Scott Baker expected to join Cubs rotation in mid-April

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Gordon Wittenmyer, who serves as a beat writer for the Chicago Sun-Times, explains this situation:

Cubs manager Dale Sveum said he anticipates right-hander Scott Baker getting his first spring start sometime in the middle of March, then opening the season on the disabled list and – barring setback – making his Cubs debut sometime in mid-April.

Baker underwent Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery on April 17 of last season, so he’ll be a full 12 months removed from the procedure when he first takes the mound for Chicago.

The 31-year-old right-hander signed a one-year, $5.5 million free agent contract with the Cubs in November and could become trade bait around this year’s July 31 deadline if he can get back on track quickly.

Baker had a 3.14 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and 123/32 K/BB ratio in 134 2/3 innings with the Twins in 2011.

J.D. Martinez tells teams he prefers an outfield role

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Free agent outfielder/slugger J.D. Martinez is reportedly seeking an outfield gig, says Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald. According to Silverman’s sources, Martinez’s suitors have been informed that the veteran slugger would give preference to teams that can offer a corner outfield spot, rather than a DH-only role.

That could spell trouble for the Red Sox, who appear to be Martinez’s biggest suitors so far this offseason. Outfielders Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi are firmly established at the corners, and prior reports from club president Dave Dombrowski suggest that center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. is not going anywhere anytime soon (thereby eliminating the possibility of reshuffling the outfield). The DH spot is still wide open for Martinez, who doesn’t seem to be totally closed off to the idea, but any full-time or part-time role on the field is likely off the table at this point.

Of course, the Red Sox aren’t the only ones pursuing Martinez’s services this winter. The 30-year-old slugger has been linked to both the Diamondbacks and Giants in weeks past, and while they have the roster flexibility to accommodate his preferences, they’ll need to clear another massive hurdle: the seven-year, $250 million contract he’s said to be seeking. Both clubs will need to get creative to make such a deal work. The Diamondbacks are rumored to be shopping right-hander Zack Greinke in an attempt to free up some room on their payroll for Martinez, while the Giants appear more inclined to scour the trade market for outfield help than shell out cash for another hefty contract in free agency.