Reports are that the Twins and Scott Baker have signed a four-year contract with a team option for the fifth year. Congrats Scott, and congrats Twins! I'd speculated on this back in January, but the Twins generally like to wait until spring training to offer long-term deals to their pitchers (but will sign hitters to long-term deals during the offseason). Last year was a great example, where they signed Justin Morneau and Michael Cuddyer before Twinsfest, but waited until spring training to ink Joe Nathan to guaranteed money.
And in this case, it looks like the Twins got a heck of a deal. Back in January, when writing about signing various players to long-term deals, here is what I wrote about Baker:
There was plenty of talk last season about Liriano and his service time, but the guy on the roster who was closest to arbitration but missed was Baker. He started the year with 1 year and 128 days of service time, and I’m pretty sure he was on the 25 man roster or DL for the whole year, so he finished with about 2 years and 128 days. “Super 2” arbitration usually kicks in somewhere between 2 years and 130 to 140 days. I wonder just how close he was?
Baker’s salary over the next four years closely mirrors Liriano’s. He isn’t the injury risk (in my mind) that Liriano is, so a lower per year salary with a longer deal makes more sense. Four years, $18 million, and a team option on the fifth year ($12M?) with a $2 million buyout seems fair. Congratulations Scott, your ship has come in.
The Twins and Baker agreed to a deal for roughly $5 million less than I had proposed. That's a nice deal for the Twins. And considering that he's the guy walking away from the bargaining table with $15.25 million, that's a nice deal for Baker, too.
Next up? Hopefully Liriano. Here's what I wrote about him in the same story:
You can argue whether Liriano or Scott Baker should be the top long-term target on the roster. Either way, these two players are better fits for a long-term deal than the Twins have had for several years. They’re both relatively proven, they’re both a year away from big money, and they’re both high-ceiling players.
The only issue that might scare the Twins about Liriano – his health – is exactly the reason a long-term deal is probably so attractive to him. And after just missing arbitration last year, he’s faced with one more year of a team-dictated salary before a giant raise. So now’s the time, for both him and the Twins.
Here, very roughly, is what Liriano and the Twins can expect his salary to be over the next four years if he remains healthy and goes through the arbitration process:
2009 – $0.5M
2010 - $3.5M
2011 - $7.0M
2012 - $11.5M
2013 – free agent
Total - $22.5 million through 2012
Repeat after me: The Twins essentially already have a contract with Liriano. It is for four years and (roughly) $22.5 million. That's going to be the case for all these guys, and it’s the best kind of contract because they can renew it yearly, meaning there is almost no risk to them whatsoever. For them to guarantee all of that money ahead of time, they to need to get something substantial in return.
In this case, that something had better include at least one year of free agency. But the question for both sides is how long will they want to commit? If the Twins trust him to stay healthy, the longer the better. But if he comes down with an elbow injury next June, just how long do the Twins want to be on the hook?
Ideally, their offer would be for something like 3 years and $10M guaranteed, with team options for 2012 and 2013 at $11M and $13M respectively. Throw some guaranteed money buyouts ($1.5M?) for those last two years and Liriano is guaranteed $13M, even if he breaks down on March 15th. Given his arm issues, I would think he (and his agent) would have a hard time walking away from that.
The injury issue is a big one with Liriano, but I have faith that both sides can get creative and get something done. Especially given the market that the Baker deal set.