The Reds spoke with Homer Bailey's representatives before the holidays about a new long-term contract for the right-hander, MLB.com's Mark Sheldon reports. This isn't the first time the club has explored locking up Bailey, as the two sides reportedly discussed an extension last winter before settling on a one-year, $5.35MM contract to avoid arbitration.
Reds general manager Walt Jocketty told Sheldon that Bailey is the only one of Cincinnati's six arbitration-eligible players who is currently being considered for a long-term deal. Unsurprisingly, Jocketty sees Bailey as "probably the one guy that's going to be the most difficult [to sign] because of how well he's done and where he's at in this service class. Young pitchers are getting quite a bit."
"At this point, we really haven't discussed anybody but Homer to sign long term. Homer is the only one we've pursued, but we've had internal discussions on the other guys. We just have to see how it all fits in, financially."
Bailey is arb-eligible for the third and final time this winter, and MLBTR's Matt Swartz projects that Bailey will earn $9.3MM through the arbitration process. Another strong reason for Bailey would almost surely net him a $100MM contract in free agency next offseason, and the mid-market Reds would be hard-pressed outbid richer clubs for Bailey's services on the open market. Even locking him up now would be an expensive proposition for the Reds — MLBTR's Tim Dierkes opined that it might take more than a five-year, $85MM deal to keep Bailey in the fold since he's so close to free agency.
If the Reds can't extend Bailey this offseason, they could explore a trade, though Jocketty has said that the team wants to keep Bailey in order to help them contend in 2014. I'd guess it would also be difficult for Jocketty to find fair value for Bailey in a trade considering a suitor would only have him for one season. Since Bailey would net Cincinnati a first-round compensation pick (for turning down a qualifying offer) if he signed elsewhere in the offseason, the Reds would likely only be motivated to move the righty if they could obtain something of greater value than a first-round pick.
Of the other arbitration cases, Leake and Chapman stand out as the only possible candidates for a long-term deal. Leake, picked eighth overall in the 2009 draft, has become a solid part of the rotation in his own right, with a 3.99 ERA and 677 1/3 IP over his first four seasons. This is Leake's second year of arb-eligibility and Swartz projects him to earn $5.9MM. Chapman is projected by Swartz to earn $4.6MM through his first year of arbitration eligibility (on top of the $3MM he earns from his original contract). It's probably unlikely that the Reds would look to make a long financial commitment to a closer, especially since the chance still exists that Chapman could be moved into the rotation.