After discussing a contract for the the entirety of the current offseason and coming to the brink of an arbitration hearing, the Cincinnati Reds and Homer Bailey have come to an agreement on a six-year, $100 million deal. This contract will take Bailey through five years of free agency and represent a level of overpayment on the part of the Reds that will come back to haunt the organization for years to come.
Over the last two seasons Bailey has had a bit of a breakout from the inconsistency that marked his first few years in the major leagues. He has thrown more than 200 innings each year and put up ERAs of 3.68 and 3.49. While these numbers are solid middle of the rotation output, they do not overwhelm the eye and neither does a combined record of 24-22 in 2012 and 2013. In terms of output over the last couple years, it is obvious that Bailey has what it takes to pitch at the MLB level, but his place at 43rd in the majors in WAR in 2013 is indicative of the fact that he isn’t anything special.
At 27 years of age Bailey should have four to six more years similar to the last two if granted good health, and his electric mix of power pitches would make him an enticing player on the free agent market he was due to hit after the 2014 season. But the fact that he has had issues with shoulder inflammation in the past, has only thrown more than 200 innings twice at the major league level and has a career record of 49-45 with a 4.25 ERA would leave general managers thinking twice before signing him. In fact, his output seems eerily similar to that of Carl Pavano and A.J. Burnett before they signed big deals with the New York Yankees — deals that didn’t exactly work out.
Two guys who signed over the last offseason that look similar to Bailey in terms of having great stuff, being a bit inconsistent during their careers and being relatively young were Matt Garza and Ubaldo Jimenez. Both of these pitchers struggled to find work throughout the offseason and ultimately ended up with identical four year, $48 million deals. Why the Reds didn’t use this as a template for a deal with Bailey is a wonder, especially considering they would have only had to pay him $11.6 million if they lost the arbitration case had talks fallen apart this offseason.
Overpaying for Bailey now will not only look bad by itself in the future, but it will hurt the Reds in their attempts to sign Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos and Aroldis Chapman, who all need new deals in the next couple years. After accounting for Bailey’s average annual salary, the Reds have $85.36 million tied up in nine players for the 2015 season and $63.71 million in four players for 2015, meaning they will have to cut ties with some good players along the way.
For a team that has designs of maintaining their renaissance of recent years to become a perennial threat in the National League Central for years to come, it is foolish that Bailey will be taking up $16.667 million per year for the next six years. This is especially true considering he has never made an All-Star Game or even been a contender for the Cy Young Award, and this deal will ultimately end up being a boon for the Bailey’s bank account and a franchise killer for the Reds.