Scott Baker has something to prove with Cubs

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Scott Baker has something to prove with Cubs

Updated: 8:30 p.m.

Scott Baker is on the long road back from Tommy John surgery. He believes he will be ready to go in spring training and part of the Opening Day rotation. Those are the mile markers in his mind.

Virtually every day is mapped out from here until the morning pitchers and catchers report to the Cubs complex in Arizona. Baker wasnt going to be told what to do in his rehab program he wanted to know the how and why. Being flipped at the trade deadline isnt a concern.

Thats kind of a far stretch, Baker said Tuesday at Wrigley Field. Well just have to see how things work out. First and foremost, I want to be healthy and productive. And I feel like that would be getting a little ahead of myself trying to think about contenders and all that.

The Cubs began to address their biggest offseason need with a low-risk, short-term commitment. It exactly fits the profile of what Theo Epsteins front office is trying to do this winter.

Baker will get 5.5 million with built-in incentives that could be worth an additional 1.5 million as well as the platform to prove himself again on the North Side. The 31-year-old right-hander had spent his entire career with the Minnesota Twins, going 63-48 with a 4.15 ERA and working almost exclusively as a starter.

This is the blueprint the Cubs used last winter with Paul Maholm, who was shut down late in the 2011 season with a shoulder issue. The veteran left-hander got 4.25 million, plus a 6.5 million club option for 2013.

Maholm (13-11, 3.67 ERA in 2012) had only pitched for the Pittsburgh Pirates and benefitted from a change of scenery, embracing the game plans designed by manager Dale Sveum, pitching coach Chris Bosio and their staff.

Maholm wound up getting traded to the Atlanta Braves in a deadline deal involving Arodys Vizcaino, whos recovering from Tommy John surgery and could be a factor in the Cubs rotation at some point in 2013.

Baker doesnt think hes Maholm 2.0, and Epstein allowed for the possibility of an extension, that hes more than a four-month rental.

If we catch some breaks and Scott manages to stay healthy, Epstein said, were going to look up and hell have outpitched some guys who signed for a lot more money than he did. I think theres a chance that Scott likes it here in Chicago, and we like what we have in him and we can talk about making this a longer-term relationship at a point down the road.

Baker went 8-6 with a 3.14 ERA in 2011, but missed last season while recovering from the Tommy John procedure and rehabbing his right elbow. He has posted 770 strikeouts against 224 walks in 958 innings in the big leagues.

Epstein thinks Baker can take his career to the next level here. Baker can use the advanced scouting the same way Maholm and Ryan Dempster did last season, when they became two of the hottest pitchers in baseball.

Scott Baker is a pitch-maker, Epstein said. Hes somebody that can go out and execute a game plan against the best lineups. When hes commanding and healthy, hell have a lot of success in this division.

For his part, Baker took a leap of faith. He said he didnt have any existing relationships with anyone in the clubhouse, the front office or on the coaching staff that helped convince him to sign here. He wasnt scared away by the rebuilding project after a season in which the Cubs lost 101 games.

That doesnt necessarily concern me, Baker said. With the new front office, were going to put a good product on the field and give us a chance to win some ballgames. Being in an organization like this, there are obviously a lot of expectations. I can guarantee you that everybody they put out there is going to be giving it everything they got.

As long as theyre healthy

I have every intention of being a competitive pitcher next year, right away, Baker said.

MLB releases postseason shares for Cubs

MLB releases postseason shares for Cubs

The Cubs' postseason shares were released Tuesday afternoon amid the craziness of the White Sox-Red Sox Chris Sale deal.

Fresh off a World Series win, the Cubs handed out 66 full playoff shares, worth $368,871.59 each. The organization also dealt 8.7 partial shares and four cash awards.

As champs, the Cubs received a share of $27,586,017.75 of the players' pool, which is formed from 50 percent of the gate receipts from the American League and National League wild card games and then 60 percent of the gate receipts from the first three games of the Division Series, the first four contests of the League Championship Series and first four games of the World Series.

[SHOP CUBS: Get your World Series champions gear right here]

The 2016 players' pool set a new record at $76,627,827.09, up from the 2015 total of just under $70 million.

2015 champion Kansas City Royals received share amounts of just over $370,000 last season, split into 58 shares.

The Cleveland Indians received more than $18 million from the 2016 players pool.

The Los Angeles Dodgers and Toronto Blue Jays — runners up in the LCS — tallied more than $9 million from the players' pool.

Why Greg Holland would make sense as next Cubs closer

Why Greg Holland would make sense as next Cubs closer

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. – Why would the Cubs give up young talent to get Wade Davis when they could just sign the other closer who helped transform the Kansas City Royals into World Series champions?

That question frames how the Cubs are looking at their closer situation during the winter meetings, with industry sources saying Greg Holland remains a free-agent target and on track to be ready for Opening Day 2017.

At that point, Holland will be 18 months out from Tommy John surgery, an injury that allowed Davis to take over as closer during Kansas City’s playoff run in 2015. Davis maximized that opportunity, putting up a 0.00 ERA and 18 strikeouts in 10.2 postseason innings. Davis earned his second All-Star selection this year while Holland rehabbed his right elbow.

But the Royals can see their window to contend closing, with Davis, first baseman Eric Hosmer, third baseman Mike Moustakas, shortstop Alcides Escobar, outfielders Lorenzo Cain and Jarrod Dyson and left-hander Danny Duffy all positioned to become free agents after the 2017 season.

Holland had been a big part of that core, a homegrown Royal who saved 145 games between 2011 and 2015, made two All-Star teams and showed up twice in the American League MVP voting.

When Kansas City made it all the way to Game 7 of the 2014 World Series, Holland notched seven saves and posted a 0.82 ERA during those four playoff rounds.

[SHOP CUBS: Get your World Series champions gear right here]

The Boston Red Sox are no longer in the mix for Holland, a team source said after filling that late-inning need with Tuesday’s Tyler Thornburg trade with the Milwaukee Brewers, a deal that got blown away by the Chris Sale blockbuster

Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer predicted the White Sox would be the Chicago team making the big headlines here at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center outside Washington, D.C., downplaying the possibility of making a huge splash.

The Cubs have checked in with Kenley Jansen’s camp, industry sources said, and signaled that they have no interest in bringing back Aroldis Chapman. The Los Angeles Dodgers – and essentially all of the teams involved in the Jansen/Chapman discussions – are also particularly intrigued by Holland, according to Jon Heyman of MLB Network and FanRag Sports.

The San Francisco Giants already handed Mark Melancon the biggest contract ever for a closer, though Jansen and Chapman could both get deals longer than four years and will shatter that $62 million record.

If Davis will cost, say, Jorge Soler plus $10 million in salary, then the Cubs could decide to invest in Holland’s upside and use the Cuban outfielder in a different trade for pitching.

Hector Rondon and Pedro Strop almost disappeared during the playoffs, but the Cubs think that can be largely written off as late-season injuries and issues of timing and sharpness. The Cubs believe in Carl Edwards Jr., but still had to carefully manage his innings and appearances during his rookie season.   

Whether or not Holland is the ultimate answer, the Cubs plan to give manager Joe Maddon some shiny new toys for the bullpen.