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Scott Baker Rumors
The Rangers are close to a deal with starting pitcher Scott Baker, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports. Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish initially reported (via Twitter) that the two sides were "making progress" on a deal. Baker is represented by Octagon.
Baker requested, and received, his release from the Mariners Monday. He made three starts with the Cubs in 2013 as he recovered from elbow issues that had kept him out of the Majors since 2011. The Rangers are trying to fill an increasingly injury-plagued rotation that currently includes Martin Perez, Tanner Scheppers, Robbie Ross and Joe Saunders. Yu Darvish, who's dealing with a neck injury, will not start Opening Day, and the team has recently ruled out Colby Lewis as a rotation candidate.
The Dodgers have the highest projected payroll in baseball at $235MM, which means that, for the first time in 15 years, the Yankees do not have baseball's highest payroll, the Associated Press reports. Also, the Dodgers' Zack Greinke will top the Yankees' Alex Rodriguez for baseball's highest-paid player. Greinke will make $24MM in the second year of his contract, and MLB's accounting also includes a prorated portion of his signing bonus. Greinke would have counted as the highest-paid player in the game even if Rodriguez hadn't been suspended for the season. Here are more notes from the West divisions.
- Pitcher Scott Baker is "making progress" on a deal with the injury-ravaged Rangers, Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com tweets. The Mariners released Baker yesterday. Baker, 32, has played sparingly in the Majors since 2011, due to elbow troubles.
- The Mariners want to find a right-handed hitter, and they might not trade Nick Franklin unless they find one, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal tweets. A righty would help the Mariners balance a lefty-heavy lineup that includes Robinson Cano, Logan Morrison, Brad Miller, Kyle Seager, Dustin Ackley and Michael Saunders.
- Veteran infielder John McDonald has made the Angels roster, and he's thinking about what could be his last season in the big leagues, writes MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez. "This could be my last year," McDonald says. "I'm not going to have a press conference to announce it. … You never know what can happen. I don't like putting a timetable on anything. I'm 39. I'm not foolish. There is only so long you can play." McDonald has never played more than 123 games in a season but, mostly thanks to his defense, he's managed to eke out a 15-year career with the Indians, Tigers, Blue Jays, Diamondbacks, Pirates, Indians, Phillies, Red Sox and now the Angels.
One hidden key to the Royals' emergence has been the club's dedication to Latin American scouting, signing, and player development under GM Dayton Moore (and special assistant Rene Francisco), writes Rany Jazayerli of RanyontheRoyals.com. Jazayerli breaks down the team's long history of virtually no significant spending on Latin American players, and how increased investments — especially on lower-priced players like Salvador Perez, Yordano Ventura, Miguel Almonte, and Jorge Bonifacio (total commitment: $253K) — have been critical to building the team's overall talent base. Here's more from the American League Central:
- Max Scherzer requested an eight-year deal in his negotiations with the Tigers, reports Jim Bowden of ESPN.com (Twitter links). The Tigers' reported offer was for six years and $144MM. If the sides were in agreement on the $24MM AAV, that would hypothetically put Scherzer's demands on total gaurantee at $192MM. Scherzer has injury protection through an insurance policy, Bowden adds, which perhaps has increased his willingness to wait for a larger deal on the open market.
- Meanwhile, the White Sox were able to secure seven years of control rights over their own prized starter, Jose Quintana, for a total guarantee that maybe as low as $21MM (if he does not qualify for Super Two status). Of course, unlike Scherzer, Quintana has just 1.133 years of service and did not win the AL Cy Young last year. Nevertheless, the deal looks like a smart investment for a Chicago club that has purchased prime years of several players at seemingly reasonable rates. As Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune reports, GM Rick Hahn sees the value in early extensions, which "frees us up to allocate our resources to other needs." Hahn explained: "You've seen the magnitude of what some of these deals have gotten to in free agency. It makes sense to try to get out in front of that sometimes, to try to get the price points locked in before the market continues to grow … ."
- Twins assistant GM Rob Antony had several updates today, as Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports. Infielder Jason Bartlett has agreed to push back his March 25 opt-out to the March 30 Opening Day roster deadline, which gives both sides more time to assess their options. Meanwhile, the club is still in discussions on a new deal with reliever Matt Guerrier, who was released because the club did not want to pay the Article XX(B) free agent signee a $100K retention bonus to stash him in the minors.
- Though the Twins have had some exploratory discussions about an extension with second baseman Brian Dozier, the 26-year-old tells Berardino that a deal is probably not happening at this point. That is not surprising, as Dozier has just 1.100 on his service clock and still has some questions to answer as a player. But he indicated that there is a positive vibe between the two sides and a hope that talks could pick up in the future. "We had some talks or whatever," he said. "Obviously nothing took place but it was a bunch of good postive feedback on both ends.It's very unlikely anything will be coming soon or during the season or anything. We'll let another year play out and see where it goes. That was just a thing to see where everybody was. I think [the Twins] would be in the near future open to it and we definitely are."
- The Indians were one of the clubs vying for Scott Baker's services before the offseason, and just released Aaron Harang. Nevertheless, Cleveland will not pursue the starter at this point, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com. Baker was released today by the Mariners after deciding he would rather test the market than accept an assignment to Triple-A.
Baker, 32, has not seen substantial MLB action since 2011, when he threw 134 2/3 innings of 3.14 ERA ball for the Twins. He joins a growing list of available starters who will be looking for new homes before the start of the season. It would appear that the Mariners will choose two of Randy Wolf, Roenis Elias, and Blake Beavan to round out the rotation to start the year.
MLB.com's Jim Callis has an interesting breakdown of the dollars committed to the game's top prospects. Over $228MM has already been committed by teams to the prospects listed among MLB.com's top 100. Meanwhile, ESPN.com's Keith Law has released his own prospect rankings (Insider links), naming the Astros' system as the game's best and tabbing Byron Buxton of the Twins as the best overall prospect. In his own top 101 prospects list, Jason Parks of Baseball Prospectus agrees with Buxton as the top choice, which certainly appears to be the consensus. And Baseball America has completed its listing of the ten best prospects by team.
Here are some more links from around the game:
- The Twins are keeping tabs on free agent outfielder Nelson Cruz, tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN, but are a long shot to land him. Minnesota is probably only interested if Cruz drops his price fairly significantly, Wolfson adds, guessing that the club would probably only be involved at two years with an average annual value at or below the $10MM mark.
- Likewise, the Twins are waiting for the price to fall on South Korean hurler Suk-min Yoon, Wolfson reports (Twitter links). When Wolfson floated the number of two years and $10MM total to his source, he was told that cost was likely too steep for Minnesota.
- Free agent reliever Ryan Madson plans to hold a full public workout on February 7th, reports Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com (Twitter links). The 33-year-old threw yesterday for an unknown club that is reportedly a leading candidate to land him, Crasnick adds.
- Starter Scott Baker chose the Mariners over offers from the Indians, Rangers, and Royals, reports Wolfson (via Twitter). The Twins never had interest in a reunion, Wolfson adds.
- Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers were discussing a deal in the range of $200MM to $205MM over the summer, tweets Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. By waiting until he wrapped up a Cy Young campaign, Kershaw was able to secure a deal with a $215MM guarantee.
12:34pm: Baker has already passed his physical, and the deal will be announced later today, tweets Greg Johns of MLB.com.
12:17pm: The Mariners have agreed to terms with right-hander Scott Baker on a minor league deal with an invitation to Spring Training, according to Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish. Baker, who is represented by Octagon, will earn $1MM if he makes the team and can earn up to $3.25MM more via incentives, according to Cotillo (Twitter links).
The 32-year-old Baker underwent Tommy John surgery prior to the 2012 season — his walk year with the Twins. He inked a one-year, $5.5MM contract with the Cubs last offseason, but persistent setbacks in his recovery limited him to three starts late in the season.
Baker's last significant big league action came in 2011, and it was also the best work of his career. In 134 innings for the Twins that season, the former second-round pick posted a 3.14 ERA with 8.2 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9. Strong command and K/BB numbers have been typical of Baker throughout his career, as evidenced by his lifetime 3.4 K:BB ratio. Baker's skill-set seems to be fitting of Safeco Field; the extreme fly-ball pitcher has just a 34 percent ground-ball rate for his career.
Should Baker make the rotation out of Spring Training, he'll slot in behind aces Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma. Top prospect Taijuan Walker and right-hander Erasmo Ramirez are also candidates for the rotation, and the Mariners have been said to be on the lookout for a veteran starter to add to the mix as well (presumably, Baker is not that arm).
After an offseason highlighted by the signing of Robinson Cano, the Mariners may be done adding high-priced talent, MLB.com's Greg Johns reports. GM Jack Zduriencik is looking for another starting pitcher, but probably won't want to pay the prices necessary to sign Ubaldo Jimenez or Ervin Santana.
"I don't think we're going to jump in and invest where some of these dollars are going," Zduriencik says. "It just doesn't make sense when you take a 30-, 31-, 32-year old pitcher that wants five or six years and there is some history there of injury or inconsistencies."
Zduriencik said those risks were the reason the Mariners didn't strongly pursue Masahiro Tanaka (who is younger, but would have required a long commitment). He also suggests that it would have been difficult to outbid the Yankees. "We've made two major investments here in the last two years with Felix [Hernandez] and now Robinson," Zduriencik says. "To do that again would have been real challenging. And in the end, the numbers could have gone up. If we made that offer, who knows what the heck the Yankees would have done after that?"
Johns notes that the Mariners are "in the running" for starter Scott Baker, who missed all of 2012 and most of 2013 due to injury. Zduriencik also says the Mariners have had many talks with Nelson Cruz's representation, but the length and dollar value of the contract and the threat of losing a draft pick are all part of the Mariners' considerations.
After losing out on Masahiro Tanaka, the Cubs remain interested in adding rotation depth, likely in the form of a relatively minor signing, reports Jesse Rogers of ESPNChicago.com. Chicago will not be in the market for one of the top remaining free agent starter, such as former Cubbie Matt Garza, unless a golden opportunity arises.
Neither is the club interested in bringing back Scott Baker, Rogers adds. According to Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com (via Twitter), the Mariners and Indians are more likely landing spots for the 32-year-old righty. The Cubs signed Baker to a one-year, $5.5MM deal last year, but Baker was only able to make three starts after a long Tommy John rehab.
Chicago has been linked to other mid-tier starting options, Rogers notes, including Paul Maholm and Jason Hammel. Both pitchers would seem to fit the mold of the club's rotation signings from last year, which included Baker, Scott Feldman (one year, $6MM), and Carlos Villanueva (two years, $10MM). Internal candidates for the club's final rotation spot, according to Rogers, include Justin Grimm, Kyle Hendricks, and Chris Rusin.
A source tells MLB Daily Dish's Chris Cotillo that the Astros haven't discussed a long-term extension with Jason Castro yet. The 26-year-old appears to be a candidate for a long-term deal after a 2013 breakout campaign that saw him slug 18 home runs and generate 4.3 fWAR, tops among AL catchers not named Joe Mauer. However, he's now eligible for arbitration, and could become expensive quickly if he's not interested in an extension. As FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal observed recently, teams appear increasingly willing to trade players who resist being locked up. Here's more from baseball's Western divisions:
- Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times notes the Dodgers' need for a utility infielder and wonders if they'll try to bring back Michael Young, who hit .314 for the club in 53 plate appearances last year after being acquired from the Phillies. GM Ned Colletti says the Dodgers have maintained contact with Young, who's reportedly considering retirement.
- Cotillo hears (via Twitter) that the Mariners and the Indians are the frontrunners among the five to seven clubs interested in Scott Baker.
- Also from Cotillo's Twitter, the Rangers plan to use lefty Rafael Perez, who they've inked to a minor-league deal, out of the bullpen. Perez, who didn't appear in the majors in 2013, was a starter for much of his early career in the minors. The Rangers were known to be on the hunt for a left-handed arm for their rotation following Derek Holland's recent injury.
Here is the latest on several free agent situations around the league:
- While not technically a free agent, Masahiro Tanaka can still be signed by any club that is also willing to pay his $20MM posting fee. Reports out of Japan indicate that the Yankees and Dodgers are the favorites to land the 25-year-old righty, tweets David Waldstein of the New York Times, with Tanaka's wife reportedly interested in landing on the West Coast. The Angels are also said to be among the top suitors for Tanaka's services, says MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez (referencing a recent report from Japanese outlet Sports Hochi).
- The Orioles, Twins, and Yankees recently asked for medicals on righty Ervin Santana, reports FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal. (Links to Twitter.) New York appears only to be performing due diligence, says Rosenthal, who notes that Santana's flyball tendencies make him a poor fit at Yankee Stadium. Meanwhile, the Twins seem unlikely to add another free agent starter, Rosenthal adds.
- There are at least five clubs that "have been in on" infielder/DH Mark Reynolds, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (via Twitter). The teams include the Nationals, Rangers, Twins, Orioles, and Yankees.
- Right-handed starter Scott Baker has several minor league offers in hand but is holding out for a guaranteed MLB deal, tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN. The Twins have not been interested in a reunion thus far, Wolfson adds.
- Another former Twin who spent time with the Cubs last year, right-handed reliever Matt Guerrier, is set to throw off of a mound on Friday as he rehabs from an elbow injury suffered late last year, Wolfson tweets. Minnesota is interested in potentially bringing him back, according to Wolfson.