Cubs Comfortable Betting on Baker, Still Pursuing Pitching

The Cubs added a starting pitcher to the mix when they announced that Scott Baker signed a one-year, $5.5 million deal on Tuesday that includes a $1.5 million incentives package. Theo Epstein did a little rhyming when he discussed the signing with the mainstream media. Epstein said that “Scott Baker is a pitch maker” and the Cubs are betting on him being ready to pitch when Spring Training begins in early February. Baker said he is ahead of schedule despite not being able to throw off a mound prior to signing with the Cubs.

There was a lot of interest in Baker and the Cubs appear to have signed him for near market value. Jon Heyman predicted Baker would sign a one-year deal worth $6.5 million … the Cubs inked him to a one-year contract with a max value of $7 million if Baker hits all of his incentives.

Not long after the signing of Scott Baker was announced, Theo Epstein met with the beat writers and indicated the Cubs are not done adding pitching. Epstein said, “We’re pursuing pitchers across the spectrum, some guys who would be classified as buy-low, other that might even be buy-high guys, or hopefully buy-high and stay there. Some one-year deals, some multi-year deals, some trades – we’re looking for pitchers who can step in and improve our rotation. If there are sound investments out there, whether they are big or small, we’ll pursue them and try to sign them.”

The Cubs have been connected to a long list of free agent starters already this off-season: Ryan Dempster, Dan Haren, Scott Feldman, Edwin Jackson, Francisco Liriano, Shaun Marcum, Brandon McCarthy and Joe Saunders

Scott Baker
The Cubs negotiated the contract with Scott Baker during the GM Meetings last week according to a report from the Tribune. The Cubs feel Baker is an underrated pitcher and one that his coming off of Tommy John surgery last April.

Scott Baker said “he’s on a timetable to be ready for the first week of the 2013 season and wants to start going at the beginning of Spring Training.” Baker told the Tribune if everything goes as planned he should be stretched out to “five or six innings by the first week of the season.”

Scott Baker is not worried about possibly being flipped to another team at the trade deadline. Baker said “that’s kind of a far stretch” since he is coming off an injury.

Scott Baker and Matt Garza pitched on the same Twins staff in 2006 and 2007.

Matt Garza
Matt Garza is scheduled to have the next scan on his right elbow this week. The second scan on his elbow has been scheduled for well over a month now. The Cubs must see how the stress reaction in the bone above Garza’s right elbow is healing. Garza has tweeted that he feels great and is ready for Spring Training to begin.

A healthy Matt Garza and Scott Baker to go along with Jeff Samardzija and Travis Wood would give the Cubs a much-improved rotation, even with one spot left to fill, over the staring five that completed last season.

Ian Stewart
Theo Epstein said Tuesday that Ian Stewart is making progress from wrist surgery. Stewart has rehabbed away from the team but recently touched base with the Cubs and said he is feeling good. Stewart has questioned on twitter if he will return to the Cubs for a second season and many think the Cubs will not tender a contract to Stewart for next season. The Cubs must make a decision on Stewart’s future with the team by November 30.

The Cubs have been linked to other third basemen and both Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstein have said publicly they are not sure what direction the team will go for next season.

Minor League News
The Cubs’ minor league roster shrunk a little further on Monday when free agents James Adduci and Juan Apodaca agreed to minor league deals with the Texas Rangers. Both contracts include invites to big league camp. Adduci and Apodaca join Justin Germano (Blue Jays) and Jairo Asencio (Brewers) as four of the Cubs minor league free agents to sign with another organization.

The Cubs have re-signed RHP Marcos Mateo, LHP Kyler Burke and signed INF Edwin Maysonet to minor league contracts. Mateo and Burke are eligible for the Rule 5 Draft.

News, Notes and More Rumors
The Cubs’ 40-man roster stands at 37 players. The deadline to add players to the 40-man roster in order to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft is Tuesday (November 20). The Cubs currently have three open spots … and a lot of decisions to make.

The Cubs are interested in Kevin Youkilis, at least according to multiple reports, but Youkilis is reportedly looking to sign with a contender. Bruce Levine thinks Youkilis will re-sign with the White Sox and according to Ken Rosenthal, Youkilis is drawing interest from the Dodgers, Phillies, Indians and Mariners.

The Cubs have been linked to Jeff Keppinger this winter. The Phillies are also interested in Keppinger according to Ken Rosenthal.

The Cubs are rehabbing the old scoreboard.

Tony Campana and Josh Vitters are playing winter ball for Caracas in the Venezuelan Winter League.

Follow ChicagoCubsOnline on Twitter: @TheCCO

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  • Ripsnorter1

    Baker is a Paul Maholm type of signing. I like it. We need to sign two more starters so Wood can go to the pen or the minors.

    • Tony_Hall

      I just checked on the 40 man roster page, and it shows Wood having 1 option left, for some reason I was thinking Wood was out of options. I am all for bringing in 2 more starters, if Wood can go back and forth to Iowa in 2013.

      • Neil

        Tony, thank you for catching that on the 40-man. I will
        correct later today. Travis Wood is out of option years. I will double check all of the player options. Sorry about that …

        • Tony_Hall

          I thought that was wrong (very unusual to ever find anything wrong on your spreadsheet) but saw that others were adjusted. I think I was just hoping. Now it makes Wood the #5 and he is going to be in the rotation.

  • Tony_Hall

    With Baker coming into the rotation, we still need 1 more to fill out the rotation and 2 more to create some competition and major league ready depth.

    Garza, Samardzija, Baker, Wood gives us 4.

    The AAA depth is already there and young, versus 2nd or 3rd chance minor league free agents we saw last year.

    Struck and others

    If they did sign 2 more SP’s for the major league team, we would have a bigger log jam at AAA, as their are 5 listed above, Wood would be 6, plus there are others that are ready to move up to AAA, like Struck, Rhee, Beeler, Jokisch who pitched at AA last year.

    What this will create is competition and no longer moving up because it is next and filling out the AAA rotation with minor league free agents closer to 30 than 20. All good things.

    • Scott

      I am wondering if they will put Vizcaino on teh DL to start the year and let him rehab for a while in AA starting or relieving but only throwing an inning or two at first and building back up to 4-6 innings. They have said that he will only throw about 150 inning next year at the most so I don’t think he will make 30+ “starts” no matter what level.
      I agree we do need more depth. The more the better.

      • Tony_Hall

        Not sure if they will DL him, unless they think they can get away with the 60 DL, which may be too long. My guess is he goes to EXT ST in Arizona, then to Iowa for some starts and then to Chicago once someone is traded.

    • paulcatanese

      While I agree with you Tony, all good things. But Garza, Baker, and Stewart at this point are all “glass half empty”

      prospects. Only if they are healthy will they contribute.

      I applaud the optimism that you have here and hope it works out.

      I on the other hand look at results, and until they prove their

      health I will wait. All three would be very good for the Cubs if they do.

      • Tony_Hall

        Garza and Baker are a glass half empty prospects??

        Stewart ok, but Garza and Baker are both proven ML starters, coming back from injury, not coming up from the minors unproven.

        • paulcatanese

          I know they are Tony, but based on Garza’s

          inability to complete last season due to injury

          I feel he is an unknown quantity at this point.

          He(Garza) still dosent know if he is 100% yet.

          And Baker still has not thrown off a mound yet.

          And I agree that they are proven major league pitchers, they are now hurt, thats what I had meant.

          If they are healthy, no problem.

          Stewart as we agree is another story, I hope he can come back and eliminate the third base problem.

  • Albert

    I may have missed this, but what reports have linked the Cubs to Kevin Youkilis?

    • brent carmona

      There have been some very minor connections I believe. From what I heard his price range is too steep and he would rather play w a contender. White sox showed the most interest I think so far

    • Neil

      Here the latest (from last Thursday). If you scroll down, there is a hyper-link. Hope this helps …

  • daverj

    Although I’ve read the Marlins are saying they won’t deal Stanton, if I’m the Cubs, I’d try to overwhelm the Marlins with an offer conditioned on Stanton signing a long term extension with the Cubs. If the Cubs could sign Stanton to a 7-8 year deal, I’d offer the Marlins Baez, Vogelbach, and two other non-pitching prospects of their choice (other than Soler and Almora) for Stanton and Nolasco.

    Stanton, Castro and Rizzo would give the Cubs the core of their line-up for years.

    • Vivid_Reality

      If we headlined our offer with Baez, Almora, and Soler, I still don’t think that gets the job done. He is one of the premier young power hitters in the game and he isn’t even arbitration eligible yet. His value is immense and any team would have to clear the farm to acquire him.

      • Vivid_Reality

        Not to even mention that every team in the league would be interested. The bidding war would be outrageous and it would likely double the price in prospects.

        • RynoTiger

          I’m going to disagree. I don’t think the package for Stanton needs to be overwhelming. I think you play on the Marlins owner for greed and profit and provide some decent prospects and cash, not top tier, and I think he’d take it.

          • Vivid_Reality

            Stanton will make less than 500k this year as a pre arb player, even next year he will be a bargain at around 5mil. The owner may be gutting the team to cut costs but shaving off Stanton’s contract is insignificant. In that situation he would only be trading Stanton because he won’t resign with them. (who would?) In that case, Stanton’s value will be maximized and every single team in the majors will check in with the Marlins to see what they want. They would likely score the biggest haul in prospects in recent memory.

          • Aaron

            I agree with Vivid….There’s just no way the Marlins trade Stanton now….probably not until 2016 from what I hear.

            And here’s the question for you….By then, the Cubs should be competitive, and at that point, guys like Baez (likely IF, but could move to OF), Soler, Almora, Vogelbach (could move to OF if he loses weight), Szczur, a sleeper pick like Martin, and perhaps even BJax if he figures out how to make more contact by shortening his swing…will all factor into the OF picture. You can figure that Castro, Rizzo, and W. Castillo will all be cornerstones of that team. The wild cards would be Vitters and BJax…who both could be boom/bust type of players. Then, you have second tier types that don’t really have a set position at the moment, such as: Amaya, Lake, M. Hernandez, Dunston Jr., Gretzky, Schlecht, and Shoulders that are already OF, or could be in for position changes.

            So, with guys like Samardzija, Castillo, Castro, etc. likely costing more in 2016, would it really be wise to add a very expensive Stanton to that group, or just wait for the players mentioned above to advance?

      • daverj

        Fair point. You may be right that the group of prospects I put together would not be enough.

  • calicub

    With the Marlins in firesale mode, i think the Cubs should look into Nolasco. His salary is enourmous considering its easily half of the Marlins obligated 2013 salary. I cant imagine the asking price would be too high considering the past 24 hrs.


    That lineup is pretty sexy and is eons ahead of the Berkens, Germano’s etc. of the 2012 cubs

  • Tom U

    Logan Watkins getting his first start as shortstop for the Solar Sox tonight

  • SuzyS

    Finally, Vitters surfaces.

  • Ripsnorter1

    I hope the Cubs sign Keppinger, but I doubt it. I expect the Phillies to outbid the Cubs. I could be pleasantly surprised.

  • J Daniel

    Vitters can surface – he probably needed a break – but I do not think it is going to matter with him. Just don’t think he or Jackson will be good enough mlb players to help get to the promised land.

    Think they need to improve both of their values again and move them.

  • SuzyS

    J Daniel,
    I agree that the odds are that Vitters probably won’t make it as our future 3rd baseman at this point….There is too much competition coming up right behind him.
    However, after following him these last several years,
    I’m extremely interested in how he handles last summer’s spectacular failure. What he’s made of…what he can do to put the pieces back together…what his work ethic and adjustments are.
    He may never see Wrigley again as a player…But who knows?
    I have a totally different feeling about Jackson. Given his defensive skills AND temperment…if he can change his swing…(which I admit is a huge IF)…he can become a serviceable mlb player.

  • J Daniel,

    Your posts are always intelligent and well thought out. Thanks for all of your thoughts!