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Homer Bailey Rumors
Indians manager Terry Francona relates an entertaining story about contracts and signing bonuses that goes back two generations, via Terry Pluto of the Plain Dealer. Francona’s father, former big-league outfielder Tito, was trying to get a better deal from the Tigers in 1958, telling team GM John McHale he needed more money because his wife was pregnant. “That’s not my problem,” McHale responded. The baby, of course, was Terry, and McHale was president of the Expos 22 years later when they picked him in the first round of the 1980 draft. Tito acted as Terry’s agent and negotiated a $100K bonus. He then called McHale. “Remember when my wife was pregnant and I wanted a raise,” he said. “Well, that baby is Terry and he just cost you $100,000!” Here’s more from the Central divisions.
- The Reds have reinstated starter Homer Bailey (elbow) from the disabled list and optioned reliever Pedro Villarreal to Triple-A Louisville, C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer tweets. Bailey’s start against the Cardinals on Saturday will be his first since last August. Bailey pitched reasonably well in 2014 when he was available, and he’s in the second year of a $105MM contract, so the Reds will depend on him to be productive yet again.
- Cubs Triple-A infielder Chris Valaika is confident Kris Bryant will be successful in the big leagues, although he’s undoubtedly facing a new challenge, MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat writes. “Everything’s escalated, the media presence doesn’t go away, and the game is crisper — it’s the big leagues for a reason,” says Valaika. “Those guys are the best of the best. They find a weakness and they exploit it until you close that hole. He will make adjustments, they will find a new one, and he will close it again.”
Reds starter Homer Bailey will undergo surgery tomorrow on his right forearm to repair a flexor mass tendon tear, the club announced on Twitter. He is expected to be ready in time for the spring, according to a report from C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer, who says the injury has been deemed a similar but less-severe version of that which afflicted what recently-dealt reliever Jonathan Broxton.
Needless to say, this is not how the 28-year-old — and, even less so, his team — hoped to see this season end. Bailey inked a six-year, $105MM extension before the 2014 campaign, a significant investment for a mid-market club that has already locked up several core players and had to choose carefully in making commitments to its best arms.
After a rough start to 2014, Bailey had settled in and begun to produce at the level that was expected when he inked his new deal. On the year, he owns a 3.71 ERA with 7.7 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 to go with a career-best 50.6% groundball rate.
While any arm surgery is cause for concern for a pitcher, this particular injury and procedure do not appear to be as momentous as a UCL replacement. (If Bailey is expected to be prepared for the start of Spring Training, that would imply a recovery time of not more than six months.) Of course, forearm issues can be precursors to more serious injuries to the elbow and shoulder, so Cincinnati will surely handle its high-priced starter with care.
Here’s the latest out of the National League …
- The Reds are discussing the possibility of a surgical option for injured hurler Homer Bailey, as MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon writes. Bailey, playing out the first year of a six-year, $105MM extension, is dealing with a flexor mass tendon strain in his right forearm. It appears that a surgery would have a shorter recovery time than would, say, a UCL replacement, but manager Bryan Price emphasized that the decision would likely be made in relatively short order to avoid undue delay.
- Top Rockies prospect Jon Gray has been shut down after experiencing shoulder fatigue, Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post reports. An MRI came back clean, and Gray says that he has felt good in bullpen sessions, which certainly reduces concern. It seems, however, that Colorado is likely to hold their prized righty out of game action until next spring. Presumably, Gray — and fellow top young arm Eddie Butler — will have a chance to join the Rockies rotation early next year.
- Results on recent trades have not favored the Diamondbacks, writes Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic. Though most of the deals have not been disastrous, in Piecoro’s estimation, the failed Justin Upton swap has had lingering negative effects — and now looks worse than it did after the one-year mark. At present, the Braves have achieved an additional 5.3 rWAR and 7.3 fWAR from their end of the deal (Upton and Chris Johnson), as against the production of the since-traded Martin Prado and Randall Delgado, Zeke Spruill, and Nick Ahmed. As Piecoro notes, there is still some time for the tally to creep back in Arizona’s favor, particularly since prospects Brandon Drury and Peter O’Brien (the latter of whom was obtained for Prado) still could provide value.
The Reds had yet to place any of their starting pitchers on waivers as of Saturday morning, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports in his weekly “Full Count” video. As Rosenthal notes, their waiver status may be a moot point, as each would likely be claimed and subsequently pulled back. More highlights regarding the Reds and the rest of the league below…
- The real drama surrounding the Reds‘ rotation could come this offseason, as Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Mike Leake and Alfredo Simon will all be entering their final year of team control. The Reds will have to decide which, if any, they want to sign to a long-term deal, and Rosenthal notes that they will likely trade “at least” one. Latos is perhaps the likeliest candidate to be dealt, according to Rosenthal, who notes that both Latos and Cueto would command more than Homer Bailey‘s six-year, $105MM contract.
- Rusney Castillo‘s six-year, $72.5MM contract with the Red Sox might not stand as the largest deal for a Cuban free agent very long. Yasmani Tomas is expected to be cleared as a free agent this offseason, and his huge raw power will be highly appealing, even if he is limited to left field, defensively speaking. As Rosenthal points out, Tomas is four years younger than Castillo and is against a crop of weak free agent bats. One executive that spoke with Rosenthal said the only flaw he sees in Castillo is his propensity to swing and miss.
- Rosenthal points back to a report of his prior to the trade deadline in which he had learned that the Nationals were looking for a young shortstop on the trade market. He’s now learned that Didi Gregorius of the Diamondbacks was one of their targets. Washington had planned on playing Gregorius at second base in the near-term and moving him back over to shortstop if Ian Desmond could not be retained. Of course, the club still wants to extend Desmond, who is a free agent following the 2015 season.
Originally recalled for a two-day period with Darwin Barney on paternity leave, Cubs second baseman Arismendy Alcantara has been informed that he will be with the team at least through the All-Star break, reports Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. Alcantara, who ranked 33rd on Baseball America’s midseason list of the game’s Top 50 prospects, says he was surprised by the news. Manager Rick Renteria offered praise for the 22-year-old, who collected his first four Major League hits in today’s contest.
Here’s more from the game’s Central divisions…
- Reds right-hander Homer Bailey left today’s game after five innings due to a slight strain in his right knee, but he won’t see his name added to the list of significant injuries that have stricken contending teams today. The Reds have announced that he is expected to make his next start.
- Twins GM Terry Ryan tells Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press that he’s glad to see Vance Worley performing well with the Pirates, though he did imply that it’s too early to say that the Twins gave up on Worley too soon: “Give him a little time to see what he does over the course of starts. We’ll talk about that in October. See how it goes. I know he’s done well.”
- The Indians are hopeful that Justin Masterson‘s two weeks on the disabled list will not only give him a chance to heal, but to help him get his mechanics back in line, reports MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian. Pitching coach Mickey Callaway feels that Masterson’s knee has affected the way he’s been able to land during his delivery, which would explain the sharp decrease in velocity Masterson has seen this year.
- White Sox GM Rick Hahn would need to receive an offer that knocks his cell phone out of his hands in order to trade Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, Avisail Garcia or Jose Abreu, writes Scott Merkin of MLB.com. However, Hahn notes that oftentimes, a trade will come together when a rival club’s initial inquiry is on a player that is unavailable, as it leads to the suggestion of alternative options.
Homer Bailey‘s six-year, $105MM extension with the Reds has “shift[ed] perceptions in the market” and “ratcheted up … expectations” for players and their representatives, writes Buster Olney of ESPN.com. Bailey, of course, lacked a consistent track record of top-level production when he inked his new deal.
Indeed, as MLBTR’s Steve Adams wrote in the immediate aftermath of the signing, the Bailey deal does not fit the traditional parameters of high-end pitching contracts. Though Bailey had put up two quite productive seasons in a row — he had a cumulative 3.58 ERA in 417 innings over 2012-13 — his prior work was underwhelming and he had never carried ace-like numbers. Instead, Steve explained, the deal was a prime example of a club “betting on trends, skill-set, and age.”
For the rest of the market, however, the notion of comparable contracts — driven, in large part, by past performance — is still a powerful factor (at least in shaping demands and expectations). The reported $70MM offer made by the Red Sox to Jon Lester looked somewhat paltry by comparison to the Bailey contract. And Olney writes that the deal could play a key role in prompting the Cubs to trade away staff ace Jeff Samardzija, who will presumably look to match or top that kind of money. (Though the Cubs insist an extension is still in play, that seems increasingly unlikely; in either event, they probably know the price, which is only going up with the Bailey guarantee and Samardzija’s early season work.)
For his part, Bailey made clear in comments this week that he was quite cognizant of the broader market implications when putting pen to paper. As Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal reports, Bailey said that he was continuing a tradition of players maximizing their contracts to raise the bar for their contemporaries and successors. “Obviously the general public and media can say, ‘These guys are making a lot of money,’ but so are the owners,” Bailey said. “How do we divide the pie?” Interestingly, Bailey said that he waited until another player (pretty clearly, Justin Masterson) had finalized his arbitration situation before his own deal was announced, out of fear that the 2014 salary included in his extension would have a negative impact.
Ultimately, Bailey chose to stay in Cincinnati because that was the place he wanted to earn his big payday. But he made clear that, even for guys who truly want to stay with a franchise, cash is still the primary factor. “The grass may not always be greener on the other side, despite what the checkbook looks like,” he explained. “Money is obviously the biggest issue. There’s no doubt about that. But happiness — it doesn’t matter how much you’re making if, for six months out of the year, you’re on a last place team, you’re miserable.”
Homer Bailey‘s extension with the Reds could have a ripple effect within the NL Central, as Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times believes Bailey’s six-year, $105MM deal greatly exceeded a five-year extension offer the Cubs made to Jeff Samardzija. It has been widely speculated that Samardzija will be traded or leave in free agency rather than remain a Cub, though Bailey himself isn’t so sure. “I think the Cubs will spend money where they feel like it’s needed,” Bailey said. “And maybe it will be Samardzija. We don’t know that. The Cubs might be playing a bluff card. That’s part of going into a negotiation, too. There’s so many strategies.”
Here’s the latest from around the division…
- If the Pirates are really keeping Gregory Polanco at Triple-A to keep him from reaching Super Two status, it’s a lose-lose situation for all parties, Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes. Ownership could save money on Polanco’s future arbitration years, but Sawchik makes the point that those savings could cost the Bucs a playoff berth (and playoff revenue) this year since the Pirates need Polanco’s bat.
- Polanco’s Triple-A dominance could be hurting him in some respects, MLB.com’s Tom Singer opines, as the Pirates might be waiting to see how Polanco deals with adversity before calling him up to the Major League level.
- Polanco’s situation is detailed by ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick, and one scout had high praise for the young outfielder. Polanco was called “as close to the perfect player as you can get” and the scout described him as “Dave Parker with more speed, and Darryl Strawberry without the off-field baggage.”
- Unlike former teammate Matt Garza, David DeJesus didn’t necessarily feel relieved to be traded from the Cubs last summer, the outfielder tells CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney. DeJesus still has a house in the Chicago suburbs and enjoyed his time in Wrigleyville, but the Cubs’ continual moving of veterans could harm the club’s youth movement. “Young guys have to follow leadership. I followed Mike Sweeney,” DeJesus said. “You learn how to be a professional at that time. When they keep losing those guys, it’s going to be tougher. They’re going to have to grow up real quickly.”
Homer Bailey and the Reds have officially agreed to terms on a six-year, $105MM extension, including a $25MM mutual option with a $5MM buyout. Cincinnati will control the 27-year-old hurler through at least the 2019 campaign.
Bailey, a client of Excel Sports Management, successfully avoids arbitration by agreeing to the massive extension and also forgoes his first venture into free agency, which would have come at the end of the 2014 season. He had filed for an $11.6MM salary last month, while the Reds countered with an offer of $8.7MM. The two have been said to be working on a long-term deal for quite some time.
The former No. 7 overall draft pick back in 2004, Bailey has steadily improved over the past few seasons, culminating in a 2013 campaign that saw him post a 3.49 ERA with 8.6 K/9, 2.3 BB/9 and a 46.1 percent ground-ball rate in 209 innings. That marked the second consecutive season in which Bailey had posted a 200-inning campaign with an ERA well under 4.00 and a K/BB ratio of well over 3-to-1. It bears noting, also, that Bailey has thrown no-hitters in each of the last two seasons.
Bailey's deal accelerates throughout. He will receive $9MM and $10MM over the next two years, then see a significant bump to $18MM in 2016, $19MM in 2017, $21MM in 2018, and $23MM in 2019.
Notably, a significant portion of each year's annual salary will be deferred until the month of November, after the end of each season covered. Bailey's in-season salaries will be $3MM (2014), $4MM (2015), $11MM (2016), $12MM (2017), $14MM (2018), and $15MM (2019), with the remainder deferred to the fall of each year. Likewise, the $5MM buyout of the mutual option year is deferred until the following November, if it becomed payable. If Bailey is dealt, however, that aspect of the contract is swept away and he would receive all money during the appropriate season (or, in the case of the buyout, at the point that the option is declined).
Though the Reds are a small-market club with definite payroll restrictions, the team has spent aggressively in recent years to secure its talent. Cincinnati issued a franchise-record 10-year, $225MM extension to Joey Votto in April 2012 and locked up second baseman Brandon Phillips on a six-year, $72.5MM extension one week after that deal. With a salary in the range of $10MM likely had they avoided arbitration on a one-year deal, Bailey has essentially signed away five free-agent seasons for a total guarantee of $95MM — or $19MM annually.
Despite that spending, the deal calls into question whether or not the Reds will be able to retain the rest of its rotation. Bronson Arroyo has already departed via free agency, but the Reds are equipped to handle that loss for the time being (rookie Tony Cingrani will fill his spot). More pressing will be the contractual situations of Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos and Mike Leake — all of whom are under control through the 2015 season. Latos, in particular, would be costly to sign to a long-term deal, but it would seem difficult for the Reds to allow 60 percent of their rotation to walk in two years' time, even with Cingrani and top prospect Robert Stephenson on the horizon.
For the time being, Bailey will return to a strong Reds rotation that will also include Cueto, Latos, Leake and Cingrani. His extension weakens the 2014-15 free agent class, which is currently set to be headlined by Max Scherzer, James Shields, Justin Masterson and Jon Lester. It remains to be seen whether any of those names come off the board as well. Lester, in particular, appears to be a likely extension candidate, and both Scherzer and Masterson have been rumored to be in line for new deals as well. Bailey and Masterson are relatively close in age and are coming off of similarly valuable campaigns, making the former's extension a particularly relevant comparable for the Indians hurler.
The move is unquestionably the largest of the season for the Reds, who otherwise made a series of fairly small moves. Cincinnati traded Ryan Hanigan to the Rays in a three-team deal; inked free agents Brayan Pena, Skip Schumaker and Manny Parra to two-year deals; and also worked out a two-year extension for right-hander Sam LeCure. Most notably, however, are the departures of Arroyo and Shin-Soo Choo. GM Walt Jocketty, new manager Bryan Price and the rest of the Reds' brass are hopeful that Cingrani can fill Arroyo's shoes, and that top prospect Billy Hamilton can occupy center field and the leadoff position in the absence of Choo.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer's Paul Hoynes first reported that the parties were close to a six-year extension. MLB.com's Mark Sheldon was first to report that a deal was in place. Joe Kay of the Associated Press reported the annual breakdown.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Reactions among fans and MLBTR readers to the initial report of Homer Bailey nearing a six-year deal in the $100MM range seemed at best uncertain and negative at worst. The Reds and Bailey have since reportedly finalized a six-year, $105MM contract that includes a $25MM mutual option (or $5MM buyout) for a seventh season, and little seems to have changed.
The most common criticism I've noticed to this point is that Bailey's career numbers don't make him feel like a $100MM pitcher. However, Bailey's career, as a whole, has little to do with the dotted line on which his signature will find itself in the coming days. The Reds aren't paying Bailey to be the pitcher he was as a 21-year-old or even as a 24-year-old. Cincinnati is paying Bailey for his recent work and what they feel he can do from 2014 through 2019. Bailey's career 4.25 ERA shouldn't be a factor when we evaluate this deal from the outside, because it almost certainly wasn't a major factor when the Reds were deciding whether or not he was worth this price.
In making the deal, Cincinnati appears to be banking on Bailey continuing the improvement he's shown over each of the past two seasons. Dating back to 2011, Bailey has seen year-to-year improvement in his command, ground-ball rate, swinging-strike rate, velocity and out-of-zone pitches chased by hitters. The changes haven't necessarily manifested in his ERAs — though his 3.68 and 3.49 totals from the past two years are solid — but teams have already begun to demonstrate that they're willing to pay for things other than ERA. Given the volatile nature of that stat, it's no surprise to see clubs betting on trends, skill-set and age rather than the ultimate outcome.
For some context, Bailey's 10.7 percent swinging-strike rate in 2013 tied for 11th in the Majors among qualified starters. In fact, he trailed White Sox ace Chris Sale by just 0.01 percent in that field and induced grounders at nearly the same rate — 46.1 percent for Bailey and 46.6 percent for Sale. His 34.9 percent opponents' chase rate was tied for 10th in all of baseball with Hiroki Kuroda and Bailey's own teammate, Mat Latos. Bailey's average fastball velocity jumped from 92.2 mph in 2011 to 92.5 in 2012 and 94.1 in 2013. That 94.1 mph average was the seventh-highest in the Majors among qualified starters, and his velocity actually increased as the season wore on. The Reds probably aren't concerned with his ability to sustain that heat, as he averaged 94.4 mph over 113 innings in 2009 (Fangraphs' Jeff Sullivan took an extended look at Bailey's velocity spike earlier in the week).
Bailey hasn't been on the disabled list since 2011 and has topped 200 innings in each of the past two seasons as well. On top of displaying promising peripherals, he's demonstrated some durability. While that can change at a moment's notice, 200-plus innings will get a pitcher paid, and the Reds likely feel that Bailey's medicals give him a strong chance of staying healthy moving forward. Also of significance is Bailey's age; at 27 years old (28 in May), the Reds are buying more prime years than a team would typically receive in paying open-market prices for a pitcher. Starting pitchers that reach free agency are usually closer to 30 or 31 than Bailey would have been (heading into his age-29 season).
Looking at other pitchers who were extended with five to six years of service time (with some help from the MLBTR Extension Tracker), Bailey's deal is the third-largest in history for a pitcher one year (or less) from free agency. He rightfully fell well short of the extensions signed by Clayton Kershaw and Cole Hamels, but he was able to top Jered Weaver's five-year, $85MM deal. That contract was thought to be team friendly at the time, however, and Weaver's deal is also two years old at this point.
As MLBTR's Charlie Wilmoth noted Sunday evening, the deal essentially amounts to five new years and $95MM, as Bailey was in line for a salary in the $10MM range anyhow. Put another way, he's signing away five free agent years for $15MM more than Anibal Sanchez received a year ago (also for his age 29 to 33 seasons). With one more strong season under his belt and further TV revenue flooding the game, Bailey would likely have topped Sanchez's mark, even in a relatively strong class of free agent pitchers that figures to include James Shields, Justin Masterson, Max Scherzer and possibly Jon Lester (though Lester seems highly likely to sign an extension of his own, and Scherzer could do the same).
Age again becomes a factor here, as Bailey is four years younger than Shields, two years younger than Scherzer and Lester, and one year younger than Masterson. Even if Shields were perceived as the better of the two pitchers next winter, would a team be more comfortable guaranteeing him top dollar starting in his age-33 season, or would Bailey's age-29 season be more alluring?
Reds GM Walt Jocketty and his staff are continuing to place a premium on age (we've already seen this, to varying degrees, in the offseason with Freddie Freeman's extension and the free-agent deals signed by Phil Hughes and Masahiro Tanaka). While Bailey did have a three-WAR season in 2013, it's unlikely that the Reds feel he's reached his ceiling at this point. A nine-figure guarantee for a pitcher with just two seasons of 200 innings and a career 4.25 ERA seems excessive to many, but again, the Reds aren't paying Bailey for his accomplishments (or lack thereof) in his age-21 to age-24 seasons; the Reds are paying Bailey to be the pitcher they believe he can be based on improvements in non-ERA elements of his game over the past few years.
As for Bailey, he and his agents at Excel Sports Management were likely confident in his ability to post strong totals in his walk season, but there's also the reality that pitchers simply get hurt with relative frequency. Even a two- or three-week DL stint related to his elbow or shoulder would have cast some doubt on his free agency, and missing a significant chunk would have been disastrous.
While many will be quick to call this an overpay, it looks to me as if the Reds paid market value (or close to it at five years, $95MM) for Bailey's 2012-13 skill set, with the belief that he can take another step forward and be the type of pitcher who could have signed for something closer to $120MM+ over six years next offseason. Those outcomes illustrate the risk for both sides: for the Reds, paying market value a year early, and for Bailey, potentially missing out on tens of millions of dollars. Of course, if he regresses or gets injured, the deal will quickly look poor for the Reds, but that's the case with any long-term deal. And given Bailey's age, there's no reason to suspect significant regression in 2014.
WEDNESDAY: Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that the contract will be worth $100-110MM and contain an option for a seventh season. Tomorrow's arbitration hearing is unlikely to happen, Heyman adds.
TUESDAY: Bailey and the Reds are "on the one-yard line" in their extension talks, tweets Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio.
MONDAY: Bailey confirmed to John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer that he and the Reds are getting closer to a multi-year extension, though he didn't comment on specific parameters: "We're going in the right direction. The majority of it is worked out," the right-hander told Fay (Twitter links).
SUNDAY: Homer Bailey and the Reds are "getting close" on a six-year deal worth around $100MM, Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer tweets. Earlier today, ESPN's Jim Bowden reported Reds GM Walt Jocketty had said he was hopeful the two sides could reach a deal. Bailey is represented by Excel Sports Management.
Bailey is eligible for free agency after the season, and as a relatively young pitcher coming off a strong season in Cincinnati (209 innings, 3.49 ERA, 8.6 K/9, 2.3 BB/9), he figures to be in line for a large contract once he does. Bailey has asked for $11.6MM in his last year of arbitration eligibility, with the Reds filing for $8.7MM. He made $5.35MM in 2013.
If Bailey were to sign a six-year, $100MM contract, it would essentially amount to a five-year, $90MM deal that begins in 2015, given that the arbitration process controls his 2014 salary. Such a deal would likely have made Bailey the second-highest-paid pitcher in this year's free-agent class, behind Masahiro Tanaka (depending, of course, on the contracts Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana receive, although it's difficult to see either of them approaching $90MM). That seems reasonable, given Bailey's age and talent. Clayton Kershaw's recent seven-year, $215MM contract came with between five and six years of service time, although clearly, Bailey isn't Kershaw's peer. Another recent touchstone for pitchers approaching free agency was Cole Hamels' six-year, $144MM contract, signed halfway through the 2012 season.
If the Reds are able to sign Bailey, it will reduce the amount of talent in the 2014-15 free agent starting pitching class, which also includes Max Scherzer and James Shields. Bailey's deal would come in the midst of a flurry of February extensions that includes Coco Crisp of the Athletics, Michael Brantley of the Indians, and Freddie Freeman, Julio Teheran and Craig Kimbrel of the Braves.
For the Reds, signing Bailey long-term would be by far the biggest move in what's been a quiet offseason — since firing manager Dusty Baker, the Reds have traded catcher Ryan Hanigan to the Rays, re-signed reliever Manny Parra, and added infielder Skip Schumaker and catcher Brayan Pena. They've also lost star outfielder Shin-Soo Choo and pitcher Bronson Arroyo to free agency.