Scott Baker Contract On the Horizon?

MLB.com's Kelly Theiser broached the topic on Monday.

We know that there's interest in a multi-year deal on Scott Baker's half of the equation. The Twins have recently extended multi-year contracts to Jesse Crain and Juan Rincon while they were still under team control, and have reportedly attempted to ink Matt Guerrier as well, so we can safely assume that the Twins are carefulls weighing the risks of inking Baker as well.

Baker will become arbitration eligible following the 2009 season, and suffice it to say that to this point, his performance dictates a pretty significant bump in salary.  With other guys like Rich Harden, James Shields, Shaun Marcum, Adam Wainwright and Paul Maholm just finishing up their age-26 seasons, it's not like there's a shortage of good starting pitchers of Baker's age, but that doesn't mean that locking up an effective young pitcher isn't a good idea.  A guaranteed paycheck for a guy who's been making the league minimum (or very near it) the last couple seasons is a very attractive carrot, and as long as the numbers are fair on both sides it should be a deal that would be any real financial handicap to the team.

Looking at Antony's comments in Theiser's article, he doesn't confirm whether the organization is interested in signing the right-hander or not, and naturally stays pretty vague.  But of all five young starters returning from last season, Baker has the biggest MLB track record from which to judge future performance, and he hasn't exactly been injury prone.

Right now Baker has four seasons remaining under team control.  While a four-year deal would make sense, it's more likely that the Twins will try to keep an offer at three years if not two.  As Theiser's article mentioned, Antony is aware that pitchers are a higher injury risk long term, and this is a team with a track record of not over-indulging.

If I'm Bill Smith (which I'm clearly not), this is my offer to Scott Baker:

2009:  $1,250,000
2010:  $2,000,000
2011:  $2,900,000

For Baker, the advantage of this deal is that he starts to make major bank one year sooner, and that bank is guaranteed over the next three seasons.  For the Twins, the advantage is avoiding arbitration, stability, and possibly a negligible savings on year three of the deal.

Stay tuned.

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