Jed HoyerMost of the talk this week has focused on the Chicago Cubs as sellers and bullpen accumulators, but they came into these Winter Meetings with a couple of other needs: an outfielder and a starting pitcher. The options for the former are fading fast, but there are still plenty of interesting pitchers out there, including one who spent his 2013 season with the Cubs.

To that end, Mark Gonzales is on it with a short bit from Cubs GM Jed Hoyer:

Re-engaging Baker at this point makes sense. Each side knew where the other stood at the end of the season with respect to a return (publicly, at least, each said they wanted to reunite in 2014), but Baker needed to see what was out there and the Cubs probably wanted a chance to gauge what the rotation was going to look like. Each side has a better sense now, and they could theoretically start talking numbers. Although Baker might be able to get a guaranteed deal, it’s going to be a short-term one after his Tommy John recovery in 2013 was slow and erratic. Baker did finally come back late in the year and make some decent appearances, but the velocity was way down, and there were plenty of reasons to be cautious about locking him into a rotation spot going forward. As a low-dollar (plus option?) flyer with whom the Cubs are very familiar? That’s a good risk.

The other portion of Hoyer’s comment is interesting, but unsurprising, particularly in the context of discussing bringing Baker back.

If you really consider the Cubs’ offseason strategy and rotation composition, you’d almost want them to look to add at least two arms. With a front four of Samardzija/Wood/Jackson/Arrieta, and Carlos Villanueva and Chris Rusin the presumed in-house options for fifth starter, adding at least one more starter makes clear sense. That starter could be an obvious rotation insertion – Masahiro Tanaka or Ubaldo Jimenez (for example’s sake) – or it could be another guy to compete for the fifth starter spot, like Baker.

By adding a second additional starter, the Cubs have plenty of cover to move Samardzija if the right deal comes up, or even Villanueva. If both pitcher additions end up being fifth starter depth types, then the Cubs will simply have more options fighting it out for a job in the rotation, and additional protection against injury/in-season trades. Let’s not forget that these guys went into 2013 with some eight clear starting options, and figured out a way to juggle it without any angst.

Either way, adding at least two starting pitchers – of varying abilities/costs – makes sense.

  • MightyBear

    Yes re-sign Baker please.

  • MoneyBoy
    • Cheese Chad

      Cubs looking even smarter after the spending this year. Wondering why no other team took that strategy?

  • Blackhawks1963

    If Baker looked promising then why in the heck hasn’t he already been gobbled up by a pitching starved team, especially since his pricetag would be “friendly”? Telegraphs strongly to me that I won’t expect much, again, out of Baker on the mound. Do we REALLY need to keep wasting time with reclamation projects on the pitching staff? Don’t we have enough nominal starting pitching depth for a team that is going to be bad in 2014 regardless? Why not clear a path for Justin Grimm or Kyle Hendricks to get a shot?

    I’m a TheoJed supporter. But I shake my head at a Baker reunion. The fact he’s still available when guys like Josh Johnson, Scott Kazmir, etc. were RAPIDLY signed screams out that something is still not right about Baker.

    • Jay

      He didn’t look that promising, that’s the problem. Basically rehabbed on our dime and took 5mil to do it. Velocity was down when he finally did pitch, not surprising nobody else is after him at this point, which means if we could bring him back for another year now that he’s actually able to pitch for cheap it’d be worth doing.

      • Cub Lifer

        What you say doesn’t make any sense. So if the scouting assessment around baseball is that Scott Baker didn’t look that good upon his return to major league pitching in late 2013, then why on earth are the Cubs interested in bringing him back AGAIN ?!? Believe me every single team in baseball has scouting assessment on Scott Baker as part of what they do. If the scouts across the game saw anything of promise with Scott Baker then he would have had teams knocking on his door by now because he would come relatively cheap and be a low risk investment with good upside potential. But that hasn’t happened. Which shouts out that Baker is still damaged goods or simply put no longer any good.

        • willis

          Yeah, please don’t go through the Baker shit all over again. He rehabbed on the cubs dime, suckered them out of 5.5 million, came back, finally in September and looked bleh at best. But this type of move has this FO written all over it. Low cost, dumpster move with a TJS reclamation project. I don’t want any part of it, but I can see it happening. Just too predictable.

          • Ivy Walls

            Did he mean a Dempster move?

  • Luke

    No reason not to resign Baker on a cheap deal. I’m not all that interested at another five million, but for something reduced it looks like a good idea.

    But who would make sense as the second pitcher signed, if not Tanaka?

    • Rebuilding

      Strictly as a flippable piece, maybe Chad Gaudin

      • Luke

        Eh. Maybe. I don’t see a lot of value in Gaudin, even as a flip candidate.

    • Edwin

      Bartolo Colon. Long live the Hypnotoad!

    • cub2014

      sign Baker and then Tanaka, you can then
      attempt to trade Shark on your own terms.
      Baker or Jackson can be flipped at deadline
      to make room for Hendricks.

      So start out with: Wood,Jackson,Samardizja
      Arrieta & Tanaka. With Baker & Villanueva
      as spot starter (someone is always on DL)

      AAA rotation of: Rusin,Ramirez,Cabrera,
      Grimm,Hendricks (Raley,Beeler,Loux)

      AA rotation of: Edwards,Johnson,Loosen,Wells

      What a difference a year makes.

      • cub2014

        and if you dont get Tanaka signed then we really
        need to resign Shark.

      • Luke

        Probably need to find room for Pinero and Black in that Double A rotation.

        • Dumpgobbler

          I wonder what happens then. I think Edwards and Johnson will be there. I’d imagine Pineyro seems like a good bet to move up as well. I’d think Wells is up as well. What happens in AA and AAA you think? One of the more interesting discussions honestly.

      • J.L.

        Cabrera is out of options.

    • Kyle

      Anything more than an NRI is more than I’m interested in. All he’d do is clog up a spot that could be more usefully used on others.

  • MightyBear

    Here’s some out of the box thinking. The Yankees are trying to trade Ichiro. He’s only making 6.5 mil. The Yanks don’t want much for him, just salary relief. The Cubs get him and put him in the outfield. He can be a mentor for young guys. His work ethic is supposed to be incredible. The team isn’t supposed to be that good anyway. He could also be used to recruit Tanaka who was a big Ichiro fan when he was younger. Also, he’ll sell tickets next year when he’s about to get his 3000 hit. He retires as a Cub and there’s a big retirement celebration.

    • Carew

      The only thing I disagree on is that he’ll retire a Cub. He’ll sign a one-day contract with the Mariners

      • MichiganGoat

        The Mariners seem like a no brainer, go there get close to 3000 hits then sign a one year contract and break 3000 in 2015, and of course play in a Mariners/Cubs World Series.

    • NyN

      While i am a huge fan of Ichiro, it would probably be a bit rough for him to get 258 hits next year for the Cubs. JK of course.

    • MichiganGoat

      It’s an interesting idea and I’d love to see him get 3000 hits as a Cub but it won’t happen next year. He’s 250 away which is at least two years and he’s a free agent after 2014. I’d be curious how he’s work ethic would influence the other and how much he could teach or mentor other players, but the Tanaka angle is interesting. Just not sure what his role would be to the Cubs next year.

    • Luke

      If the Cubs traded for a 40 year old outfielder making over 6 million coming off a year in which he posted an OPS+ of 75 I think the twitterverse might just implode in a cataclysm of outrage.

      That said, your reasoning is sound. I wouldn’t do it, personally, but I can understand what you’re thinking.

      • MichiganGoat

        Well at least it would be a move for a recognizable name, that should shut some people up 😉

        • mjhurdle

          Unfortunately, the people you refer to will never shut up, no matter who we do or don’t sign.

    • Blackhawks1963

      1. Ichiro appears to be at the end of the line at age 40. He was pretty bad in 2013.

      2. Ichiro is at 2,700 hits and at this point a big longshot to get to 3,000 hits.

      3. Ichiro is a first ballot Hall of Fame player.

      4. Regardless who Ichiro plays for in 2014 (or beyond) he absolutely enters the Hall of Fame wearing a Seattle cap.

      5. Pass.

    • MightyBear

      No it’ll take him two years to get 3000 but he had 136 in a crap year last year. He’ll get to 3000 in 2015 and then he’ll probably hang them up.

      • MichiganGoat

        Well Damon could find work at age 39 and he had 2769 hits, funding a team to give him enough at bats to reach 3000 will be increasingly difficult from here on out. The Astros might be the best place to get those hits.

        • MichiganGoat

          Damon couldn’t

          • X The Cubs Fan

            Damon didn’t have the respect Ichiro has.

            • MichiganGoat

              What does that mean?

    • Voice of Reason

      Please stop saying that a player can mentor the kids.

      That’s so silly.

      • Greenroom

        Yes, in general, younger people never learn anything from more experienced or even wise people. Society and baseball exists in a vacuum.

  • Cub Lifer

    I agree with Blackhawks. Why is Baker still on the market with seemingly no other teams interested in his services when multiple teams are desperate for pitching and he can be had relatively cheaply? Something isn’t right.

    Samardzija, Wood, Jackson are certainties in the rotation. Arrieta is a fair bet to secure a spot. That leaves Rusin and Grimm competing for a 5th spot. And now I suppose Baker too. Doesn’t come across as a ringing endorsement of either Rusin or Grimm. Also sounds like they may still look for another dumpster find for the rotation. So I guess we want starting pitching depth stashed at Triple A Iowa.

    I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

    • JeffR

      I would assume the cubs know as much if not more about Baker’s situation than every other team. He’s still on the market because no one, including Baker himself really know what he can do. I think an incentive based deal makes sense.

  • Edwin

    Signing Baker wouldn’t be terrible, but at this point I wouldn’t really consider him to be any type of depth. I’d almost rather bring him in on some type of minor league deal.

  • Gabe Athouse

    Yankees reportedly might shop Ichiro. Any interest there as a vet who could help mentor the Cubs’ youth movement on being a professional hitter and defender? Assuming the Yanks eat whatever salary is left and we give up very little.

    • Blackhawks1963

      Of course you realize Ichiro is not conversant in English or Spanish and comes with his own interpreter. Tough to mentor anybody that way.

      I’m a huge Ichiro fan and he is doing to the Hall. But at age 39 last season he clearly was playing on fumes and has little in the tank to give.

  • cubsin

    Cabrera is practically never mentioned as a possible SP, but he’s out of options and hasn’t been as effective in the bullpen as he has as a starter in the minor leagues. Maeda from Japan and a Korean FA whose name I can’t remember are among the other possibilities.

  • Spoda17

    I really like Arrieta. I think Bosio can work some magic on him. He has electric stuff, and if he limits his walks, he could be a solid #2…

  • woody

    Although his velocity wasn’t there in September I thought Bakers control and approach looked good. I have been thinking that when all is said and done he would be signed. I hope that tomorrow we have news about the Tanaka posting. I think that Samardzija doesn’t get traded during the meetings. I read somewhere that Atlanta is in on him now, but not in any hurry to do the deal. If Shark has a strong start in the first half and shows signs of dominance then the FO can shop him as an ace.

  • Hutch

    Cubs truly are shooting for the number 1 pick in 2015. No question they’re the worst team on paper in baseball

    • DocPeter Wimsey

      They have nothing on the Astros yet.

      • YourResidentJag

        Yeah, the Astros will be better than the Cubs next yr.

        • Jason P

          The Astros best pitcher is Scott Feldman. By far.

          • YourResidentJag

            Unless they bring some from the farm up to the bigs that is. Their offense this yr will be superior to ours.

            • aaronb

              Agreed, Dexter Fowler is better than any current Cub.

              • DocPeterWimsey

                Only if he gets to play in Denver: Fowler’s road OPS is 0.2 lower than his Denver OPS. He’ll probably struggle to post an OPS much above 0.70 with the ‘stros.

                Indeed, looking at their roster, it’s quite possible that they’ll get below league average OPS from each of their positions except catcher. (And, of course, as impressive as Castro was in 2013, catchers are notorious for crashing badly.)

          • Cheese Chad

            Or maybe Jarred Cosart is their best pitcher…….

    • cubbiehawkeye

      Are you assuming Castro is going to be continue to suck? Do you not see the potential in a comeback year for Rizzo? The cubs aren’t the worst team in baseball and will have a better year this year. Bullpen is way better heading into the year. Come on guys get away from the ledge. Soriano’s production will be missed and the OBP of Dejesus will be hard to replace.

      • Kyle

        Any projected bounceback we get from Castro should probably be balanced out by a projected loss from not getting amazing performances from every random scrapheap 3b we pick up.

        • cubbiehawkeye

          No doubt the offense will be worse but we did see a good number of bombs from 3b last year with scrapheap. I love Valbuena and personally I don’t see him as scrap heap but many do. Lets just see how the off-season plays out before we start labeling next year as the worst under Theo and Hoyer.

  • http://BN Sacko

    Who else is available as a 3rd or 4th starter. Why would we trade Villanueva if we are looking for BB help?

    • Kramden

      I guess Neil Ramirez is out of the question?

      • Luke

        Probably a year away.

  • Hutch

    Tanaka not getting posted

  • Jeff

    We aren’t getting Tanaka but we are Tanking, that’s close enough isn’t it?

  • Mayhem

    So in summary, we signed a new manager after firing a recent one after only two years, signed a backup catcher another team released, and will possibly re-sign a pitcher that was injured all last year and throws 90mph. Yuck.

    • TJ

      But we’ve kept intact our promising infield of Rizzo, Barney, Castro, and Valbuena so there’s that. Granted, not as impressive as an outfield of Lake, Bogusevic, and Sweeney but still, it’s nice to hang onto assets.

  • TJ

    What action or inaction on the part of the FO doesn’t make sense to you? You seem agreeable to pretty much everything.

  • Mayhem

    If the Cubs were like a stock, they went from a blue-chip company to a growth stock. Plenty of promise and potential, but with a huge bust factor.

  • Dustin S

    The most recent semi-reliable Cub rumor rumblings around the net seem to be with Seattle and KC, fwiw. So it does sound like the FO is definitely working the phones, even though nothing to show for it yet. It will probably end up being a completely random deal and team that none of us saw coming.

    • Luke

      KC… hmm. I doubt they’ll move Zimmer or Starling, so what:



      A package including some of Ventura, Bonifacio, Lamb, and Dwyer. Not the ideal collection of talent to pick from, but there is a fair bit of upside.

      I’d rather have Zimmer, but, like I said, I doubt he moves.

  • Ch1town23

    I’d like to say this… The FO is going to have to step up eventually and spend some money on some free agents… Cuz when these kids come up from the minors … Baez,Almora, Bryant, and Soler, too name a few, the expectations are gonna be so high and the pressure they might feel…. But when all this does fall though, I’m going to sit back and enjoy….

    • Cheese Chad

      Listening to these guys talk in interviews though, they seem to be taking it in stride and are already aware of the expectations. I think there is something special about these guys and winning in the minors definitely builds a culture and a bond. Basicall, TWTW!

    • Brains

      just for the record, i am *not* going to sit back and enjoy. theo is starting to take on the air of a doomed man whose previous reputation is permanently tarnished. not because he hasn’t done anything yet, but because we know that no matter what he does it probably wont work because of how severely he’s conducted the rebuild. the time will just eventually run out, and people’s patience who aren’t even paying attention yet.

  • http://permalink papad1945

    Give me a break. We over paid for Baker last year. Let’s get something to help us now.

  • Blackhawks1963

    I will be steamed if we piss away more money and time on a Scott Baker who cannot find major league employment otherwise in a marketplace starved for pitching. Cub already donated $5.5 million to the Scott Baker Charity in 2013. Crikey.

    • aaronb

      Scott Baker could be part of the plan? The younger kids need a veteran to show them the ropes of the towel drill at the major league level.

    • willis

      They’re so going to, so prepare to be steamed, while other teams make moves and sign players that will actually help.

      They also could go after Mark Mulder, he’s attempting a comeback. Awesome.

  • MichiganGoat

    What is the minimum that Baker could be signed for?

  • Die hard

    Why is FO telegraphing moves except to rattle the shark from inside a cage? I’ve seen film of a shark biting thru that cage

    • TJ

      Are you on drugs?

    • DarthHater

      Well, I’ve seen film of sharks riding a tornado


      • willis

        Steve Sanders was in that movie. Great stuff. Wonderful plot and even better acting. Top notch…TOP NOTCH.

    • Brett

      Sometimes, Die Hard – sometimes – you are so lovable.

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  • nashvillecub

    Integral starting pitchers or just starting pitchers?

  • rockin’ dawg

    If the two starting pitchers are Scott Baker and Jason Hammel, I might throw up.

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