Even though the 2008-2009 offseason is barely behind us, forward looking fans are already warily eyeing next year's offseason for the Minnesota Twins.
One of the risks of having such a young team is that many players will be due for large raises at the same time. A team's payroll can balloon without adding any new players if a young player has a monster season and is due arbitration.
The Twins face exactly that situation next year, with as many as 11 players becoming arbitration eligible for the first time.
Fortunately, the Twins have taken a big first step to help eliminate the impending salary crunch.
Opening Day starter Scott Baker, one of the best players who would be ready for a big pay raise, has signed a four year contract worth $15.25 million with a $9.25 million option for 2013.
The deal includes all of Baker's arbitration years and the option would buy out his first free agent season.
Baker and Francisco Liriano are a very solid one-two punch already, but with Baker improving every year since his 2007 call-up and the fact that Liriano is still just two seasons removed from his Tommy John surgery, they could easily form the best top of the rotation tandem in the AL Central.
This is a very savvy move for the Twins. They've not only locked up their most consistent pitcher from the last two seasons, they have signed him to a very favorable deal.
If Baker continues to improve the way he has over the last few seasons, the Twins may well look back on this deal as one of the best they've signed over the last few years.