The deal contains a major league invite to spring training for Baker and will pay the right-hander $1 million in guaranteed money if he makes the Mariners' major league roster. Per Cotillo's report, Baker's contract also includes potential bonus and incentive clauses that could be worth an extra $3.25 million, meaning the oft-injured starter can make up to $4.25 million if he stays healthy and pitches effectively for Seattle.
Prior to undergoing Tommy John surgery in April 2012, Baker was a solid, mid-rotation starter for the Minnesota Twins. From 2005 to 2011 in Minnesota, Baker compiled a 4.15 ERA, striking out more than three times as many hitters as he walked over a span of seven major league seasons. In 2011, before injuring his elbow, Baker finished with a 3.14 ERA for the Twins in 134.2 innings pitched.
Arm injuries have derailed Baker's career, however, as the 32-year-old missed all of the 2012 campaign after undergoing Tommy John surgery early in the season. Last winter, the Cubs took a chance on Baker, signing him to a one-year, $5.5 million contract in hopes he could make a full recovery from surgery.
Repeated setbacks during the rehab process held Baker to just three September starts in 2013, though, with the right-hander posting a 3.60 ERA and six strikeouts in 15 September innings.
If Baker can finally remain healthy in 2014, he could prove a shrewd, low-cost signing for the Mariners, who already have Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, and Erasmo Ramirez to lead the front of their rotation. Baker will enter spring training with an opportunity to compete with youngsters Taijuan Walker, James Paxton, and Brandon Maurer for Seattle's final two spots in the rotation. Baker could give Seattle the flexibility to send either Walker, Paxton, or Maurer down to Triple-A for a little more seasoning if they so choose.
Either way, a potentially healthy Baker gives the Mariners more options and depth in their starting rotation, something that could prove critical as they try to compete in a loaded AL West. Ultimately, Baker is the type of low-risk, high-reward signing that might aid the Mariners in their quest to contend once again in the American League.