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If that sounds shrewd, it’s continuing a trend. Lewis has been outpacing the relatively meager sums the Rangers have been paying him since they signed him when he returned from Japan. In the three years since, he has thrown 500 innings for them with a 3.93 ERA. He was scheduled to be a free agent in a couple of months, his chance to make really big money.
That changed back in July. Lewis came out of game with pain in his forearm. A few days later he was diagnosed with a torn flexor tendon which was going to cause him to miss the rest of the season. While he should be OK to begin next season, it was unlikely any team was going to offer him the big multi-year deal his recent performance deserved. They would want a shorter, incentive-laden deal to make sure they weren’t burned. But Texas beat them to that punch, signing Lewis to a $2M deal with the chance to make $4M in incentives.
The Twins could face a similar opportunity with one of their own pitchers. Scott Baker is coming back from Tommy John surgery he had in April. He might be ready for the beginning of the year, or soon thereafter, though he’ll likely face an inning limit at some point next year. This offseason, he’ll also be looking for a deal like Lewis was – short, incentive-based, and looking to rebuild interest in his considerable talent.
The Twins could offer him that right now, a month before any other team can consider it. A deal similar to that signed by Lewis would keep Baker in the organization during his rehab, give the Twins some cost certainty about the price of their rotation and cross off one more spot they need to fill on the free agent market.
However, a Twins-Baker contract would need one additional aspect: a team option on 2014. It could be a fairly expensive option – perhaps $8M – so both Baker and the team feel like they would reap the rewards of a successful recovery. I don’t know if either side is exploring this kind of a deal, but it makes a lot of sense to a pitcher that needs a team and a team that needs pitching.
And Jim also reports that the Twins Class A affiliate is moving from Beloit to Cedar Rapids next year. Start making travel plans now. (You can visit the place Field of Dreams was filmed on your way there.)
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