By Bob Dutton The News Tribune
Does right-hander Scott Baker, nearly two years removed from Tommy John surgery, solve the Seattle Mariners’ search for a veteran starting pitcher to slot in the middle of their rotation?
“He’s been a successful major-league pitcher,” general manager Jack Zduriencik said. “He had a run there where he was pretty good. Coming off the injury, you’re hoping that he has a bounce-back year.
“We’re going to give him every opportunity to come in and make the ballclub.”
The Mariners reached agreement Wednesday with Baker, 32, on a minor-league deal that includes an invitation to big-league camp. He gets $1 million if he makes the big-league roster.
Performance bonuses could add another $3.25 million to Baker’s salary.
The Mariners also traded outfielder Carlos Peguero to Kansas City for a player to be named later or cash considerations. He was designated for assignment Jan. 16 to clear roster space for catcher John Buck.
Baker was 63-48 with a 4.14 ERA in 166 games for Minnesota from 2005-11 before missing the 2012 season after undergoing elbow surgery. He pitched 442/3 innings last season in the Cubs’ organization.
“He’s still relatively young,” Zduriencik said, “but he’s got experience. He says he’s healthy. He passed his physical. So here we go.”
The Mariners are still looking to add a right-handed power bat and a proven reliever as they prepare for spring training, which begins Feb. 12 when pitchers and catchers report for camp in Peoria, Ariz.
Reports continue to link the club to two free agents, outfielder Nelson Cruz and reliever Fernando Rodney, among others.
“We have interest in anybody we think can help us,” Zduriencik said. “On any player, it (depends) on what it costs to obtain that player. That’s always the factor, and it would be the factor in any decision as we move forward.”
Baker was a control pitcher with a six-pitch arsenal prior to his injury.
He averaged 2.1 walks per nine innings over 166 career games in eight big-league seasons while throwing three types of fastballs (two-seam, four-seam and cut) along with a slider, curveball and change-up.
The Mariners sought a veteran starter to fill the No. 3 slot in their rotation behind Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma. Rookies Taijuan Walker, James Paxton and others are expected to compete for the other two spots.
Peguero spent most of last season at Class AAA Tacoma, where he batted .260 with 19 homers and 83 RBI in 118 games. He appeared in 65 big-league games (batting .195 with nine homers and 27 RBI from 2011-13.