Apologize for the delays as the site was down. Everything working fine now...
Here is what I wrote back then...
Baker may be the bargain version of Sanchez in that he also has had a lower FIP than ERA the last 3 years, including 3.45 in 2011. He also has a low 90s FB and has put up good strikeout numbers (7.23/9 IP) on the strength of good command (2.10 walks per 9 IP) and solid secondary pitches. In Baker's case, his best pitch has been his slider. Like Maholm health concerns may leave him undervalued...the gut feeling here is that the Cubs may be looking more at guys like Scott Baker and Scott Feldman.
The deal is for one year and $5.5M with $1.5M in incentives.
Personally (and not surprisingly), I really like this signing. Baker has the ability of a #3 starter and has arguably the best upside among the second tier FA starting pitchers. The only question is health.
As far as that's concerned,
"If things go perfectly, he should be stretched out to five-six innings by that first week of the season," Epstein said. "But we're going to use good judgment every step of the way. It's not as important whether it's Opening Day or 10 days into the season as it is that he comes back healthy."
As far as getting flipped, Baker isn't worried about it,
"That's kind of a far stretch, in my opinion," Baker said, pointing to the fact he's coming off an injury.
As far as Theo Epstein is concerned, he didn't rule out keeping Baker and possibly even extending him.
"First of all, we hope our season goes better than that and we're not in that position," he said. "We're realistic. If we're out of it, we're trying to build a healthy organization (and) we are going to flip some players. But we don't necessarily flip them all. If you have somebody who's a good fit on and off the field, you can look to extend them."
Whatever the case, the Cubs have picked up a solid arm who could pick up some value, either as a starter for this team for a year, possibly more, or as someone they can trade at the deadline. A lot will depend on how Baker and the Cubs perform this season.
Expect the Cubs to acquire at least one more starting pitcher this offseason. In fact, I'd like to see them get two more.
What I would like to see next is for the Cubs to hedge their bets a bit on a second value signing I've earmarked early, Scott Feldman. He has the flexibility to either start or pitch out of the bullpen and could be quite valuable if Baker isn't ready to start the season.
As for that 2nd starter, another guy I've been liking more and more lately is Joe Blanton. With Baker's health a question, Blanton may be a safer bet than other injury risks like Scott Marcum and Brandon McCarthy. Blanton throws strikes (1.37 walks per 9 IP) and put up a very impressive 3.36 xFIP last season. If the Cubs want to go with a healthy 2012 pitcher with more upside, than perhaps Francisco Liriano might make sense. As a lefty, Liriano would also help balance the rotation, though he doesn't command the strike zone the way the Cubs like.
Filed under: Free Agency