Looking back on the 2013 Reds, their biggest strength was obviously the pitching. As I’ve heard many times throughout the last calendar year, the Reds have that hard to come by World Series caliber pitching. Led by pitching coach and recently promoted to manager Bryan Price, the Reds led the National League in Strikeouts (1296) and were 4th in ERA (3.38). Delving deeper into the pitching statistics, the Reds rotation led the National League with an average of 6.2 innings pitched per starter and combined for a 4th best 3.64ERA. One of the biggest reasons for that was Homer Bailey.
After years and years of waiting on Homer to live up to his first round hype, the last 2 seasons have been what everyone had expected. After a dazzling 2012 in which he went 13-10, 3.68ERA, 168K’s in 208 IP, Bailey followed that up with 11-12, 3.48ERA, 199K’s in 209 IP in 2013. Probably the most interesting things about Homer’s progress is the fact that he has lowered his ERA & WHIP every year for the past 5 years, which no other qualified starter can say. He also became baseball’s first pitcher since Nolan Ryan in 1974/1975 to throw baseball’s last 2 no-hitters, Sept. 28th, 2012 and July 2nd, 2013.
Homer Bailey is an integral part of the 2014 Reds rotation because he and Mat Latos are the only starters who’ve passed the 200 innings threshold more than once in their careers on the staff with the all likelihood of Bronson Arroyo‘s impending free agency departure. Opening Day starter Johnny Cueto threw exactly 217 innings in 2012 but he was unreliable with his oft-injured 2013 contributing only 60.2 innings. This particular Reds team cannot afford to lose 400 innings going into 2014 as Arroyo and Bailey combined for 411 in 2013. Latos and Bailey are being counted on to be the backbone of the 2014 rotation.
Last year going into arbitration, Bailey filed for $5.8 Million while the Reds countered with $4.75 Million. They eventually avoided arbitration and came to an agreement on a one-year, $5.35 million deal. Most estimates are that Bailey will receive between $9-$10 Million in 2014 through arbitration, and or arbitration negotiations. After two back-2-back healthy seasons with production that would be very hard to replace, the Reds may be looking to sign Homer to a long term extension.
Why you may ask? Contrary to reports saying Homer isn’t interested in signing long term with the Reds, as early as January before his last arbitration hearing, he was open to a long-term deal. Ironically, the same media recently wrote that it wouldn’t be shocking if the Reds looked to move Bailey to add more talent and free up payroll space. This is pure speculation and doesn’t help the cause. The biggest factor to believe in the Reds ability to retain Homer is his relationship with new manager Bryan Price.
“Bryan is a great communicator — In communication, there’s two parts — give and take. He’s probably one of the very, very best at that. Another thing about him — I wish more people in this world were like this — but he sees the problem and he addresses the problem. There’s not a whole lot of guessing. He’s very hard-working.” ~ Homer Bailey
When you look at Bailey’s success at the big league level and figure out it coincided with the arrival of Price as pitching coach, plus include all of the national news about Bailey’s maturation as a pitcher being accredited to Price, even Homer has to look at his future in the big leagues on where he knows he can succeed. You can bet that Price’s relationship and success with the pitching staff was one of the underlying factors in his promotion to manager. This could very well lead to pitchers wanting to build their careers with the Reds.
Sure, the Reds can play the safe route and avoid arbitration one more year with Homer, and hope that another year of success will make him even more eager to sign long term with the team. But, with Price’s hire this is the off-season in which a Homer Bailey long-term extension is most attainable. The best comparable out there is probably Jered Weaver‘s 5-year, $85 Million extension he signed with the Angels in the middle of the 2011 season. Yes, that’s $17 Million a year. Yes, I know the Reds have Joey Votto signed to a contract that starts paying him $20+ Million a year in 2016 and $25 Million per year starting in 2018. Yes, I know Mat Latos is due to be a free agent after 2015. All great points, but as I stated earlier Bailey is an integral part of the Reds rotation and when they set record attendance and after that new TV deal kicks in, the Reds have to try and keep the core together through their primes. Realistically I see Homer and the Reds getting creative by agreeing to a contract that averages about $15 Million per season over 5 years through 2018. What’s the point in developing talent and not keeping it?