And we're here at what seems to be the final stop on the train ride exploring all the available free-agent pitching options for the Texas Rangers. Johan Santana was Tuesday morning's first attraction, and he'll be followed by Scott Baker.
Like Santana, Baker, 32, is looking to rebuild his market value following major surgery a couple of years ago, and he could end up being a steal for his new team. Do I have your attention Mr. Daniels? The Rangers should definitely be interested in this guy.
According to Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish, the Seattle Mariners and Cleveland Indians are currently in the running to sign Baker. The Chicago Cubs are seeking to add a starting pitcher but are reportedly not interested in a reunion with Baker, per Jesse Rodgers of ESPN Chicago.
That's a shallow market for a guy who's been pretty solid over his seven-plus-year career in the majors. It's a perfect opportunity for the Rangers to join the running for him.
Baker gets the job done with the classic fastball, changeup, slider and curveball repertoire. He's not quite a "strikeout pitcher" but is rather well-rounded—a poor man's version of Ervin Santana, perhaps. He misses a healthy amount of bats, is very controlled and generally stays under one hit per inning.
He doesn't have front-line stuff like Santana, but being able to pinpoint a 90 mph fastball can be just as effective as a loosely thrown 95 mph heater. Control and location usually trump velocity alone. Usually—because there are exceptions to this.
Baker isn't a horse like other pitchers I've profiled, such as Santana or Bronson Arroyo, but he does seem to fit the mold of a back-end starter pretty comfortably. He'll give you around 150 to 160 innings on average and will allow about the same number of hits, maybe slightly less.
He's made at least 21 starts in five of his last six full seasons, with the exception being last season. So he's more than durable enough to handle a No. 5 spot in the Rangers' rotation.
The Oklahoma State product consistently hit his corners and spots, and he won't walk too many batters. He leans toward a fly-ball pitcher but isn't terrifyingly home run susceptible. He pitched 200 innings in 2009 with the Twins and watched 28 balls leave the yard. That could be better, but it isn't the worst total you've ever seen.
He does get his share of ground balls with a quality changeup. The athletic Ranger defense would be behind him every step of the way.
The only substantial concern with Baker is his recent Tommy John surgery. He had the operation in mid-2012 and returned to pitch in the final month of 2013 with the Cubs. In 15 innings over three starts, he allowed six runs and posted a 3.60 ERA. Facing 57 hitters, he only gave up nine hits.
He's completely healthy now, and with a full spring training under his belt, he should be a viable option for an Opening Day rotation.
If I were Jon Daniels, Baker would be on my short list of targets. I'd consider offering him a one-year deal in the neighborhood of $3 million to $4 million and maybe tag on a team option for a second year.
He's a sensible option because he's relatively cheap, gives you innings and can hold his own in those innings.
Baker is out to rebuild his value, so that price should be a fair offer for him to do so. He would be a nice, under-the-radar addition to the Rangers' rotation.
Maybe Texas signs two Bakers this offseason?
All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com
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