A little while ago I did some prognosticating for ESPN, guessing the types of moves the Tribe would make to round out the club’s veteran-laden roster. In a nutshell, I wrote: “The Indians’ modus operandi has been to extend the organization’s net as wide as possible in the bargain bin, hoping to unearth a few solid performances – perhaps even getting lucky with a career season or two – out of the mixture of buy-low candidates.”
And while I was roundly hammered for suggesting the franchise bring back Travis Hafner on a minor league deal (I should have noted that Hafner has hit incredibly well in the opening month or two in each of the last three seasons), I did briefly mention former Minnesota and Chicago hurler Scott Baker as a potential low risk/high upside deal.
Reports surfaced over the weekend that the Indians and Mariners are “emerging as favorites” to land the veteran right-hander. Well, it does make sense…
The Indians have four spots locked up in the rotation – Justin Masterson, Danny Salazar, Corey Kluber, and Zach McAllister. Along with recently signed Shaun Marcum, the club also has several in-house candidates as well (Carlos Carrasco, Josh Tomlin, and Trevor Bauer).
But let’s be honest here, the latter four are far from sure bets. While I liked the Marcum deal quite a bit, he’s coming off of surgery; Carrasco, who’s blessed with the talent to be a #3-type arm, has only flashed that ability in sporadic moments; Tomlin’s coming off of TJ surgery and has averaged under five strikeouts per nine innings in his big league career; and, well, Bauer looked like a wreck last season.
So why not continue to stock pile arms?
Baker, who himself had Tommy John surgery in late 2012, has the type of pedigree that would be useful for the Indians: a former mid-rotation arm with fantastic peripherals (7.2 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9). He’s going to be 32-years-old and should have a few more years of useful production left (assuming he’s healthy). The lone red flag, however, is that his fastball was down three miles-per-hour during his three-game stint in Chicago in September.
But Baker was never the type of guy to rely heavily on missing bats. He was more about finesse and guile. And while the drop in velocity is alarming, it isn’t completely damning.
While he’s hunting for a Major League deal he’s not likely going to get it. And for the low cost of a few hundred thousand dollars, this potential move makes all kinds of sense.
Here’s hoping the Tribe wins out on this deal.