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Sports Column: Bailey's extended contract solves one problem, but may create others

Many fans have been openly critical of the lack of offseason buzz generated by general manager Walt Jocketty and the Cincinnati Reds organization this winter.

Some of those fans were quieted temporarily Wednesday when the team handed 27-year-old starting pitcher Homer Bailey a contract extension worth $105 million over the next six seasons. The contract includes a mutual option for the 2020 season.

Bailey was slated to be a free agent at the end of the 2014 season, and it was beginning to look more and more as if the Reds would be forced to bid with several other teams to keep Bailey with the team past the coming season.

Fortunately for Cincinnati, it won’t come to that.

Bailey’s contract could appear ill-advised to the casual fan, who may reasonably view numbers such as a 49-45 record and 4.25 ERA over his first seven seasons as being less than qualifying. However, it is important to note that Bailey’s ERA has improved each year for the past five seasons. Then, of course, there are the two no-hitters he has thrown in the past two seasons.

Despite his growing star power and potential to have ace-like numbers over the next several seasons, Bailey is still currently the Reds’ No. 3 starter in the rotation behind Mat Latos and Johnny Cueto. The 28-year-old Cueto’s contract runs through the end of the upcoming season, with a team option in place for the 2015 season. Latos, 26, is also under contract through the end of 2015.

Cueto was a Cy Young Award candidate in 2012 and is a Comeback Player of the Year candidate entering this season after missing most of last season with injuries. Latos is coming off the best season of his young career and has a stellar 28-11 record since joining the Reds before the 2012 season.

It is possible that Bailey will pass each of them in productivity by the end of 2015 and qualify as the ace of the staff. However, it is also possible that Latos and Cueto will continue on at their respective paces and remain the 1-2 at the top of the rotation. If that is the case, the Reds will have a bit of a financial dilemma.

Having its No. 3 pitcher locked in for $100 million means that the No. 1 and No. 2 guys will want even more money, bringing the would-be total to well more than $300 million committed to three starting pitchers. That doesn’t include the $225 million extension the team is due to pay first baseman Joey Votto, nor the lofty sum it will have to pay right fielder Jay Bruce when he comes off the books after 2016.

Obviously, it will be impossible for this small market team to hold onto all of its stars for the length of their careers. But, even though Bailey is likely to earn his money over the next few years, the price of his contract will force the Reds to make some tough decisions in the somewhat near future.


This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Bailey’s extension might hurt Reds."

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