With little major league-ready depth after their projected five starters, the Cincinnati Reds aren't currently in a position to shop Homer Bailey as he enters his last season before free agency. So it makes sense that the Reds were telling teams last month that he's not available, as was reported by Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.
But with Bronson Arroyo still available in free agency, along with a few other very good starting pitchers, the possibility of trading the 27-year-old Bailey with the knowledge that they would replace him with another good option is still alive.
The Reds have discussed a long-term contract extension with Bailey's representatives, according to Mark Sheldon of MLB.com, though general manager Walt Jocketty acknowledged that the right-hander would be difficult to sign because of his recent success—Bailey has a 3.58 ERA with a 2.3 BB/9 and 7.9 K/9 over the past two seasons, including a few stretches of dominance. As Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports pointed out last month, an inability to sign Bailey long-term could change their thinking on a trade.
If they do seriously consider a trade anytime in the near future, here are four potential suitors and what it might take for each team to acquire Bailey.
If free-agent signee Gavin Floyd can make a quick return from May 2013 Tommy John surgery and be ready to join the big league rotation sometime before the All-Star break, the Atlanta Braves' rotation is in pretty good shape. But because pitchers don't tend to come back at full strength within 12-14 months of that particular surgery, it's safe to say they could use a more reliable option.
As things stand, lefty Alex Wood (pictured), who went from second-round draft pick in 2012 to making a solid contribution down the stretch last season as a starter and a reliever, is the favorite to win the last rotation spot behind Mike Minor, Julio Teheran, Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy.
The 22-year-old, who had a 3.13 ERA, 3.1 BB/9 and 8.9 K/9 in 77.2 major league innings, may have a bright future ahead of him, but a team that won 96 games in 2013 and has a young core of talent in place to take things to the next level would likely prefer to head into a long 162-game season with a proven innings-eater like Bailey.
Sending six years of Wood for one year of Bailey is a risk, but it's one that a team in the Braves' position has to consider while the window of contention is wide open.
The Baltimore Orioles wouldn't trade pitching prospect Eduardo Rodriguez (pictured) to the New York Mets for Ike Davis, according to Mike Puma of the New York Post. That's understandable, considering Davis' struggles the past two seasons.
But as Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun points out, the O's will likely have to give up a good pitching prospect or two if they want to acquire premium talent.
Homer Bailey does qualify as premium talent, and Rodriguez, a 20-year-old lefty who had a 3.41 ERA, 3.0 BB/9 and 7.8 K/9 between Double-A and High-A last season, would almost certainly need to be part of the conversation once the O's make it clear they won't be parting ways with top prospects Dylan Bundy or Kevin Gausman for a one-year rental.
While Rodriguez would be the centerpiece of a deal, the addition of outfielder David Lough, who would give the Reds a backup plan in center field should Billy Hamilton prove he isn't ready for the majors, and another low-level, high-upside prospect—maybe center fielder Josh Hart, the 37th overall pick in the 2013 draft—could be enough.
It's true that the New York Yankees don't have much help on the way from the upper minors in 2014. The one player who could help, lefty prospect Manny Bañuelos (pictured), hasn't pitched since injuring his elbow after just six Triple-A starts back in 2012. He had Tommy John surgery in October 2012.
For a team like the Yankees that is desperate for starting pitching in 2014, having a more reliable option than Bañuelos is important.
While there's no guarantee that can land one of the top remaining starting pitchers—Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez, Ervin Santana or Masahiro Tanaka—let alone two, which they might actually need, it would be hard to pass on an opportunity to land Homer Bailey if the price involved players who were expected to contribute in 2014.
The 22-year-old Bañuelos was the team's best prospect heading into the 2012 season, according to Baseball Prospectus, but he's obviously fallen off of the radar while recovering from elbow surgery. If the Reds can re-sign Bronson Arroyo, their depth should be strong enough that a pitcher like Bañuelos could be eased back into action in the minors and be ready to join the big league rotation in 2015.
In addition to Bañuelos, Slade Heathcott, a talented center fielder who posted a .738 OPS in Double-A last season and could be ready to challenge Billy Hamilton for the center fielder's job as early as the spring, could be the second player in the deal.
With Jacoby Ellsbury in the mix for the next seven years, Heathcott has likely become a bit more expendable.
The Toronto Blue Jays are expected to make an aggressive run at signing one of the top remaining starting pitchers—Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez, Ervin Santana or Masahiro Tanaka. They're also open to the trade market, however, because there's no guarantee they'll outbid any of the other several teams vying for a front-line starter.
General manager Alex Anthopoulos put the chances of a trade versus a free-agent signing at 50/50, as quoted in a recent story by Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star. If they were to pursue a player under contract for just one season, however, they would have to feel very good about their chances in 2014.
And they'd have to be able to get that starting pitcher—in this case, it would be Bailey—without giving up either of their top two pitching prospects, Marcus Stroman or Aaron Sanchez.
The Jays do have a few players, though, who would fit the Reds' needs.
Center fielder Anthony Gose (pictured) would give the Reds a plus defender in the outfield with plus speed and some offensive potential. He's no lock to beat out Billy Hamilton for the starting center field job, but he'd offer some healthy competition, and if there's ever a chance for a team to reproduce the speedy St. Louis Cardinals teams of the 1980s, it would be the Reds if Gose and Hamilton were both in the lineup at the same time.
Gose has stolen at least 70 bases in two different minor league seasons. Hamilton has done it four times, including over 100 times on three occasions.
In addition to Gose, the Jays would trade lefty Sean Nolin, who posted a 2.77 ERA with a 2.9 BB/9 and 9.5 K/9 between Double-A and Triple-A last season, and a low-level prospect with upside—19-year-old lefty Jairo Labourt, the team's No. 10 prospect, according to Baseball Prospectus, would be a nice third piece to the deal.
The resulting Jays' rotation would be R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle, Homer Bailey, Brandon Morrow and J.A. Happ.