Despite the losing record and the atrocious offense, the Chicago Cubs did have some bright spots this past season as their rotation was one of the strongest before the trade deadline and remained surprisingly serviceable once Scott Feldman and Matt Garza were dealt.
Jeff Samardzija, Travis Wood and Edwin Jackson appear to be locked in to return to their roles next year, and the team also has Jake Arrieta, Chris Rusin and possibly Alberto Cabrera and Kyle Hendricks to add into the mix.
With all those arms vying for the two remaining spots, is there enough space for veteran Scott Baker to make a comeback in 2014?
Baker was signed last season to a one-year, $5.5M deal knowing he was still rehabbing from Tommy John Surgery as he was slated to return somewhere between May and June this year. However, he suffered several setbacks in the recovery and after getting some rehab stints in Class A Kane County, Baker was only able to get three starts in the big leagues before being shut down to protect his still recovering arm.
The right-hander publicly stated he would like to return, and the Cubs should try to bring him back for another year. An incentive-laden contract or maybe a minor-league with a Spring Training invite deal could be the best choices, however. He didn’t recover his velocity right away but held his own in the bigs, and with a full offseason of recovery and rest his arm should be much better for 2014.
The Cubs aren’t going anywhere this next season, and Baker could prove to be a veteran leader in the clubhouse the same way Alfonso Soriano and Ryan Dempster were before getting traded. Baker could also serve as a mentor for younger guys like Arrieta and Rusin, who showed some promise last year, and could even end up being used as a trade chip to get more prospects if things go south early in the season.
Theo Epstein should call Baker and try to sign him as soon as possible. Overall there’s too much positive stuff to not bring him back for another year.