May 17, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Homer Bailey (34) throws a pitch against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
In recent seasons, the Cincinnati Reds have latched on tight to the current trend of locking up homegrown talent to long, lucrative contracts. Unfortunately, they seem to have a knack for inking the guys who end up with severe injury issues that are sucking the team dry. The latest case in point is starter Homer Bailey, who is done for the year and facing elbow surgery.
When last Homer made a splash in the baseball news, pitchers and catchers had just reported to Spring Training, and the righty had agreed to a six-year $105-million deal. Lots of folks questioned the soundness of that contract for the Reds, but Bailey was just 27 and coming off his best season, and we had a shiny new 162-game schedule in front of us.
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Nearly seven months on, the disappointment of a cruddy season makes Bailey’s 9-5 record stand out more for its brevity than for its four-game swing to the good. For $9 million, it’s not so bad, but that salary quickly escalates, and Bailey will be over $20 million per season by 2018.
You’d definitely expect more than 14 decisions for those bucks.
Of course, you would also expect to see more than 272 plate appearances for $12 million paid to a guy who should be one of the best in the business. Those PAs belonged to Joey Votto, he of the strained quad and six home runs at age 30 — he’ll be 31 in less than a week.
Votto is supposed to get better with some rest this off-season, but he has been resting most of the season. Lower-body injuries also have a tendency to linger and recur.
Bailey is supposed to be ready for Spring Training, but he’s a pitcher, and it’s an elbow injury. Sort of like fumbling way through a dark house with only a lit match to guide you, only to realize that there are gasoline cans stacked all around.
The Reds have quite a few problems entering the winter, and Bailey’s situation will only make things worse. General manager Walt Jocketty will supposedly shop one or more of his non-Homer starters, but what if Bailey can’t come back quickly or fully? What if the Reds enter next year without their best hitter and their best pitcher, which Bailey would be if they jettison Alfredo Simon? What then?
And Heaven help the Reds and the chosen player if Jocketty and team owner Bob Castellini decide to open up the checkbook to sign yet another “youngster” to a monster deal.