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Updated: November 13th, 2012 4:09pm
Mackey: Baker wanted deal before Oct., but Twins were wise to pass

Mackey: Baker wanted deal before Oct., but Twins were wise to pass

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by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com

The Minnesota Twins made re-signing Scott Baker a high priority this offseason, but they were spurned on Tuesday when the Chicago Cubs announced a one-year deal with the right-hander instead.

Twins front office members are disappointed a deal couldn't get done with Baker, who -- coming off Tommy John surgery -- will be guaranteed $5.5 million with a chance to earn an extra $1.5 million in performance incentives.

The Twins and Baker's agent, Alan Nero, maintained dialogue regularly over the past six weeks, but Baker's departure should not come as much of a shock.

According to sources close to Baker, the right-hander made it known he was hoping to have a deal done with the Twins before the end of the regular season, and if that didn't happen he would strongly consider signing elsewhere. When a deal didn't happen in September, Baker opened up the door for bidding.

It's unknown what the Twins' final offer was, but indications are they were more comfortable with a deal that included less guaranteed money and more incentives.

Passing on Baker was probably the right decision for the Twins, who are in no position to take multiple flyers on question marks -- especially with Kyle Gibson also coming off surgery.

Baker, 31, has the same agent as right-hander Colby Lewis, who underwent flexor tendon surgery last July. Lewis, who isn't expected back before June, re-signed with the Texas Rangers for $2 million guaranteed with an extra $4 million in possible incentives.

Considering Baker expects to return by opening day if all continues to go well with his rehab, it's likely he and Nero were seeking more guaranteed money than Lewis received.

In his seven seasons with the Twins, Baker posted a 4.15 ERA with 770 strikeouts and only 224 walks in 958 innings. Prior to elbow troubles in 2011, Baker was in the midst of a career season, posting a 3.14 ERA with 123 strikeouts in 134 2/3 innings.

If Baker were to pitch a full season -- say, 180 innings -- at or near the level of his career statistics, it's likely he would be well worth $7 million. But there are no guarantees he'll be ready in April.

With Scott Diamond as the only pitcher currently penciled into next year's rotation, the Twins are looking to sign or acquire three starters this winter. Baker likely would have slotted in as the fifth guy, depending on his health status.

As of September, Baker's rehab was on schedule. He said he expected to begin throwing off a mound sometime in December before settling into a somewhat normal spring training routine.

The Twins entered the offseason with $74 million tied up in guaranteed contracts, including minimum-salaried players. They've already made contact with representatives for Brandon McCarthy, Anibal Sanchez, Brett Myers and others.

The Twins got burned by guaranteeing $850,000 to recovering reliever Joel Zumaya last offseason. Zumaya blew out his elbow within the first two weeks of spring training.

Phil Mackey is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Phil | @PhilMackey | Mackey & Judd
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