After parts of seven Major League seasons, Scott Baker is leaving the only organization he's ever known. Baker and the Cubs agreed to a one-year deal worth $5.5M today that also contains $1.5M worth of incentives, according to the Chicago Tribune.
The Twins had reportedly been in talks with Baker to hammer out a new contract after declining his $9.25M option, but Baker preferred to sign with Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstein's Cubs instead. There's no word on whether or not the Twins made a hard offer, so we can speculate on all kinds of reasons that Baker left: money, rebuilding his value in the National League, or simply preferring a change of scenery following some public criticism by the Twins' front office last season prior to his surgery.
Whatever the reason, the 2003 second-round selection won't be returning to the Twins. Baker's career has been marred by injuries, but he's been one of the more underrated pitchers in the game for quite some time. He's pitched to a 4.15 ERA with a 3.84 K/BB ratio in 958 career innings. Sabermetric stats like FIP (3.95) and SIERA (3.98) back up that he's been a solid arm, and Fangraphs values his career to date at 17 wins above replacement.
Baker emerged as the Twins' best starter in 2011 with career-bests in ERA (3.14) and K/9 (8.2) to go along with a characteristically strong 2.1 BB/9. Critics would often question Baker's mental toughness, but throughout his career it's been evident that he has the makings of a strong middle-of-the-rotation starter if he can stay healthy.
As a Twins fan, I've long thought Baker deserved more credit than he got, both on a national basis and even from our own fans in Twins Territory. I'll miss having him in the Twins organization. I'll never forget the thrill of being at Game 163 in 2009, started by Baker. He allowed three runs in six innings to keep the Twins in the game and set up one of the most dramatic, emotional games I will ever have the privilege of seeing. I've never been to a better sporting event, and it wouldn't have happened the way it did without Scott Baker.
Thank you Scott, for your contributions to this team since 2005. I'll always remember you as a classy, soft-spoken and underrated member of some great Twins teams. Best of luck in Chicago.