Jul 28, 2014; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Homer Bailey (34) throws against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Great American Ball Park. The Diamondbacks won 2-1 in 15 innings. Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

Finding value in Homer Bailey

When it was announced that the Cincinnati Reds had inked starting pitcher Homer Bailey to a six-year, $105 million deal, the transaction was universally panned. The most common word associated with it: overpay.

Among comments I saw from Reds fans ranged from that word “overpay” to numerous references to his career numbers. More predominantly, his career win-loss record and ERA (pre 2014: 49-45, 4.25). While those aren’t the most stately stats, you have to believe the organization might have been betting the Bailey could duplicate his efforts over the past two seasons.

Of course, this season hasn’t been the case, but his performance in 2012 and 2013 were sound (20-17, 3.58 ERA, 103 ERA+), but not mind-blowing. It isn’t that Bailey has performed horribly. This goes more along the lines of hoping for better numbers from a #7 overall pick and the young age in which he debuted (21).

Maybe too much hope.

So to the value. One thing I want to touch base on here. When you read the word “value” from here until the end, it will be in reference to how that is calculated on Fangraphs. It represents the assumed value a player could have received contractually for that year’s performance if he was a free agent. The conversion occurs when taking fWAR into consideration.

Here’s how we’re looking as of now:

Season WAR Dollars Salary
2007* 0.4 $1.7 $0.2
2008* -0.3 -$1.4 $0.2
2009 1.1 $4.8 $0.4
2010 1.8 $7.3 $0.4
2011 1.3 $5.9 $0.4
2012 2.5 $11.3 $2.4
2013 3.7 $18.5 $5.4
2014 1.3 $7.4 $9.0
Total 11.9 $55.5 $18.4

* – estimated for season

Despite the season where the Reds received a “rebate”, Bailey has fared well in attaining some value. While this year hasn’t been as hoped, he’s not far off in reaching his value.

But let’s look into the future, if at all possible. This is according to the Oliver projections.. The value of 1 fWAR for this season is almost $5.7 million. For 2013, it was at an even $5 million, representing a 13.8% increase. And that will escalate as well.

We’ll take an approach of adding 15% per year over each of the remaining four years. Not sure that will be enough as the cost of pitching has become quite expensive.

Season WAR Dollars Salary
2015 2.7 $17.7 $10.0
2016 2.7 $20.3 $18.0
2017 2.5 $21.6 $19.0
2018 2.5 $24.9 $21.0
Total 10.4 $84.5 $68.0

Two things here.

One, from what the Oliver projections tell me (and it should tell you, too) is that Bailey is no better than a 2.5-3 fWAR player. But the surprise is item #2. In taking that flat 15% yearly increase in fWAR value, Bailey will still stay ahead of the curve as far as comparing his annual salary and his value. That’s something no one expected to see.

Granted, the flat 15% per fWAR could be too aggressive. The increase from 2012 to 2013 was roughly 12%. Again, the increase from 2013 to this year is close to 13.8%, so I don’t believe 15% is too aggressive here.

As a Reds fan, I wasn’t too keen on this deal when it was announced. It’s not that I dislike Bailey as I defended Bailey on a couple of occasions during my days at Blog Red Machine. I had the feeling the front office experienced a fear of losing Bailey and decided to ante up in order for Homer to remain a Red. Considering Mike Leake (last season of arbitration eligibility), Mat Latos (also last season of arbitration eligibility) and Johnny Cueto (club option for 2015 at $10 million and impending free agency for 2016) are approaching new deal status, the monies funneled to Bailey might have better served for a couple among this trio. All will receive raises for 2015 unless something happens.

There could be those preferring Bailey to Leake, meaning keeping Bailey in the fold is more valuable to the franchise than Leake.

Of course, we have to also consider if the current ownership is willing to add more to payroll in the upcoming years. With this season being a disappointment and possibly a lost opportunity, the direction could shift.

Was the money spent on Homer Bailey a smart decision? From strictly a value point, it appears to be so, oddly enough. But what you have to consider is who will stay and who will likely depart from the Queen City. And despite having these numbers I have presented here, I’m weary a big arm may out the door rather soon.

Tags: Cincinnati Reds MLB

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