The Chicago Cubs made their first move in what promises to be a busy offseason on Tuesday, when they signed free agent pitcher Scott Baker to a one-year contract. Baker is coming off of Tommy John surgery, but was a solid pitcher during his time with the Minnesota Twins.
Baker actually had the best season of his career in 2011, which was the last time he saw action. He finished the year with a 3.14 ERA and posted the best K/BB ratio of his career. Of course, that was pitching in something of a pitcher’s park at Target Field.
The Cubs are paying Baker $5.5 million in the one year deal, with plenty of performance bonuses. That’s a hefty price to pay for a guy who hasn’t pitched in over a year. Nonetheless, it’s a solid deal when you look only at the transaction, though it could be a bit puzzling as well.
Many are wondering why the Cubs signed Baker at all. This is a team without much starting pitching, and they’re going to be in on quite a few different arms throughout the winter. But why Baker? What exactly does he bring to the organization?
Now, I’m a fan of Scott Baker. He’s a solid pitcher and he could be a nice back-end guy in a rotation for a contender. For this club, he’s probably a no. 3. At least he is right now. But he’s 31, and he’s on a one-year deal. Make no mistake, the Cubs signed Baker for one reason and one reason only.
By July, there is absolutely no way, pending an injury, that Scott Baker will be pitching on the North Side. The Cubs signed Baker so that he has an opportunity to prove he’s healthy, and then they can ship him off to a contender at the deadline. It all goes back to the Cubs’ strategy of throwing away the 2013 season.
The Cubs are operating under the same premise as they did in the winter of 2012. They’re going to be signing guys with the intention of spinning them off at the deadline, in an effort to continue building up what has already become a top 10 farm system. Rather than go out and try to get some pieces, the Cubs will continue to look at guys who can be trade bait for players that we won’t see until 2015 or 2016.
Don’t get me wrong, I like the Baker signing. He’s a good pitcher and should perform nicely in his time in Chicago, however brief it may turn out to be.