The Cubs Have Had Conversations with Scott Baker about 2014 – Maybe This Will Work Out, After All

Jed HoyerWhen the Chicago Cubs signed Scott Baker to a one-year deal in the offseason, sure, you thought about the possibility of a flip. But, since he was coming off of Tommy John surgery, from which he wasn’t expected to return until a few weeks into the season, and after which guys tend to need some time pitching before they get back to pre-surgery effectiveness, he never actually felt like a great flip candidate.

Instead, and the Cubs at various points suggested as much, the Baker signing felt more about getting him into the organization, working with him for a year, and being in a position to sign him to an extension if things were going well. It’s easy to overlook, but, before his surgery, Baker was consistently an excellent pitcher who probably would have commanded a three or four-year deal in free agency. Getting him in the door for $5.5 million seemed like a reasonable risk. For his part, Baker wanted to bet on himself and was not interested in a cheaper multi-year deal, or a deal that included an option, at the time.

Unfortunately, Baker suffered what proved to be a relatively serious setback in Spring Training during his Tommy John recovery, and he is only just now on the verge of being sent out on a minor league rehab assignment (he’s in Chicago to throw a bullpen session where the Cubs will evaluate him).

Against the backdrop of him probably not being a flippable asset anyway … are we really all that bummed out? Sure, it would have been nice to have the option of flipping (and, yes, there remains an extremely outside chance that he could be dealt in August), but if laying the groundwork for a longer term commitment was always the focus, what exactly has been lost? The Cubs can bring Baker along, let him pitch in the rotation in August and September, and the Cubs can evaluate whether it’s worth trying to bring him back. Moreover, they’ll be the first team that’s able to negotiate with him, and they now may be able to get him on the kind of one-year-plus-one-option-year deal that presents considerable upside to the team, but with relatively little risk. If Baker had returned in April, maybe that possibility never presents itself.

The good news, then, is that Cubs GM Jed Hoyer says that the organization has discussed the possibility of Baker return next year.

“We have certainly talked about it,” Hoyer said, per ESPN. “He is a fantastic person and a really good teammate. When he had a setback in spring training, he apologized to us when we felt worse for him. He is certainly the type of guy you want in your organization.”

Baker will be 32 next year, and could emerge has a reasonably-priced and reasonably-effective back-end rotation option for a Cubs team that is going to need some in the short-term. I’m not trying to say that Baker’s setback was an affirmative good thing for the Cubs (or for Baker). But, when you consider the entire story, I’m not really sure there’s as much “bad” here as we though back in the Spring.

Brett Taylor is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation, and can also be found as Bleacher Nation on Twitter and on Facebook.

67 responses to “The Cubs Have Had Conversations with Scott Baker about 2014 – Maybe This Will Work Out, After All”

  1. Spencer

    If the Cubs are genuinely interested in him returning and think he actually has something to add to the team, and when (if) he returns this year and pitches decently, then I think he owes it to the Cubs to return in 2014, and at a relatively cheap cost.

    1. Billy

      I disagree that he or anybody “owes” the Cubs anything. He should do what is best for himself and hopefully that means returning to Cubs

      1. Wilbur

        Strongly agree …

      2. mak

        Yes, I agree. However, I can see Baker feeling like he owes the Cubs (see Kerry Wood, circa 2006). It’d be weird for him to turn down any agreement in favor of the free agent market unless he comes back as Cy Young anyways.

        1. mak

          By weird, I may not smart for him.

  2. On The Farm

    I always kinda viewed Baker we are going to be flipping Feldman and Garza (maybe Villaneuva) so we will need someone who can pitch after we have holes in rotation from the deadline departed (Besides Raley and Rusin). Then after some evaluation of his starts we could sign him to an extenstion to make him apart of our competitive run.

    We needed someone to fill out the rotation no matter what so Baker in my mind was always a try-and-see candidate.

    1. cub4life

      yeah if we have

      Shark
      Wood
      Baker
      Jackson
      Villenueva

      thats not a bad end of the season rotation for a lost season.

      1. On The Farm

        Getting Strop figured out, and resigning a Guerrier who has been pitching well since arriving in Chicago and the Bullpen doesn’t look half bad either.

        I think once Gregg is gone I am honestly all for Parker being promoted to closer.

        1. cub4life

          agree 100% with that. Give him a chance….. oh and if Arrieta can figure it out the rest of this year he’s not a bad starter next year.

          1. Patrick G

            I like the Arrieta move since he has good stuff but hasn’t put it together. I wonder if he never does if he could be a closing option since he’s got a live fastball, but could also turn into the next Marmol with his control issues

            1. On The Farm

              I still think given a chance to work with Johnson and Bosio that there is still a future as a starter, but if it does fail, I feel like his floor is a setup man.

        2. cms0101

          I really hope they do not get lulled into signing Guerrier because he’s had a couple of successful outings recently. He’s been pretty bad for the Dodgers this season. He’s Camp 2.0. Strop seems like he could be a good acquisition. Even Henry Rodriguez, despite his recent performance, could be salvageable. You can’t teach MPH. If Bosio can fix something mechanically in Strop, Rodriguez, Arrietta, etc., the Cubs have set themselves up to have a pretty decent pitching staff with a relatively inexpensive cost. Not a bad gamble, considering how little they really gave up. But Guerrier is bullpen filler and should not be resigned. Same goes for Gregg. He’s had success since the Cubs picked him up, but he’s clearly a sell-high candidate. I doubt other teams will be fooled by Guerrier’s recent success, but I’d love for them to move him for something a little more than $500k salary relief that they got for Marmol.

      2. OregonCubsFan

        That’s a heckuva lot better than the rotation at the end of last year…

        1. On The Farm

          True, but I still think Rusin gets an undeserved amount of hate

      3. cub2014

        Villanueva will be traded he is auditiong now

  3. Kyle

    Depends on how much he wants. I’m not interested in having 4-5% of our payroll next year tied into a pitcher with a very high risk of injury and effectiveness.

    1. DarthHater

      Yea, when we’re gunning for high draft picks, if there’s one thing we don’t need it’s a pitcher with a high risk of effectiveness.

      1. On The Farm

        LOGIC!

        1. Wilbur

          Logic, clarity and a reliance on data; for many the three deadly sins.

      2. Kyle

        Um, yeah, that’s what I meant!

  4. Jono

    “Moreover, they’ll be the first team that’s able to negotiate with him”

    hmmmm, interesting point….

  5. cub4life

    I would love to see the Cubs extend him for next year on a same money if he pitches ok or on the DL agian and maybe 7.5 or so if he pitches well. (these numbers are just trough out numbers and by no means are the actual numbers they shoud use {I would really love to sign him now to a nice 3 mil and then he pitch great and we either ship him off in the offseason or mid next year for a nice deal}).

    1. Patrick G

      I think 7.5 is kind of alot for a pitcher coming back from TJS even if be pitches well this season. He will still have to prove he is healthy enough to pitch a whole season. Maybe a one year at 5 mil and an option for 6-7 if he pitches a certain amount of innings

      1. cub4life

        well if all goes correctly we won’t need him after next year.

      2. On The Farm

        He is geting 5.5 knowing that the earliest he was coming back was July. If he is coming off two months of healthy solid pitching, 7.5 is probably a decent starting point.

        1. itzscott

          >> If he is coming off two months of healthy solid pitching, 7.5 is probably a decent starting point. <<

          Crazy world…. you're proposing giving a person a $2 million raise for spending the year not working and proving nothing.

          When do I sign up for a gig like that??

          1. On The Farm

            No you misread that, I said it cost $5.5 million knowing he was only going to be a half season pitcher. So if he puts together two months of solid performance he would be due a raise. Maybe I should have said 7.5 is probably his ceiling but 6.5-7 is reasonable, and if they really like what they saw 7.5 is fine with me.

          2. willis

            Yeah that’s ridiculous. He has done nothind for this team and will earn 5.5 mil. And a raise for him is the way to go? If anything he should sign a team friendly 1+1 deal for less than the money he made this year.

            1. On The Farm

              I was under the impression he still has a chance to make 12-13 starts (1/3) of a season?

              1. willis

                We’ll see. If he pitches in August and September and is really good, then I think keeping him where he is would be fair (5.5ish). I don’t think a raise for a guy who’s been on the shelf all year is the way to spend your money. JMO.

  6. Patrick G

    We lucked out with Feldman being very good and being able to flip him, so I’m not upset about Baker having a set back. I’ve honestly liked him throughout his career and had been pretty good at times. If he can return to his old self I would love the Cubs keeping him. He is a good 4-5 starter with Ejax, shark and Wood and whatever prospects come back from Garza trade or FA signing

    1. On The Farm

      Cubs could have a good rotation of Shark, Wood, Ejax, Baker, Villanueva until Miguel Chicken Alfredo is ready.

  7. Mr. Gonzo

    If Baker proves healthy, he would be a great one-year + option candidate, and a quality trading chip next season. Keep that pitching prospect funnel churning every year until the Cubs AAA rotation is more intriguing than most MLB rotations. The process continues, whether you like it or not..

  8. Zachary

    I like Parker but he is definitely not the answer as a long term closer

    1. On The Farm

      I wasn’t saying he should be our long term closer, but the way he is pitching right now he is defintiely the best option when you consider Russell (6 Blown saves?), Henry Rod (Control issues that need work), Strop (same boat as Henry, don’t want him to regress back to where he was in Baltimore by putting him in high leverage situations), Guerrier (SSS to delcare him fixed), and our Rule 5 pick.

  9. Ivy Walls

    Looking ahead to next year’s rotation options/spots

    Wood (1st Arb eligible)
    Samardzijia (2nd Arb eligible)
    Villanueva (final yr $5M)
    Jackson (2nd yr $13M)

    open spot
    Baker?
    Hendricks?
    Arrieta?
    Vizcaino?

    Got to think that Villaneuva could be moved for Baker (if signed and a rookie Vizcaino or Hendricks) but unless Samardzijia improves to be a true #2 or #3 starter of a contender he could be traded to make room as well.

    1. On The Farm

      Hendricks will need some time at AAA I think before he is pushing for a MLB spot. Vizcaino will need some time in the minors as well since god knows the last time he pitched.

      1. willis

        And penciling him in for anything other than bullpen at this point is way optimistic. Dude hasn’t thrown in forever and he isn’t going to just magically become a starter again. He’s destined for 8th inning or closer role, wheneve he gets healthy.

        1. On The Farm

          I haven’t written him off as a starter entirely yet, but I am in favor of using him as a future closer.

          1. willis

            Maybe in the future, but year one of him at this level (whenever the hell that will be) he needs to be in the pen and on an innings count. Mostly in low stress situations. Then work him back from there. He’s been out too long and we may not see him pitch anywhere this year even. So he’ll basically be starting next year after being out for two years or so. I’m ok with idea that maybe he can be stretched out down the road, but I do think that he’s a back end bullpen guy if he ever can stay healthy. Not a starter.

      2. cms0101

        Hendricks is Brooks Raley. I hope he continues to have success and becomes Greg Maddux, but I don’t believe his dominance of AA is going to translate into ML wins. I’d love to see Vizcaino in the starting rotation, but I suspect he’ll end up in the bullpen. I wonder what the plan will be with Cabrera. Moving him back to the rotation in AA seems to have worked there at least. Maybe he’s another depth arm that could get a few starts after the trade deadline. Ultimately, he’s probably still going to be a bullpen arm, but the created some young starting pitching depth by successfully transitioning him back to the rotation in the minors.

        1. Andrew

          kyle hendricks has shown he is much better than Raley.

          Raley had 5.3 k/9 and 3.0 BB/9 and 1.0 HR/9 his first year in tennessee

          Hendricks has 7.2 k/9 2.1 BB/9 and 0.3 HR/9 in his first year in tennessee.

          Hendricks shows a ton more potential than raley ever did. Raley never has shown good control, maybe just slightly above average whereas Hendricks has shown excellent control, this being the first time hes ever had over 2 BB/9.

        2. cms0101

          Those stats reflect a marginal difference. I will concede that Hendricks is slightly better than Raley. My main point is he’s not going to be an effective starting pitcher in the ML. He’s more journeyman than Greg Maddux. Time will tell, but that’s my opinion. He was a throw in of a small deal, and not the John Smoltz type of throw in.

          1. Andrew

            99% of all major leaguers are more journeymen than Greg Maddux. Comparing him to one of the top 5 pitchers in the last 50 years and deciding whether he is a potential major leaguer is dumb. And no the stats do not represent a marginal difference, they represent a massive difference. Hendricks strikes out batters far better than Raley and allows far fewer walks and home runs. Hendricks has a very good chance of being a good 4/5 starter and a decent chance of being better than that with the command he has shown.

            1. cms0101

              I’m comparing him to Maddux to let some of the air out of the balloon that is Kyle Hendricks. He is a soft tossing right handed pitcher that has had success in AA for part of one season. It’s encouraging he might make it to the majors, but I don’t see him as a legitimate option in the Cubs rotation in 2 years. Here’s another comparison you might hate… Casey Coleman. Coleman had good numbers through the minors, but was exposed at the major league level. I foresee the same with Hendricks. Maybe he’s a future middle reliever. I hope he’s better than I see him, as it’s in my benefit since I’m a Cubs fan. I’ve just seen too many comments about how people can’t wait for Hendricks to be the 4/5 starter in 2014/15. He’s had half of a successful season in AA. The next guy coming out of the system with a legitimate chance at being a ML starting pitcher is Pierce Johnson. Vizcaino might get a shot, but will be in the bullpen eventually. Cabrera too. Listen, I love pitchers with good control. I wish he had a little more MPH on his fastball.

    2. Andrew

      I’d add Cabrera to that mix as well. He hasnt quite been Hendricks level good, but hes been pitching pretty well in Tennessee

  10. North Side Irish

    MiLB.com ‏@MiLB 8m
    Dan Vogelbach (@Cubs/@KCCougars 1B) is an imposing figure at the plate, but he’s proud of his defensive improvements: http://atmilb.com/1dn2axt

  11. Dustin S

    The Cubs are being smart trying to re-sign him now before he comes back and pitches ok and increases his 2014 value. From Baker’s standpoint though, if you’re him do you want to sign with a rebuilding team that is all but certain to trade you mid-season if you do well? But I would agree that it’d be a nice gesture on his part to take a Cubs discount.

    1. On The Farm

      Something to think about for guys who get flipped, if you prove yourself valuable enough to be a tradeable comidity, wouldn’t you want to be traded to a team that might be able to win a WS?

      Its a way to get a paycheck, establish your value for your next contract, and get dealt to a team with a chance at post season ball.

  12. Lou Brock

    The best starter in the Cubs system right now based on performance at AA is Cabrera. He also has the best stuff of all our minor league pitchers who might have a chance to crack the rotation next year.

    1. JB88

      How old is Cabrera? [I realize that in the time it takes me to type this I could google it, but I'm feeling lazy.]

      1. cms0101

        He’s 24 going on 25.

    2. cubchymyst

      Cabrera is also in his last option year, so he needs to be on the 25 man next year or the Cubs risk losing him.

      1. Crockett

        He is? I think he has one more option year. How did you determine this is his last?

        1. cubchymyst

          I’m going off Arizona Phil over at The Cubs Reporter.

          http://www.thecubreporter.com/06182013/crystal-ballin-spit-ballin-cubs-40-man-roster

          He is usually very accurate from what I’ve seen. Apparently Juan Carlos Paniagua is also rule 5 eligible this year due to his previous contracts.

        2. AB

          He was rostered in 2010. This was his third and final option year.

          I think there is a special case where a player gets 4, but I can’t remember how.

    3. Andrew

      in what way has cabrera performed better than hendricks? both fielding dependent stats and fielding independent stats favor hendricks. Hendricks is also younger.

      Hendricks, 23 : 2.79 FIP, 2.13 ERA
      Cabrera, 24 : 3.56 FIP, 3.32 ERA

      These two guys have probably been the best two performers in the minors (pierce johnson might have something to say but hes at a much lower level), but there should be no question Hendricks has been the best starter for the cubs system based on performances. Cabrera might have a brighter future (based on velocity, projected improvement etc) in the end but the stats do not support that conclusion.

  13. Lou Brock

    Pierce Johnson with another nice outing at Daytona today – 6 innings , 5 hits 1 run.

  14. #23

    Cabrera and Arrieta could be very nice surprises for the rotation next year.

  15. daveyrosello

    Baker should pitch for the Cubs in 2014 for free.

    1. Wilbur

      Would you work for free next year?

    2. bbmoney

      Yes, since both parties knew the risk and entered into a contract agreement for only 2013…..clearly Baker should pitch for no money next year.

      Ridiculous.

      1. Andrew

        no, Baker should pay back a couple million from this past year to get the privelege of pitching for us again. Oh also, Kris Bryant should have signed for 100,000 dollars so we could SIGN ALL THE TREVOR CLIFTONS!1!1!

    3. Andrew

      You misspelled Kris Bryant.

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