Right about the same time that Jon Lester got his recent deal from the Red Sox, Scott Baker signed a four year, $15.25 million extension with a $9.25 million team option for a fifth year. Like Lester, Baker is entering his final year of team control so it sets us up nicely for a direct comparison between the two.
Both pitchers receive similar playing time estimates, around 160-165 innings pitched, though there’s reason to believe that Lester could beat that given his 210 innings last season. Of course, that also comes with the risk of a young pitcher who took a big jump in innings will increase his odds at injury. Overall, I think the risk and reward balance out enough to call it a push.
Baker’s performance projections are remarkably consistent, ranging from 3.97 to 4.01 FIP among CHONE, Marcel and ZiPS. Lester is right around the same marks with a low of 3.95 and a high of 4.17 from the same three systems. Baker looks to have a slight (emphasis on slight) edge on projected performance, though again, there’s good reason to think the systems are undervaluing Lester based on his record before 2008.
That projection for Baker results in about a three-win player going forward, meaning that the Twins are paying less than $3 million per win going by the 40/60/80 arbitration award scheme. Even if the option ends up being exercised, the overall value only rises a bit.
Adding in Baker’s option to his contract to bring it up to the same time frame as Lester’s guaranteed years leaves Baker with $24.5 million compared to Lester’s $30 million. While I find the Lester contract to be pretty even for both sides, leaning a bit toward Boston’s favor but with a lot of possible variance. Baker looks like a more stable quantity, and a pretty good deal for the Twins.