Watching Homer Bailey pitch in his first three starts of the 2014 season is a flashback to an earlier time in his career with the Cincinnati Reds when Bailey lacked focus on the mound, command of his pitches, and overall success.
The regression has to make the fans of Reds’ Country wonder if Reds’ ownership has picked the wrong pitcher to extend with a six-year, $105-million contract, especially since staff ace Johnny Cueto is eligible for free agency after the 2015 season.
Cueto was plagued by injury in 2013, but the Reds’ ace held the second-lowest ERA (2.61) of all starting pitchers heading into the 2014 season who threw at least 400 innings between 2011 and 2013. Cueto’s injury status may have given the Reds a chance to extend Cueto for money comparable to that received by Bailey.
However, Cueto’s value will now likely climb from start-to-start if he can remain healthy. In his first three starts of 2014, the 28-year-old Cueto has given up a total of five earned runs for a 2.14 ERA, whereas Bailey coughed up five earned in his last start alone and has an 8.16 ERA after his first three starts of this season.
Bailey still has plenty of time to live up to the cost of his contract and right his 2014 season. He is just 27 years old, and has shown improvement each year of a big league career that includes two no-hitters.
If the bad starts continue to pile up for Bailey, the wisdom of signing him to a long-term deal may loom debatable as the season progresses, especially if Cueto completely returns to dominant form.