Scott Baker, Who Is Of Interest

Jeff Sullivan · January 26, 2014 at 9:14 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Something we know is that the Mariners aren’t finished trying to tweak the roster. We know this because if they were finished, that would be stupid. Recently there have been some interesting messages put out there. On the one hand, people have suggested the Mariners are just about out of payroll flexibility. On the other, the Mariners have said they still have some resources, and they just admitted to being in the market for a No.3 starting pitcher. You can’t target a No. 3 starting pitcher if you can’t make any more significant moves.

So what is a No. 3 starting pitcher? For one team next year, the No. 3 starter will be Anibal Sanchez. For another team next year, the No. 3 starter will be Kevin Correia. So, a No. 3 is somewhere between Anibal Sanchez and Kevin Correia, and that’s what the Mariners are targeting. The first guy to grab your attention is Ervin Santana, but the way Jack has been talking, Santana might be too expensive. Another rumor out there is that the Mariners are highly interested in free agent Scott Baker. I don’t know if Baker would count as the No. 3, or as something else, but that’s a thing that’s been floated on the Internet, and so that’s a thing I’m free to riff on.

This is amazingly simple. If you happen to be in a rush, read only the next two sentences. The last healthy version of Scott Baker was a quality, dependable starting pitcher. The big question is how he’ll recover from his elbow surgery.

And that’s it. That’s what we can say. Baker would be good if he could get back to being what he was for a few years with the Twins. He might not be able to do that, on account of the elbow problems, and he’s also just older, as we all are. The three years before his surgery, he was as good as Max Scherzer and Hiroki Kuroda, more or less. Good pitchers! Then health problems. Baker pitched in the majors last season, but he pitched all of three times, and he wasn’t himself. I mean, he was himself, by definition, but he wasn’t his old himself. He was a version of Scott Baker you’re not familiar with yet.

Given how routine Tommy John surgery has become, I don’t think it scares people the way it used to. I think a common assumption is that pitchers end up fine on the other end, given a long enough rehab. So Baker just looks like a high-upside pickup. Which he would be, but he’s far from automatic. Remember: Baker has started three games over the past two seasons. He’s started six games since the end of July, 2011. How could it go wrong, you ask? The Cubs paid Baker $5.5 million last season, and he played three games. He looked like a smart risk, but that’s why “risk” and “guarantee” are different words with different definitions.

According to reports, the Cubs have already basically ruled out re-signing Baker, even though they’re still looking for rotation help. That’s interesting, although it’s not like we can know exactly what it means. When Baker did come back last year, his fastball was down about 2-3 ticks from where it was beforehand. Obviously, that could just be part of the rehab, and Baker could be back to 100% these days. But he might also just be less of a pitcher now, and while Baker offered quotes about how velocity isn’t as important as command and movement, the reality is that velocity matters and a lower-velocity Baker would be a lower-effectiveness Baker, almost certainly. If the market viewed Baker as a good gamble, he’d have more of a market.

I’m not trying to talk people out of Scott Baker, because I like the idea of Scott Baker, as anyone would. The last time he was healthy, he was neat, and maybe he’s healthy again now. I just want to make it clear that when you’re dealing with the talented and delicate, sometimes you end up seeing a lot of the talent, but sometimes you end up seeing a lot of the fragility. Lots of players would be better if they could get back to being what they were. Baker’s among them. Last September he was throwing 88 instead of 91, and someone already tried rolling the dice on him once. You don’t need to go far back for proof that Scott Baker can disappoint you.

Obvious statement: Scott Baker would be great on a minor-league contract! At that point there’s not no risk, but there’s limited risk. On a major-league contract, everything depends, and everyone has a point beyond which they’d no longer be real comfortable. Remember that the Mariners are kind of planning on winning, soon. There are a lot of reasons to favor talent over durability. The A’s have been fortunate doing that very thing. It’s not clear how much talent Scott Baker actually still has, when he’s able to get on a mound. He’s not quite Franklin Gutierrez, but that’s also an impossible benchmark.


28 Responses to “Scott Baker, Who Is Of Interest”

  1. TumwaterMike on January 26th, 2014 10:54 pm

    This is a move Billy Beane would probably make if he needed starting pitching.

  2. ndevale on January 27th, 2014 1:53 am

    “Something we know is that the Mariners aren’t finished trying to tweak the roster. We know this because if they were finished, that would be stupid”.
    I wonder what the line in the sand for “not stupid” would be for the 2014 Mariners, at least prior to Opening Day.
    By my count, it’s two starting picters, two relief pitchers, and two outfielders, one of whom can reliably and effectively play center field, other than players currently on the 40-man roster (obviously).

  3. maqman on January 27th, 2014 2:06 am

    Depending on one’s definition of “tweak” (it could be anything between a firecracker and an A-Bomb) the Mariners are going to have to get a whole lot of bang for their bucks if they want to compete in the reloaded AL West.

  4. sp_da_man on January 27th, 2014 7:57 am

    Baker is a decent, middle of the road starting pitcher. A #3? I think that’s probably stretching it.

    Could the M’s make a move for Santana/Jimenez if the prices continue to drop?

    Bob Dutton reported that Santana isn’t likely to get a deal over 3 YRS/$40 MIL according to his sources. Santana as a #3 sounds better to me. He’s prone to giving up some homers but hopefully Safeco would combat that. Not a huge upside with
    him but there is something to durability (30+ starts a season & 200 IP’s).

    Worse case could the M’s offer a one-year type of deal to Santana/Jimenez? The pitching version of when Beltre went to BOS for one year to build his resume.

  5. ripperlv on January 27th, 2014 8:16 am

    I see Baker as a smart move IF it is a minor league contract with all the necessary incentives and an out clause around June if not on the big league team. Depending on Baker to be your #3 is sorta like depending on Morrison to be your starting LF or Hart as your starting RF or Ackley as your starting CF or Beavan as your #5 or the story goes…..

  6. bookbook on January 27th, 2014 9:17 am

    For me, one starting outfielder who can play plus defense as well as hit a little (a Michael Bourn- or Bourjos- for example), and one reliable #4 pitcher (or two higher upside gambles, I suppose) would be sufficient.

    The “not stupid” zone is starting to feel like a reach…

  7. jonw on January 27th, 2014 11:01 am

    I believe that both Santana and Jimenez have draft pick compensation attached to them so any team to sign them would want to sign them for a longer contract.

  8. DarkKnight1680 on January 27th, 2014 12:45 pm

    Has anyone else noticed that this is basically now “Jeff Sullivan’s USSM”? The front page contains almost 8000 words, of which about 150 were by Marc and 650 were by Jay. Everything else is Jeff. Don’t get me wrong, I love having that much Jeff writing available, but it seems odd that he’s basically doing it by himself.

  9. Westside guy on January 27th, 2014 1:34 pm

    I have no complaints at all regarding the breakdown of who’s posting how much. Jay told us quite a while ago he’s going to be at school – any postings from him are a welcome bonus. And Marc is extremely active during the regular season, since he handles pretty much all of the game threads.

    I’m just happy Jeff likes to write as much as he does. And whatever Dave feels like contributing is fine too, whenever he wants to do so.

    (and the same for Mike Snow, DMZ, and anyone else)

  10. Evan on January 27th, 2014 3:09 pm

    I think Jeff has come up with the 2014 ad campaign:

    “Mariners baseball. Not stupid.”

  11. heyoka on January 27th, 2014 3:19 pm

    USSM should have celebrity guest articles.

    Real celebrities, like Patrick Stewart, Serena Williams, Kevin Hart, or ….Steven Hawking.

  12. jeffs98119 on January 27th, 2014 3:52 pm

    How about Bronson Arroyo instead? 200 innings of league average pitching and lots of veteran smarts for people who believe in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, and Good Baseball Men. And according to, his nickname is “Saturn Nuts.” Yeah, Saturn Nuts. And he’s always healthy, so no medical bills. Think about it, Jack.

  13. Longgeorge1 on January 27th, 2014 6:30 pm

    The short version is that we have two pitchers and two major league position players. Admittedly three of the four are very good. We have also signed two rehabbing 1B/DH/DL/LF types. Two possibilities at SS (one really) and a bunch of guys who we could stick in the OF because the rules say you need to have nine on the field. Who we sign for this mythical third starter, as entertaining as it may be for us starving baseball fans, is just a couple of drunks solving the world’s problems. We’re #4 in the AL West and that is if Houston stays really bad. I need some more medicine!

  14. killeverything on January 28th, 2014 10:39 am

    I fear the still needed addition will be Nelson Cruz.

  15. msfanmike on January 28th, 2014 11:00 am

    Your fear may be a bit understated. Mine is that they sign both Cruz and Morales while keeping Smoak.

  16. msfanmike on January 28th, 2014 11:03 am

    Lomo LF
    Cruz CF
    Hart RF
    Smoak 1B
    Morales DH
    Montero C
    WFB SS
    Cano 2B
    Seager 3B

    Jack’s dream team … but only on days when Noesi starts.


  17. Westside guy on January 28th, 2014 11:39 am

    Your post made me actually shudder, Mike.

  18. killeverything on January 28th, 2014 11:44 am

    Damn M’sfan, that is the ultimate nightmare team ( compared to last year ). I would like to hope that even GMZ wouldn’t trot that one out.

    While Zunino probably would benefit from some more time in AAA, I have a hard time believing that the only option for Montero isn’t to just “Old Yeller” the mf.

    Cruz patrolling the outfield and making Raul look like a gold glover in the process is what will catapult Houston to 4th place.

  19. Woodcutta on January 28th, 2014 12:25 pm

    I’m still wondering why the M’s haven’t signed Hammel and Maholm. I swear I’ve heard somewhere, “You can never have enough pitching.” I’m sure both those pitchers would be much cheaper than a Santana or Jimenez. They could still go after Jimenez or Santana to you know, make it a competition for the 3-5 spots in the rotation. Or they could sign those two “lower-tier” pitchers to save money for Cruz (two years max).

  20. TumwaterMike on January 28th, 2014 5:05 pm

    Mariners 2014 slogan: “Don’t Drink the Kool-Aid.”

  21. JMB on January 28th, 2014 6:44 pm

    AJ Burnett.

  22. MrZDevotee on January 28th, 2014 8:30 pm

    Mariners 2014 Slogan: “F*ck Me… That’s It?!”

    (How many times do you think Robinson Cano has double-checked the fine print of his contract, looking for a loophole? “It says here if I loose one of my limbs, the contract is void!? Right?”)

  23. LongDistance on January 29th, 2014 9:46 am

    Thanks Mike,

    Someone had to do it.

    Maybe for defense the Mariner’s could petition to bring back the 1880s rule of put-outs by nailing baserunners with the ball?

    As for the list, I’d make two small corrections.

    An asterisk on DH, since that’ll be platooned all the way down through Tacoma and beyond.

    And as for WFB SS, I’d prefer WTFB SS. But that’s a minor question of taste.

    As for Jeff, USSM wouldn’t be the same without him. ONLY he could have found something halfway interesting, and at the least worth reading through, to be said about Baker.

  24. californiamariner on January 29th, 2014 10:28 am

    Well Scott Baker is signed.. Nice little deal with little risk involved

  25. Slippery Elmer on January 29th, 2014 10:52 am

    Per Twitter: #Mariners trade outfielder Carlos Peguero to the #Royals for a player to be named later or cash considerations.

  26. TumwaterMike on January 29th, 2014 10:58 am

    “Shades of Willy Mo Pena,” Carlos Peguero is no longer a Mariner.

  27. Westside guy on January 29th, 2014 11:30 am

    So how come the only time this team trades with KC is when we’re trying to offload our crap?

    When KC wanted to get rid of a young quality outfielder so they could put an aging veteran in his place, did Z pick up the phone? Apparently not.

    Anyway… Farewell, Carlos, we hardly knew ye. Actually, no – we knew ye FAR, far too well. But good luck in Kansas City… I am happy to root for you from afar.

  28. georgmi on January 29th, 2014 11:59 am

    Westy, at what point last offseason did we *have* an aging veteran of similar quality to James Shields, let alone one at a position of depth?

    Put another way, the reason we’ve recently only been trading away crappy or marginally-useful players is because that’s *all we’ve had*.

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