What will the Reds do with Homer Bailey?

Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

Could this be Bailey's last season as a Red?

For Homer Bailey, 2013 was a career year. After years of being a so-so starting pitcher, it finally looked like Bailey might be the pitcher everyone thought he would be when he got drafted. This season the Reds will have a pretty big decision to make, in regards to Bailey's future with the club. That's because, at the end of the season, Bailey will hit free agency. The Reds could either sign him to a longterm contract extension, trade him at the trade deadline, or keep him for the year and then offer him a qualifying offer. Editor's Note: Bailey and the Reds appear to be working on a long-term deal.

Before we take an in-depth look at the Reds' options, let's take a look at Bailey's 2013 season, and how he's improved on his past seasons.

Season

IP

BB%

K%

GB%

HR/FB

LOB%

BABIP

ERA-

FIP-

xFIP-

FBv

WAR

2013

209

6.40%

23.40%

46.10%

10.20%

73.70%

0.284

92

87

89

94.1

3.7

2012

208

6.00%

19.20%

44.90%

11.50%

73.60%

0.29

92

100

101

92.5

2.5

2011

132

5.90%

18.90%

39.50%

11.50%

71.20%

0.296

115

104

98

92.2

1.3

2010

109

8.60%

21.50%

41.60%

9.30%

71.00%

0.315

109

92

94

92.8

1.8

2009

113.1

10.50%

17.30%

42.50%

9.40%

71.20%

0.3

106

102

107

94.4

1.1

During his first three seasons in the big leagues Bailey was fairly disappointing, at least based on what we were expecting. Throughout those three years, his strikeout rate, walk rate, and home run per fly balls were all league average. As a result, so was his FIP-. There's nothing wrong with being an average pitcher, but when you're ranked as the ninth best prospect in baseball, and your team's top prospect, then you expect better results.

There were improvements during the 2012 season, even if they weren't huge. Bailey started to generate a lot more ground balls, something he didn't do quite as well in the past. From 2009-2011, he was generating ground balls ~42% of the time. In 2012, that number jumped up 2%. The strikeout percentage stayed nearly identical, while the walk rate remained stable. He continued to improve in 2013. His walk rate again remained stable, and his strikeout rate saw a nice 4% increase. Bailey was finally developing into a reliable starting pitcher.

With that said, what will the Reds decide to do?

I think the least likely choice to occur would be letting Bailey test free agency after the season. Bailey would likely decline any type of qualifying offer given to him, and the Reds would only receive a compensation pick at the end of the first round. Not exactly worth it.

The second most likely thing to occur, in my opinion, would be a contract extension. Bailey has said that he's open to a long year deal, and they have been discussing one, but I'm not optimistic that one will get done. I realize that extensions with your team, before the player hits free agency, are usually cheaper, but I was still curious as to what we might be able to expect if a deal were to occur. While trying to think of a reasonable deal, I looked at two pitchers that signed free agent contracts this winter.

Name

IP

BB%

K%

GB%

HR/FB

LOB%

BABIP

ERA-

FIP-

WAR

Homer Bailey

417.0

6.2%

21.3%

45.5%

10.9%

73.7%

0.288

92

93

6.2

Matt Garza

259.0

6.9%

21.6%

41.9%

13.2%

73.7%

0.282

94

98

3.4

Ricky Nolasco

389.1

5.6%

17.4%

44.8%

8.9%

70.0%

0.304

107

94

5.5

Since 2012, Homer Bailey, Matt Garza, and Ricky Nolasco have been fairly similar pitchers. One thing that stands out is that Bailey has been a lot more durable than the other two. That's something that definitely works in his favor. Garza signed a four year, fifty million dollar contract with the Milwaukee Brewers, while Nolasco signed a four year, forty eight million dollar contract with the Minnesota Twins. Bailey is only 27 years old though, and he should just be entering his prime years as a starting pitcher. I would imagine that an extension would require around five+ years, with an annual average of around $16+ million dollars a year. That would mean at least five years, eighty million dollars. If he reached free agency, he'd probably be able to get even more.

I would say that the most likely scenario would be a trade. I don't see the Reds making the playoffs this year, and if they start to fall in the standings they could easily flip for Bailey for a prospect or two. The problem is, due to the CBA, teams are not as willing to give up top talent like they used to be. After looking through various teams, I determined that at least the Orioles, Giants, and Blue Jays could be potential landing spots, if the Reds decided to trade Bailey. The Reds could desperately use a shortstop, so whoever they trade with would likely have to include one. Although, if you're offered a really solid player then you take the deal regardless of what position he plays.

As the 2014 season begins it will be interesting to see how the Reds approach this situation. Like I said earlier, the two are talking about an extension but that doesn't mean a deal gets worked out at all. This will definitely be a story that I pay attention to throughout the season.

...

All statistics courtesy of FanGraphs, and Brooks Baseball.

Alex Kienholzis a contributor at Beyond The Box Score. You can follow Alex on Twitter: @alex_kienholz.

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