Baker signed for $5.5 million guaranteed, with an additional $1.5 million in incentives, according to Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
Minnesota had declined Baker’s $9.5 million option for this season, making him a free agent. There was thought, however, that if given an incentive-laden contract, retaining Baker would help supplement a depleted Twins rotation that presumably will only return Scott Diamond on Opening Day.
According to Christensen, the Twins and Baker were making progress, but got hung up on an option for 2014. The club wanted the option while Baker wanted to play a full year to re-establish his value, after missing last season to Tommy John surgery, and chose to forgo the option.
Selected out of Oklahoma State University in the second round of the 2003 amateur draft, Baker went 63-48 with a 4.15 ERA in seven years with Minnesota. At 31, the Shreveport, La. native would have provided a reliable veteran pitcher in a rotation that is in need of older, reliable pitchers.
In the end, the $9.5 million option was certainly too steep for a pitcher coming off of Tommy John surgery and even a $5.5 million base is costly for a club that will probably see a decrease in attendance next year and has a decent amount of sunken cost to begin with.
Two players that were in the rotation at the end of the year, Sam Deduno (6-5, 4.44 ERA) and Esmerling Vasquez (0-2, 5.68 ERA), were signed to minor league deals.
Deduno, 29, has struggled with control throughout his time in Minnesota, but could potentially crack the rotation if he controls his unique fastball. Vasquez, 29, is a longer shot to make the rotation.
The Twins first-round selection in 2009, Kyle Gibson, made a splash in the Arizona Fall League, where he threw in the mid- to upper 90s with a slider and changeup, but he too is coming off of Tommy John surgery and Minnesota has to be careful not to put too much on the shoulders of a recently-injured, 25-year-old rookie.
As it stands, Diamond is the only lock to make the rotation next season. After that, Deduno and Gibson are major question marks.
That still leaves two to four roster spots open for General Manager Terry Ryan to fill.
Baker’s departure was the biggest news in the offseason so far, but who he choses to fill out the rotation with will be even more important.
Tom Schreier covers the Twins for Bleacher Report and writes a weekly column for TheFanManifesto.com.
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