Reds starter Homer Bailey will undergo Tommy John surgery, the club announced. Cincinnati expects him to return during the 2016 season, per the announcement.
Bailey had missed the tail end of last year after needing surgery to repair a torn flexor mass tendon in his right arm. The 2014 campaign was something of a disappointment even before that point. While Bailey was effective enough, he failed to build off of a strong 2013 and seemed to be settling in more as a sturdy option than a top-of-the-rotation arm.
Now, Bailey’s arm troubles have clouded even that downgraded status. He was able to make it back early this season, but was throwing his average fastball at about 3 mph less than he had been over the last two seasons. With only three strikeouts in 11 1/3 frames, things were already not looking up when Bailey hit the DL.
While Tommy John surgery is obviously far from a death knell to a player’s career, neither is it a minor event. In Bailey’s case, it is particularly concerning given that he already underwent one surgery and has already shown a velocity decline. Then there’s the fact that he will not be back until next summer at the earliest, meaning that Cincinnati will not see any on-field production for its investment during that time.
The real issue for the Reds, of course, relates to Bailey’s contract. While the deal’s first year basically ratified an already-inevitable arbitration salary, the rest represented new money that kept the righty from testing free agency. Cincinnati still owes Bailey $86MM over 2016 through 2019, which includes the buyout of a mutual option for 2020, and it is increasingly unclear whether the club will get anything close to the expected value for that sum.