The Cubs entered the offseason with plenty of needs, not the least of which was starting pitching. Their first free agent signing just happens to be a starting pitcher, Scott Baker. He signed a one year contract yesterday worth $5.5 million, with an additional $1.5 million in possible performance bonuses. How did the Cubs get him at that price? He’s coming off Tommy John surgery.
“He’s put the work in to get himself on an excellent timetable so he’s got pretty much every day plotted out from here through Spring Training,” said Theo Epstein, Cubs president of baseball operations. “If things go perfectly, he’ll be stretched out to five or six innings for that first week of the season.”
The Cubs won’t rush Baker, who has pitched all or part of seven seasons with the Twins, from 2005-11, totaled 28 or more starts in three straight seasons, 2008-10.
Baker was already beginning to throw and said his plan is to use the Spring Training starts as part of his rehab process. He did get interest from other teams, including the Twins.
“It’s a big season for me personally coming off an injury,” Baker said. “I wanted somewhere where my family could enjoy and we could have a lot of fun and I could help the team be productive.”
So, lame starting pitchers are the new market inefficiency?
“You don’t set out looking for Tommy John guys,” Epstein said. “The reality is it’s not exactly a buyer’s market for pitching so you have to take your risks. Do you want to take a risk on a guy with bad makeup? Do you want to take a risk on a guy with bad command? Or do you want to take the risk on a guy you really believe in who is coming off Tommy John surgery and has appropriate value points? I think we’re very comfortable placing our bet on Scott Baker.”
I guess they are.
So what’s next on the horizon for the Cubs?
“We’re pursuing pitchers across the spectrum,” Epstein said, “some guys who would be classified as buy-low, others that might even be buy-high guys, or hopefully buy-high and stay there. Some one-year deals, some multi-year deals, some trades – we’re looking for pitchers who can step in and improve our rotation.
“If there are sound investments out there, whether they’re big or small, we’ll pursue them and try to sign them.”
Pitching, pitching, pitching. In case you were wondering what Marlon Byrd is up to this winter, wonder no more.
After being hit with a 50-game suspension for violating MLB’s drug program, Marlon Byrd is now playing for los Tomateros de Culiacan in the Mexican Winter League. Byrd was batting .333 in 26 games with nine home runs, four doubles and 21 RBIs. He’s played right field in all but one game and was batting third.
He’s the new king of the Mexican League.