4:15pm: Baker will earn at a $1.5MM rate if he makes the big league roster, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets.
Baker was a mainstay in the Twins’ rotation during their run at the top of the division, but he underwent Tommy John surgery in Spring Training of 2012 and has yet to re-establish himself as a reliable rotation cog in the Major Leagues. Baker has spent the past two seasons in the Cubs and Rangers organizations, working to a combined 5.17 ERA in 95 2/3 innings of work.
Prior to those struggles and his surgery, however, Baker was a solid, if unspectacular mid-rotation arm for Minnesota. He averaged 181 innings of 4.11 ERA ball (103 ERA+) from 2008-10 with the Twins before seemingly taking a significant step forward in a 2011 season that was cut short by injury. Baker notched just 134 2/3 innings that year but had turned in a pristine 3.14 ERA with 8.2 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9 prior to being shut down. Metrics such as his 3.45 FIP and 3.43 SIERA reflected genuine improvement as well.
Now with the Yankees, the former second-round pick will hope to earn a rotation spot amid a sea of other injury question marks. Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, Michael Pineda, Nathan Eovaldi and Ivan Nova ultimately comprise New York’s ideal rotation, but Nova won’t be ready to start the season after having his own Tommy John last year. Meanwhile, Sabathia is coming off knee surgery, uncertainty surrounds Tanaka’s UCL and Pineda’s history of shoulder problems is a persistent concern. Chris Capuano was signed to a big league deal this winter, so he should open the year in the rotation, but given the injury troubles surrounding the entire group of rotation options, it wouldn’t be a shock to see Baker get a crack, should his own health issues permit.