TODAY: Bailey will indeed move into the relief unit, MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon tweets.
YESTERDAY: The Reds have had discussions with right-hander Homer Bailey about a potential shift from the rotation to the bullpen, per John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer (Twitter links). While nothing has been finalized, Fay characterizes the move as a fairly likely one. Righty Luis Castillo would be able to make a start on regular rest in Bailey’s place this Sunday thanks to an upcoming off-day on Thursday.
Bailey’s six-year, $105MM contract extension with the Reds has proven to be a regrettable misstep for the organization, as the righty underwent Tommy John surgery in 2015 and a second elbow surgery to remove bone spurs in 2017. In all, he’s been limited to just 187 1/3 innings dating back to the 2015 season. In that time, he’s averaged fewer than five innings per start while recording a 6.59 ERA and allowing a .310/.384/.511 batting line to opposing hitters. The 2018 campaign has arguably been his worst, as he currently leads the Majors in allowing hits, home runs and earned runs.
While it seems fair to question just how much of a leash Bailey has left with regard to hanging onto his roster spot, the fact that the team is exploring a move to a relief role suggests that he won’t be cut loose just yet. Bailey is still owed a whopping $14MM of this season’s $21MM salary, plus a $23MM salary in 2019 and a $5MM buyout on an option for the 2020 campaign. Given that hefty $42MM sum, it’s hardly a surprise that the Reds would exhaust their options in terms of salvaging some kind of value from the ill-fated deal.
In the meantime, a move of Bailey to the bullpen would create an opening in the rotation behind Castillo, Matt Harvey, Tyler Mahle and Sal Romano. That spot could be earmarked for right-hander Anthony DeSclafani, who is on a minor league rehab assignment at the moment and is nearing a return to the Majors for the first time since 2016. A sprained ulnar collateral ligament in his right arm prevented DeSclafani from taking the hill last season, and he’s yet to pitch in the bigs this year thanks to an oblique strain.
[Related: Cincinnati Reds depth chart]
Of course, the rest of the Reds’ rotation isn’t exactly stable in its own right. Castillo has shown signs of rebounding after a rough start, but Harvey is still a ways from cementing himself as a viable big league rotation option just yet. Mahle and Romano have each had their own struggles as well, particularly the latter of the two. Certainly, further juggling of the rotation down the stretch is a possibility, as the Reds have several alternatives in the minors — many of whom are already on the 40-man roster.
Robert Stephenson, Cody Reed, Brandon Finnegan, Jose Lopez and Keury Mella are the top names in that group, though only Mella has posted particularly strong numbers, and he’s registered those while pitching in Double-A. (The others have all been in Triple-A.) Stephenson has the best surface-level numbers of the Triple-A arms, with a 3.59 ERA in 47 2/3 innings, but while he’s averaged an impressive 10.6 K/9 this year, he’s also averaging more than five walks per nine innings pitched. Lefty Justin Nicolino is also on hand as a veteran option in Louisville, though he’s not on the 40-man roster at present.