Yesterday, Homer Bailey signed a six-year, $105 million contract with a mutual option for a seventh. According to Baseball-Reference.com, the 27-year-old right-hander is 49-45 in his career with a cumulative 4.25 ERA. In 2012, he set career highs in innings pitched (209) and strikeouts (199) while throwing two no-hitters.
The response seems to have been mixed. A few randoms from Twitter:
I like Homer Bailey. That said, wonder if Reds wouldn’t have been better off signing one of the 4/$50M pitchers, then flipping him.
— David Cameron (@DCameronFG) February 19, 2014
Homer Bailey avg 94 MPH with his fastball last season, 7th-highest among 81 ERA-title qualifiers. In 2012, he averaged 92.4 MPH (24th-best)
— Mark Simon (@msimonespn) February 19, 2014
Saying "Homer Bailey is not a $105 million pitcher" is like the guy standing at the Coke machine wondering why it cost a buck and a quarter
— Mo Egger (@MoEgger1530) February 19, 2014
Really happy to see that Homer Bailey's staying in Cincinnati for a long time. A good pitcher who is getting better. #Reds
— Red Reporter (@redreporter) February 19, 2014
— Robert Maida (@jerseybaseball) February 19, 2014
While the reactions are mixed, I considered this to be a necessary move for the Reds. The Reds have not been a team that has succeeded by way of offense. In fact, of the three seasons this team has made the playoffs since 2010, they've had a top-10 MLB offense just once. That was in 2010, when they were promptly swept by the Phillies, a pitching juggernaut.
Where the Reds have routinely experienced success is from their starting rotation and bullpen. Last year, the team finished with the No. 4 starting rotation ERA in baseball. The year prior, the Reds won 97 games, the most they had won since 1976. They had the No. 4 ERA that year, too.
The fact that pitching is so valuable is hardly new information. Still, it seems like people are concerned with Bailey's worth more than anything else. The common opposition to the deal is simply that Bailey should not command $105 million.
But when you look at the company surrounding Bailey, the deal should be less surprising. Per Spotrac.com, a site dedicated to professional athlete contracts, Bailey will command $17.5 million in 2014. That's as much as Giants' pitcher Tim Lincecum will command.
Per ESPN.com, in October 2013, Lincecum was signed to a two-year, $35 million extension. According to Baseball-Reference.com, he went 10-14 with a 4.37 ERA last year. He's tied with Bailey for the No. 11 highest paid pitcher in baseball.
Immediately beneath Bailey is Josh Beckett, who will get $17 million from the Dodgers in 2014. In 2010, per Rotoworld.com, he signed a four-year, $68 million contact. That was following a 2009 campaign in which he finished with a 3.87 ERA and 212.1 innings of service.
Beneath Beckett is Jered Weaver, who will also get $17 million in 2014. Per MLB.com, in 2011 Weaver signed a five-year, $85 million contract. Perhaps no one is more upset over Bailey's contract than Weaver, who finished with (per Baseball-Reference.com) an astounding 2.41 ERA after 235.2 innings pitched.
John Lackey falls beneath Beckett. Lackey will get $16.5 million next year. Per ESPN.com, Lackey signed a five-year, $82.5 million contract following a 2009 campaign in which he went 11-8 with a 3.83 ERA. He threw just over 176 innings next year.
One more, for good measure: Following the 2012 campaign, per ESPN.com, Anibal Sanchez inked a five-year, $80 million contract. That was following a year in which he finished with a 3.86 ERA and 195.2 innings pitched. According to Spotrac.com, he'll be the No. 16 highest paid pitcher in the game next year.
When we return the focus to Bailey, are we sure he's not worth the money? Bailey finished 2013 with a 3.49 ERA and 209 innings pitched. This followed a 2012 campaign where Bailey finished with a 3.68 ERA and 208 innings of service. When you consider what other guys in this article inked for, Bailey could have arguably commanded this contract just based on 2012 alone.
The most successful teams in baseball are the ones atop the cumulative starting pitching rotations. While the Boston Red Sox won it all last year, it should be noted that they finished with the lowest ERA in the postseason, which allowed them past the Cardinals, MLB's No. 5 ERA that year.
If fans in Cincinnati want the trend of postseason baseball in the Queen City to continue, Walt Jocketty will need to secure the arms that make postseason a routine reality. Besides, investing in a proven MLB pitcher with tangible results is exponentially safer than counting on Robert Stephenson, a highly coveted prospect with just 16.2 innings pitched in Double-A.