What can happen when a team takes a risk on players who are coming off injuries from the previous season?
Scott Baker, Matt Garza and Ian Stewart were all coming off injuries this past season. The Chicago Cubs were hoping that they’d become significant contributors on a team that won 61 games in 2012. Baker and Garza were expected to make two-fifths of the starting rotation. Stewart was penciled-in as the everyday third baseman.
How quickly plans change. Before Cactus League games started, Garza and Stewart suffered injuries that will force them on the disabled list. And in his first spring start following Tommy John surgery in Apr. 2012, Baker re-injured his pitching elbow with a muscle strain.
The Cubs will shut Baker down for a month and he’ll need a minimum of two months before he pitches in a MLB game. That sets his projected return date at late June. That’s assuming there are no setbacks. That’s assuming his velocity improves from the 85-mph meatballs that he threw in his spring dud.
For the Cubs, the best case scenario is that Baker pitches well when he returns. The problem is that even if he pitches well, he’ll only have a one-month sample of work. Even if the Cubs waited until the wavier trade deadline in August, that’s a two-month sample on a pitcher coming off a pitching elbow with red flags galore.
At this point, any hope of getting a halfway decent prospect is all but gone. One or two months isn’t enough for Baker to prove himself to a pennant contender. Not for anything more than fodder in the farm system. Other than that, there’s no long-term risk involved because it’s a one-year contract.