were willing to give, you're damn right I'll blame the Twins for letting him go over what's really a piddly amount of money in the grand scheme of things.
      From what Joe C wrote, it sounds like the issue was more in the option year that the Twins wanted and Baker was hard set against than the dollars. That may or may not change the resulting feelings, but the piddly amount of money doesn't seem like the culprit (especially since the incentives the Twins were offering made it possibly a larger contract dollar-wise).
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      Quote Originally Posted by ThePuck View Post
      when does overpaying turn into not really overpaying? If a bunch of teams are willing to 'overpay' does that not turn into market value and become NOT overpaying?
      Well said. Apparently shoving one's head in the sand and screaming "overpay" is the response this board has decided to take. It sounds like even the Twins were in this ballpark too. Get real, this is FA starting pitching. It doesn't come cheap. Overpay is the name of the game.
    1. Jim Crikket's Avatar
      Jim Crikket -
      Quote Originally Posted by CDog View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by Jim Crikket View Post
      Did the Cubs overpay? Or are you (and many of the rest of us) undervaluing players this offseason perhaps by not taking in to account many teams being willing to use a bit of the MLB tv rights windfall that kicks in next season?

      After the past couple of seasons, I think players and agents are smart enough to know that when they get an offer they think is good, they need to take it. Waiting around has bitten more than one player in the butt recently. I don't blame Baker at all for his decision.

      Whether I blame the Twins for not being willing to pony up is a question I don't think I can answer yet. If, in the end, they end up with 3 new starting pitchers at least as promising as Baker, then that's great. Everyone gets what they want.

      But if it turns out the Twins are unwilling to cough up what it takes to get better starting pitchers than Baker and they're left scraping the bottom of the bargain bin in January because Baker got a couple million more than they were willing to give, you're damn right I'll blame the Twins for letting him go over what's really a piddly amount of money in the grand scheme of things.
      From what Joe C wrote, it sounds like the issue was more in the option year that the Twins wanted and Baker was hard set against than the dollars. That may or may not change the resulting feelings, but the piddly amount of money doesn't seem like the culprit (especially since the incentives the Twins were offering made it possibly a larger contract dollar-wise).
      If that's the case, then it's even sillier to have let him get away. Do you want an option? Of course! If it turns out his best offer is your offer with a team option, good for you! You've got a chance to turn this in to a really good 2 year deal. But if another team is willing to give him a solid 1 year deal without the option and you pass on it over that? Good grief. We're not talking about a contract here that was going to be so big that it would preclude the Twins from doing anything else. It's just the Twins being stubborn... again... and being willing to suck on the field rather than stretch their conservative financial principles.
    1. Sanibelchuck's Avatar
      Sanibelchuck -
      Many of you are forgetting that Matt Garza and Scott Baker pitched together on the Twins in, I believe, 2006 and 2007. Am sure he checked out what Matt had to say about the team. Also Carlos Gutierrez is now with the Cubs. Finally, Theo has had enough years as GM of the Red Sox to see what the Minnesota Twins have through spring training. It seems like the Twins were playing the Red Sox every week in spring training. Maybe Lariano will be the next new Cub? It is always interesting to read what other fan blogs have to say about the players they pick up. For Chicago Cubs fans the best one to read: www.chicagocubsonline.com
    1. glunn's Avatar
      glunn -
      I think that maybe the Cubs are planning to use Baker as trade bait near the trading deadline next year, assuming that he is likely to be pitching well by then.
    1. Nick Nelson's Avatar
      Nick Nelson -
      Quote Originally Posted by TheLeviathan View Post
      Well said. Apparently shoving one's head in the sand and screaming "overpay" is the response this board has decided to take. It sounds like even the Twins were in this ballpark too. Get real, this is FA starting pitching. It doesn't come cheap. Overpay is the name of the game.
      How many pitchers, who have never been elite, who have thrown 175+ innings once in their career and who were nine months removed from TJ surgery, have received a free agent contract with more than $5 million in guaranteed money? Seriously, find me a precedent.

      The dynamics of free agency are not lost on me. But five million bucks is a substantial amount of money to throw at someone who has been extremely unreliable from a durability standpoint and is coming off major surgery. We can't definitively say Baker's being overpaid – it could easily end up being a great bargain and even if not it won't hurt the deep-pocketed Cubs much – but that's just way more than you ever see a pitcher in that situation getting.
    1. Nick Nelson's Avatar
      Nick Nelson -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jim Crikket View Post
      If that's the case, then it's even sillier to have let him get away. Do you want an option? Of course! If it turns out his best offer is your offer with a team option, good for you! You've got a chance to turn this in to a really good 2 year deal. But if another team is willing to give him a solid 1 year deal without the option and you pass on it over that? Good grief. We're not talking about a contract here that was going to be so big that it would preclude the Twins from doing anything else. It's just the Twins being stubborn... again... and being willing to suck on the field rather than stretch their conservative financial principles.
      I dunno. To me, the lack of an option is pretty much a deal-breaker. Forces the Twins to assume way too much risk. Say he struggles early in the year but gradually regains his command/velocity and starts to dominate in the final months, which would be fairly typical of a Tommy John survivor. Suddenly Baker's ready to hit the market with a head full of steam, while the Twins got one mostly lousy season out of him and are back to the drawing board.

      If they truly walked away because Baker wouldn't do the option for 2014, it might also say something about their expectations of contending next year.
    1. Willihammer's Avatar
      Willihammer -
      Quote Originally Posted by twinsfaninsaudi View Post
      The NL may be more pitcher-friendly but Wrigley field is not gonna jive too well with his fly ball tendencies.
      Yeah, check it out: http://katron.org/projects/baseball/hit-location/

      It could be bad, or it could be okay. He would have given up 17 home runs at Wrigley in 2009 by my count, if he were a Cub (200 IP).
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      Quote Originally Posted by Nick Nelson View Post
      The dynamics of free agency are not lost on me. But five million bucks is a substantial amount of money to throw at someone who has been extremely unreliable from a durability standpoint and is coming off major surgery. We can't definitively say Baker's being overpaid – it could easily end up being a great bargain and even if not it won't hurt the deep-pocketed Cubs much – but that's just way more than you ever see a pitcher in that situation getting.
      Shall I give you a list of other MLB pitchers that have made 5M despite being injury prone? Hell, we handed Stachy one a bunch of cash the last few years as an immediate example. Brandon Webb got 3M guaranteed plus a **** ton of incentives and he hadn't pitched in two years. Yes Webb was a better pitcher. He also had serious trouble getting healthy. Ben Sheets got 10M after not pitching for two years and the surgery. While the exact circumstances are strange, "overpaying" by 1M what the Twins were offering doesn't exactly support your theory that the Cubs went out of bounds of normal free agency.

      Baker isn't elite and 5M isn't elite money. It was a slight overpayment at most, certainly nothing to bristle at and start dropping "elite" references around to imply that it was ridiculous.
    1. PseudoSABR's Avatar
      PseudoSABR -
      Evidently the Twins overpaid for Josh Willingham last offseason according the collective board logic of the day....

      Outbidding and overpaying don't necessarily equate to the same thing, although often they do.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      Quote Originally Posted by PseudoSABR View Post
      Evidently the Twins overpaid for Josh Willingham last offseason according the collective board logic of the day....

      Outbidding and overpaying don't necessarily equate to the same thing, although often they do.
      Any other fallacies you want to throw out there? The market sets value. What you consider "overpaying" is far more subjective and less valuable as a measure.
    1. PseudoSABR's Avatar
      PseudoSABR -
      Quote Originally Posted by TheLeviathan View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by PseudoSABR View Post
      Evidently the Twins overpaid for Josh Willingham last offseason according the collective board logic of the day....

      Outbidding and overpaying don't necessarily equate to the same thing, although often they do.
      Any other fallacies you want to throw out there? The market sets value. What you consider "overpaying" is far more subjective and less valuable as a measure.
      Oh, you're so fun to play shifty semantics with! Maybe we can play move the goal posts after?
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      Quote Originally Posted by PseudoSABR View Post
      ]Oh, you're so fun to shifty semantics with! Maybe we can play move the goal posts after?
      What am I shifting. The claim is that they overpaid. Based on what criteria? Ben Sheets was out 2 years and made 10M. Colby Lewis? I could argue pertinent facts in his case make Baker more valuable. I'm not shifting any goalposts, they've been the same the whole time - Baker isn't overpaying on the free agent market when the market says this was the going rate. As was said earlier.

      Where exactly did you shift them to and then decide to whine about it? Because I've laid out my criteria....what's yours?
    1. El Roacho's Avatar
      El Roacho -
      The biggest problem I have with letting Baker go is that it apparently came down to the option year. By losing him over that, when he apparently wanted to come back here according to earlier reports, you lost out on a guy who was going to have incentive to stay healthy and pitch well. Yes, they lose that option year if he does outperform the value of his contract, but, they would also be in a better position to re-sign him should he end up pitching well.

      With Baker leaving the only real conclusion I can come to is that they must have not really cared for him to come back either way or had a lot of faith that he would pitch well enough for one year. For as much bashing of the 'Twins Way' is done here and on other boards, I can't for a moment believe that this was solely the outcome of an option year.

      Lastly, it is really difficult to 'overpay' for a player in F/A. The market is usually close enough between teams that it's more about opportunity, comfort, wanting to leave, etc, then it is dollars. Additionally, where do you draw the line at 'overpaying' and 'overbidding' with someone? If we find out that Hunter had offers of 2/22 and 2/24, do you really think the Tigers overpaid or outbid?

      For me, in my opinion, to really get into an 'overpay' type situation, in free agency, is for a team like Minnesota, Houston, Pittsburgh, etc, to just completely blow other offers out of the water to lure a player. Teams coming off a few seasons of futility would probably have to 'overpay' to land a substantial player. The only way someone like Greinke or Hamilton would be in a Twins or Astros uniform next year is if their offers were 50% more than the next best offer or they had a burning desire to play for a team that is 3 years away from being relevant.
    1. Nick Nelson's Avatar
      Nick Nelson -
      Quote Originally Posted by TheLeviathan View Post
      Hell, we handed Stachy one a bunch of cash the last few years as an immediate example. Brandon Webb got 3M guaranteed plus a **** ton of incentives and he hadn't pitched in two years. Yes Webb was a better pitcher. He also had serious trouble getting healthy. Ben Sheets got 10M after not pitching for two years and the surgery.
      None of those examples fit the criteria I laid out. All of those pitchers have been workhorses at times in their careers, with multiple 220+ inning seasons. Baker has NO history of sustained durability and unlike Sheets/Webb he doesn't profile as an ace when healthy. Those are the things that teams understandably gamble big guaranteed bucks on. Harder to understand with Baker, and I say that as a fan of his.

      I think you and others are getting way too caught up with the term "overpay." The Cubs paid what they had to in order to get him to sign. The amount was higher than most expected, more than most people in his situation get, and more than the Twins probably should have paid. We won't know if Chicago overpaid until after the fact.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      Quote Originally Posted by Nick Nelson View Post
      I think you and others are getting way too caught up with the term "overpay." The Cubs paid what they had to in order to get him to sign. The amount was higher than most expected, more than most people in his situation get, and more than the Twins probably should have paid. We won't know if Chicago overpaid until after the fact.
      If you pay what you had to for the market....why is it crazy or overpaying? I never denied that Baker isn't in the class of Sheets or Webb at full health, but what other pitchers are you using to compare? I hear Colby Lewis but he has plenty of red flags, perhaps more than Baker. (And he's two years older) Every player and their situation is unique, so to suggest that there's some body of evidence that says this was an overpayment is just as flimsy. By all means, post who you are comping him to and I'm sure I could poke similar holes to what you did with Sheets and Webb, but I'd be curious to see it.

      If people are getting too caught up on overpaying, perhaps you and others shouldn't make it such a central part of your evaluation.
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