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.

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