It’s taken some time, but former seventh-overall pick Homer Bailey has finally shaken the “bust” tag that’s followed him since he first came up to the bigs in 2007.
Now, it looks as though a big-league payday could be on his way.
The 26-year old right hander is one of the Cincinnati Reds‘ six remaining arbitration-eligible players headed into the 2013 season, and that he’s coming off his best statistical year – 208 IP, 3.68 ERA/1.25 WHIP, 2.8 fWAR – means that he’ll have more leverage in getting a raise from the bargain $2.42 million that he made last season.
While neither the team nor the player want to end up in arbitration, the Reds are looking to go one further, and lock down Bailey’s final arbitration years (and beyond) with a long term contract. GM Walt Jocketty has alluded to as much earlier this month, suggesting that the team would like to sign both Bailey and fellow pitcher Mat Latos to a long-term deal.
Bailey has said that he hasn’t heard anything from the team in regards to that, but that he would be open to such a deal if it were brought up.
That said, what would be a reasonable number in a long-term deal for Bailey?
Though he has seemingly been around forever, Bailey will only be 27-years old in May, and could be eligible for free agency in the middle of his prime 2015. Any long-term deal that benefits the Reds should look to buy out his age-29 and age-30 seasons, at the minimum. That means a four-year commitment to a pitcher who has thrown just 200 big league innings in a season just once. At just 644 innings pitched in the bigs, Bailey’s arm has not seen significant wear for his age, which should be a boon to the prospects of him handing that kind of workload going forward.
If Bailey continues on this path and hits free agency as a 2.8 fWAR pitcher, he should be able to command a three/four-year contract not too different from the one that Edwin Jackson got from the Chicago Cubs this winter, albeit at a slightly lesser rate. A $8-10 million per year salary may be in Bailey’s future in a couple of years, so if the Reds were to try to lock him up now, one would have to imagine that it’d have to be at least a four-year deal worth at least $24 million.
A deal like that will be similar to the one that the Reds gave Johnny Cueto ahead of his 2011 season (where he was also coming off a 2.8 fWAR year). That deal has seen excess value so far, with Cueto blossoming into one of the best pitchers in the NL this past season at a relatively cheap rate for the team.
Bailey could be on the verge of a similar breakout in 2013, and though long-term deals with pitchers always come with their fair share of risks, the Reds stand to have a pretty good chance of coming out looking pretty good on a long-term deal with the 26-year old.