Homer Bailey is arbitration-eligible for the third time in his career this winter and he is very well in line to receive a substantial raise.
Last season, Bailey earned a salary of $5.35 million, which according to Baseball Reference, was nearly $3 million more than the $2.425 he earned in 2012.
According to MLB Trade Rumors, Bailey will see his earnings skyrocket even more for 2014, which they estimate to be in the vicinity of $9.3 million. For those keeping score at home, that figure represents a raise of roughly $4 million.
Here is how MLB Trade Rumors justified their projection:
The limitation on Bailey’s performance is definitely his win total. With just 11 wins in 2013, his team’s poor run support will cost him. A few pitchers in the aforementioned group seem to meet these criteria pretty well. One is Matt Garza, who in 2012 was coming off a 10-10 record to go with a 3.32 ERA in 198 innings. He also had 197 strikeouts, very similar to Bailey’s 199. Of course Bailey had a slightly worse ERA at 3.45, but he also had eleven extra innings pitched. Given the similarity of their numbers but with the extra win and eleven innings, it seems likely that Bailey could argue that Garza’s $3.55MM raise could be a floor for his 2014 raise.
Another possibility that Bailey could use to justify a raise closer to $4MM is the $4.3MM raise that Anibal Sanchez won in a hearing in 2012. He had even fewer wins than Bailey that year, amassing only an 8-9 record, and his 3.67 ERA was worse than Bailey’s too. He did have 202 strikeouts, but had under 200 innings (196 1/3, to be exact) which could give Bailey a leg up on him. Arbitration cases that go to hearings are often tough to use in newer hearings because obviously $4.3MM was seen by the Marlins at the time as too high and chances are a settlement would have come in below $4.3MM (the Marlins offered Sanchez a $3.2MM raise). But nonetheless, both Sanchez and Garza could help Bailey argue for the $3.95MM raise that I’m projecting for him.
Considering the Reds aren't exactly a team overflowing with cash, it's no wonder why there have been rumors that the Reds might be open to trading Bailey, especially if the two sides cannot work out a contract extension before going through the arbitration process, which begins in mid-January.
One question the Reds will most obviously have to ask themselves is whether or not Bailey is worth the money. The 28-year-old has made steady improvement over the last handful of years, and considering his age and experience, is likely entering the peak seasons of his career. Although his career record of 49-45 and career ERA of 4.25 isn't much to write home about, he has posted a 3.58 ERA over the past two seasons, while making every start (65) en route to totaling 417 innings pitched. If healthy, Bailey is probably worth the money from a market value standpoint, however, the Reds may be looking to get similar production from a cheaper alternative elsewhere, namely through trade. Of course, the fact that the team is in a win-now mentality complicates the situation even more. If they were in a rebuilding state, moving Bailey would be the most logical decision for the long term, but because they are not, it makes for a tough decision in the present.