Baker Signs with Cubs, Twins still in the same boat


Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-US PRESSWIRE

The news of an historic trade between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Miami Marlins has completely overshadowed (even for Twins fans) the news that broke earlier on Tuesday about former Twins pitcher Scott Baker.  Baker, 31, inked a deal with the Chicago Cubs, even though Baker and the Minnesota Twins recently expressed mutual interest in the RHP’s return to the team following his recovery from Tommy John surgery.

While I’ve yet to come across anyone who claims to have knowledge of the money the Twins offered to Baker, a “best guess” of $3-4 million + incentives to cap at $6 million was suggested by Twinkie Town in late October.  I concurred with that suggestion, especially considering the risks as Baker expected to return by Opening Day, the number of other pitching holes the Twins still have to fill, and the 2011 signings that burned the team.  (Think Joel Zumaya and Jason Marquis.)  However, the Cubs made Baker an offer he couldn’t refuse:

Christensen also states that it was the length of the deal that was the sticking point:

"…the Twins insisted on the deal including an option for 2014. Baker, 31, wanted a deal that would let him re-establish his value and then test the market again next fall."

It seems ironic to me that the Twins were actually struggling to sign a pitcher to a multi-year contract (multi-year, if the option was picked up), while that pitcher wanted only a one-year deal.  But, from Baker’s standpoint, it makes sense that he wants to reestablish his value and that he was open to the National League.

My frustration with Baker’s departure:  I’ve already explained that the Twins seem to be focusing on minor league deals when there are real major league needs that have to be met, and soon.  Phil Mackey of suggested on Tuesday that the Twins might be better off without Baker, and I don’t inherently disagree.  What bothers me is that the Twins said they made Baker a priority:

The Twins seemed to be planning on Baker’s return, and now they have no pitching improvements to show for the offseason so far.  So, for the starting rotation, they have Scott Diamond and a possible Kyle Gibson.  And slowly but surely, pitchers in whom they are rumored to have interest are signing with other teams.  While Tuesday’s blockbuster trade is certainly not a normal event, it was a transaction that took other Twins “possibilities” off the table, with Wolfson also tweeting:

In discussing the Baker deal with a friend, he pointed out that losing Baker means two (or more) pitchers will need to be acquired from outside the Twins organization.  That reminder of the Twins (apparent) lack of progress worries me.  With the Twins’ expressed reluctance to spend money in the free agency market, they are left with working out a trade or ten.  And the trade market is an issue that gets under the skin of many a Twins fan.  When was the last time the team sold at or near a player’s peak value, and are they now willing to make the tough trading decisions that are required to get the starting pitching they so desperately need?