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Can The Twins Afford Scott Baker?

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The news that Scott Baker is injuredÖ.
Geek Chorus: Hold it Ė NEWS? Is that really news? At this point, wouldnít it be news if Baker got out of spring training completely healthy? Isnít ďScott Baker is injured in spring trainingĒ the status quo? Nobody says itís news when itís 70 & sunny in San Diego. Itís only news here because itís March and Minnesota.

Touchť. Anyway, with Baker taking those first critical steps to yet another underachieving and frustrating season, I wondered about a debate that Aaron Gleeman and I have been having on the Gleeman and the Geek podcasts: will Scott Baker be with the Twins next year?

Letís set the stage. Of the five Twins probable starting pitchers, three will be free agents at the end of the season: Carl Pavano, Francisco Liriano and Jason Marquis. Scott Baker could be the fourth, but the Twins have a $9.5 million option for him. I canít imagine him making that much per year on the free agent market if he has another year anything like his last three.

On the other hand, there is (almost) no such thing as a bad one-year contract. He still has promise. And itís not like the Twins have a bunch of young arms in the high minors for which theyíre anxious to find a role. They might like a little stability, even if it means overpaying for Baker.

The question is: could they afford to overpay for Baker? To figure that out, one needs to take a look at what the roster might look like in 2013 and do a little back-of-the-napkin calculating, which youíll find on the right.

Can the Twins afford to pick up Baker's option? The short answer is: yes, probably.

As things sit right now, the Twins would have $30 million to spend on four starting pitchers. Presumably, one of those is going to be prospect Liam Hendricks, who might very well take over Baker's spot in the rotation if he's out for any length of time. And heíll make less than $500,000.

The Twins aren't likely to drop $30 million on the three remaining starting pitcher spots, because pitchers who cost $10 million per year tend to only be available on longer multi-year contracts which the Twins avoid. The exception, of course, would be Baker and his option year.

So even if Baker has yet one more substandard year, he could be in line for that extension. A mixture of need, promise, likeability and extra budget dollars means that Baker could be around in 2013.

We'll watch this season unfold before we pass judgment on should.

Other Notes
The Twins have two other decisions to make next year, too. First, Alexi Casilla, if he plays the full year, will probably be up for at least a $2 to $3 million salary. Just because they Twins seem to be focused on other options long-term, I didnít include him. I hope he has his breakthrough this year and Iím wrong about that.

The other is Matt Capps. The Twins have a $6 million option on Capps for next year. I think the Perkins extension indicates the Twins have plans for him to ultimately take over the closer role, which might finally and mercifully end the Twins obsession with Capps. But I've been wrong about that before.

The hottest Twins topic is who is going to make the Twins roster, and Jim Crikket posted a nice primer if you want to catch up on who your newest Twins might be. If you want to be a little more specific, or check in on your favorite dark horse, check out Thryloss' dashboard look at how each bench and bullpen arm has performed.

Seth, meanwhile, continues to take a look at how the Twins stack up against the rest of the AL Central at various positions. Surprisingly for a 99-loss team, they look awfully good. Of his latest two positions, I'd argue the Twins have the second best right-fielder in the bunch and the best center fielder. There just might be some hope after all....

Things are not so sunny in the Forum. First, we keep trying to put last year behind us, but it really is hard, especially for the morbidly curious. Plus, when we focus on the spring, we're reminded that Tsuyoshi Nishioka still looks lost out there. Just how are we going to keep him off the roster?
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