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November 14, 2012

Transaction Analysis

Cubs Sign a Dusty Baker

by R.J. Anderson

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IN THIS ISSUE

National League

CHICAGO CUBS
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Signed RHP Scott Baker to a one-year deal worth $5.5 million with an additional $1.5 million in incentives. [11/13]

The Baker signing continues a theme begun last offseason by Jed Hoyer when he inked David DeJesus and Paul Maholm. Like those two before him, Baker is a veteran hoping to rebound: not from a bad season but from a missed season. Baker lost a two-year fight against a screaming elbow and underwent Tommy John surgery in April. The standard timetable from surgery to return is about 12 months nowadays, leaving Baker’s status for the beginning of the season in doubt.

Whenever Baker does return to the mound, he stands to give the Cubs their money’s worth. Nothing about his approach to pitching is flashy. He works with two pitches primarily: a low-90s fastball and a low-80s breaking ball—left-handed batters will occasionally see a changeup. Baker throws his pitches for strikes and misses enough bats to generate solid strikeout-to-walk ratios. Baker does not always miss barrels, however, and his issues with home runs are something to keep in mind when pondering his move to Wrigley Field. Consistency may also be an issue for Baker. The end results often see Baker as an above-average starter. His quality-start percentage has lingered around 45 percent since 2009.

Given what other starting pitchers have signed for this winter, the Cubs’ valuation of Baker seems to fit right in the average-to-above-average spectrum. Hoyer’s interest in adding Baker is not surprising. The right-hander ranked 42nd on our top-50 free agents list; on the same list we had the Cubs signing Brandon McCarthy, higher on the list. Chicago has reportedly expressed interest in McCarthy and may pursue another arm to bolster a foursome of Matt Garza, Jeff Samardzija, Baker, and Travis Wood. If not McCarthy then someone such as Tim Stauffer, or any of the other nearly dozen options that bear resemblance to Maholm and Baker.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
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Signed LHP Jeremy Affeldt to a three-year deal worth approximately $18 million. [11/12]

Affeldt’s comment on the top-50 free agents list (he ranked 47th) read, “[He] is one of the key cogs to the Giants bullpen. If Sabean repeats his 2010 strategy, then expect Affeldt to return.” Sure enough, Affeldt is to return on a deal that will take him through his 36th birthday. He made 65 appearances per season and boasted a 2.73 ERA and 2.06 strikeout-to-walk ratio over his first four seasons in San Francisco. Affeldt is a solid reliever and he’s been consistent as far as relievers go. Of course, in exchange for a consistent-as-far-as-relievers-go reliever, Sabean takes on the considerable risk of giving any non-elite reliever so much money for so many months.

R.J. Anderson is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see R.J.'s other articles. You can contact R.J. by clicking here

Related Content:  Scott Baker,  Jeremy Affeldt

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