John Baker was limited to just 23 games last season due to right forearm and elbow injuries and eventually underwent Tommy John surgery in September. Position players can usually bounce back from surgery more quickly than pitchers, but because Baker is a catcher, the Marlins aren’t going to push him too soon.
With that in mind, Marlins president Larry Beinfest said earlier this month that he would like Baker to be a left-handed bat off the bench until he is ready to catch. Baker told Joe Frisaro of MLB.com today that he’s on board with the idea.
“In regards to being the lefty bat off the bench, I am all for it,” said Baker, who is doing his rehab work at his home in Northern California. “I just want to contribute to a winning team. I have a great example set by Wes Helms, and I will follow his lead throughout Spring Training and during the season. I am excited for the challenge of a new role.”
While Baker has only 108 plate appearances against southpaws in the big leagues, he has a .287/.368/.423 batting line and a 790 OPS against right-handed pitching. If healthy, he could outproduce the other current in-house candidates and available free agents.
Baker told Frisaro that he is currently hitting 75 flip tosses four times a week and plans to embark on a three-month throwing program in early January. Barring any setbacks, he expects to be ready for the start of the 2011 season.
Yankees starter Luis Severino and Phillies starter Aaron Nola both signed contract extensions within the last week. Severino agreed to a four-year, $40 million contract with a 2023 club option. Nola inked a four-year, $45 million deal with a 2023 club option.
While the deals both represented significant raises and longer-term financial security for the right-handed duo, some feel like the players are selling themselves short. It has become a more common practice for players to agree to these types of deals in part due to how stagnant free agency has become. Get the money while you can.
Mets starter Noah Syndergaard is in a similar situation as Severino and Nola were. He and the Mets avoided arbitration last month, agreeing on a $6 million salary for the 2019 season. He has two more years of arbitration eligibility left. A contract extension with the Mets would presumably cover both of those years plus two or three years of what would be free agent years. As Tim Britton of The Athletic reports, however, Syndergaard plans to test free agency when the time comes.
Syndergaard said, “I trust my ability and the talent that I have. So I feel like I’m going to bet (on) myself in free agency and not do what they did. But if it’s fair for both sides and they approach me on it, then maybe we can talk.” He clarified that he would be open to a conversation about an extension, but the Mets thus far haven’t approached him about it. In his words, “There’s been no traction.”
Syndergaard, 26, has been one of baseball’s better starters since debuting in 2015. He owns a career 2.93 ERA with 573 strikeouts and 116 walks in 518 1/3 innings. Among pitchers to have logged at least 400 innings since 2015 and post a lower ERA are Clayton Kershaw (2.22), Jacob deGrom (2.66) and Max Scherzer (2.71). Syndergaard made only seven starts in 2017 yet still ranks seventh among pitchers in total strikeouts since 2015.
If Sydergaard doesn’t end up signing an extension, he will be entering free agency after the 2021 season. The collective bargaining agreement expires in December 2021 and a new one will likely be agreed upon around that time. Syndergaard will hopefully have better prospects entering free agency then than players do now.