The Cincinnati Reds sent a shockwave through the baseball world this offseason with a six-year, $105-million contract extension for starting pitcher Homer Bailey. The big-money deal will most likely restrict the small-market Reds from inking extensions with three other starters, Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos and Mike Leake,before all three leave the Reds after the 2015 season via free agency.
So why not send another shockwave with another blockbuster deal for lefty Tony Cingrani, who has shown in his brief career as a Reds starter that he can dominate as well as any in a rotation filled with dominating starters?
The Reds pulled a similar move with Cueto in 2011 when he was entering his first year of salary arbitration eligibility. The four-year, $27-million extension that Cueto signed before the 2011 season not only avoided the salary arbitration process for both the Reds and Cueto, but also included a fifth year that will keep the Reds’ ace in the rotation in 2015 for a mere $10 million.
Cingrani’s case is different from Cueto’s in that Cingrani most likely won’t enter his first year of arbitration eligibility until 2017, so the temptation will be there for the Reds to just wait and see with Cingrani while continuing to pay him a meager rookie salary for this year and the next two seasons.
But if the exorbitant salaries that arbitration-eligible starting pitchers are now receiving continues, the Reds may avert huge payouts for Cingrani from 2017 through 2019. They would also avoid losing him immediately to free agency in 2020.
The Reds bought out two years of Cueto’s free agency with his extension in 2011. An extension with Cingrani may be feasible to also buy out the first two years of Cingrani’s eventual free agency years. The Reds would take the risk that Cingrani won’t be injured or completely implode, and in return Cingrani would accept that he could make more money if he waited for a big payday.
An eight-year, $45-million extension should do the trick for both the Reds and Cingrani.