• 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 – despite a saturated pitching market – 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. Montecore's Avatar
      Montecore -
      Quote Originally Posted by El Roacho View Post
      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.
      With Hire at the helm, they're sure to lose 100 games next year.
    1. PseudoSABR's Avatar
      PseudoSABR -
      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.
      This.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      By all means Pseudo give your comps. What I hear is that a solid #2 pitcher with some durability issues going for 5 mil was ridiculous and too risky. Last I checked we have plenty of payroll and no pitchingand this is too risky? If this were any other non Twins arm we would be salivating on this board for that pricetag. The general response on this move is bizarre at best.
    1. Nick Nelson's Avatar
      Nick Nelson -
      If you believe the Twins have $20 million to spend this offseason, Baker would have consumed over 25% of their available funds. This is a guy coming off major surgery who has never shown sustained durability in the past and who only once or twice in his career (over partial seasons) has performed well enough to be called a "solid #2 starter" with a straight face. That's where the comparisons to Webb and Sheets fail. From the standpoint of myself and others who are shocked by how much the Cubs paid, Baker just doesn't have the track record to justify that kind of guaranteed money in his situation, especially for a team that is desperately looking for innings. A reasonable club option for 2104 might have changed matters a bit, but it's not there.

      This is obviously a matter of opinion, Lev. If you think Baker's worth that kind of dough, more power to you. Could easily end up being the case. But I don't see why you're having such a hard time understanding why most people don't.
    1. Jim Crikket's Avatar
      Jim Crikket -
      Quote Originally Posted by Nick Nelson View Post
      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.
      If things played out the way you described (and I agree it's quite reasonable), I'd be fine with that and I believe the Cubs will be fine with it, too. In that event, if your team is contending at midseason despite Baker's slow start, his improved performance is probably just what you need for the second half of the season. If you're not in contention, there would be no shortage of teams more than happy to eat the remaining $2-3 million of his 2013 contract and send you back some talent on top of that to take him off your hands.

      I do agree that the Twins unwillingness to sign him without an option likely says more about their expectations for 2013 than it says about anything else... and to me that sucks.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      Quote Originally Posted by Nick Nelson View Post
      From the standpoint of myself and others who are shocked by how much the Cubs paid, Baker just doesn't have the track record to justify that kind of guaranteed money in his situation, especially for a team that is desperately looking for innings. A reasonable club option for 2104 might have changed matters a bit, but it's not there.
      First - 5 million is not much money. Especially for a starter that is slated to be ready by opening day. Now obviously there are risks associated with that, serious ones, but more than Marcum? Bedard? Josh Johnson? More risk than them? Maybe, but 5M is not some god awful price. Part of the issue here is that you keep insinuating that the market was clearly at a lower rate than what the Cubs paid. Based on what? What comps are you using? You can keep plugging holes in mine, but I've yet to hear you offer your own. Frankly, I don't think you have any - it's a gut thing. Which is fine, but cut the high and mighty act by demanding evidence from me that you don't have for your viewpoint either. It's disingenuous and fallacious.

      This is obviously a matter of opinion, Lev. If you think Baker's worth that kind of dough, more power to you. Could easily end up being the case. But I don't see why you're having such a hard time understanding why most people don't.
      Because 5M is half of what Harden has gotten. Or Sheets got. 5M is what we paid Matt friggin Capps. It's not that much money to gamble on a pretty solid arm. Again, we complain all the time that the Twins don't take low commitment, high risk-high reward opportunities when they have the chance. And they passed on one again. So I find it completely illogical to paint this as such a ridiculous contract.

      I find it even more illogical when just a few threads over you're advocating an almost identical situation with Yunel Escobar who comes with a boatload of his own risks.
    1. DeepFriedTwinkie's Avatar
      DeepFriedTwinkie -
      What surprised about Baker's signing as much as the money was the timing. It seems to me that if there were that many teams willing to pony up $5M+ for his services, he wouldn't have jumped on the Cubs offer at this early in the offseason.
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