Free agent starting pitcher Scott Baker has signed a one year deal with the Chicago Cubs. Baker will make $5.5 million in 2013, plus incentives. Baker had spent his entire career with the Twins, missing all of 2012 after Tommy John surgery. Minnesota declined a $9.25 million club option on Baker for 2013, but looked to bring him back at a lower salary.
Baker is the exact type of pitcher that the Cubs should be targeting this offseason, much like when they signed Paul Maholm last winter. Before getting hurt in 2011, Baker was having the best season of his career. In 134 2/3 innings, Baker had a 3.14 ERA, 123 strikeouts, and 32 walks. His 3.84 strikeout to walk ratio that year was the second-best mark of his career behind 2006, when Baker had a 3.88 strikeout to walk ratio in just 16 starts.
However, the 31-year old Baker has a trait that may not translate well to Wrigley Field: a high home run rate. Baker has allowed at least one home run per nine innings in each of his last four seasons, and his career rate is 1.16. Baker also has posted a groundball rate of over 35% just once, which could also be a harbinger of bad things to come when the wind is blowing out at Wrigley.
But despite all that, Baker is a good, cheap signing for the Cubs. He's not going to be a long-term building block, but he's a guy that won't kill the Cubs in the rotation and will probably be traded in July for a prospect or two to continue to rebuild Chicago's strengthening farm system. The Cubs aren't counting on him to head their rotation, but instead slot in behind Matt Garza and Jeff Samardzija. He's definitely a lot better than Chris Volstad, who the Cubs lost on waivers to the Royals. Volstad had a 6.31 ERA in 21 starts for the Cubs last season, and was entering his second year of arbitration, due for a raise on the $2.655 million he paid in 2012.