As a small-market team already stretched beyond any payroll threshold that the team has ever known, the Reds seemed more likely to figure out ways to cut payroll than to add to it, much less add to it in a way that would guarantee Bailey an average salary of $17.6 million through the 2019 season.
The Bailey signing won't quite move the needle the way the Reds did when first baseman Joey Votto received a 10 year, $225 million extension in 2012, but the signing of a pitcher whose career ERA is 4.25 to this large of a contract is bound to send a shock wave through the baseball world.
Shock Wave in Reds Country
The idea that the Reds would extend Bailey (or one of the other top pitchers in the rotation in Johnny Cueto or Mat Latos) seemed remote given the revenue limitations of the market where the Reds play. Whether Bailey was destined to be the Reds' best offseason trading chip or a solid starter in the rotation for one final season, the Reds seemed more likely to stick to a course that would yield as much of a return for Bailey as possible before his Reds' career ended.
Not so, and the shock wave that the signing sends throughout Reds' Country is first and foremost that fans can rest assured that the Reds have ownership under Robert Castellini that is committed to put money where the mouth is when it comes to fielding a competitive team.
The flip side of the shock wave will be the inevitable discussion about whether or not the Reds signed the right starting pitcher to a long-term deal. Clearly Bailey is poised to improve upon his past two seasons in which he has thrown two no-hitters and more than 200 innings in each season with ERAs of 3.68 and 3.49, but both Cueto and Latos have proven their respective worth as staff aces.
Latos has a career ERA of 3.35. He threw over 200 innings in each of his two seasons with the Reds with ERAs of 3.48 in 2012 and 3.16 last year. As for Cueto, he has the second lowest ERA (2.61) since 2011 for starting pitchers who have thrown at least 400 innings over the past three years. Injuries aside, Cueto is arguably one of the top five starting pitchers in all of baseball and probably could have been extended for considerably less this year than next if he does healthy for all of 2014.
Shock Wave in the Reds' Clubhouse
If Cueto and Latos had any doubts about where they would be pitching after the 2015 season when both will be free agents, the Bailey extension just send a shock wave to them -- they will almost certainly be pitching for a team other than the Reds. Perhaps the Castellini ownership can continue to surprise by signing key players long-term, but the likelihood will be that the price for starting pitching set by the Clayton Kershaw extension (seven years, $215 million) will eventually prevent the Reds from re-signing potential free agent starters who the team would otherwise like to keep.
The Bailey extension may stoke the fire for Cueto and Latos to enhance their respective worth even more so that both can earn more than Bailey received through his extension. Given the market conditions, if both Cueto and Latos throw two healthy seasons in a row at or above their respective norms, their paydays will exceed Bailey's in dollar value if not length.
Shock Wave for Other Teams
Bailey had the highest ERA among the Reds' six primary starting pitchers in 2013 (including Tony Cingrani). The upside for Bailey was always there, but the results were often too mixed to count upon Bailey as the ace of a staff due to outings that ended early and ugly. The reality that a middle of the rotation starter who had the highest ERA of his team's staff could command over $100 million at nearly $18 million a year will up the ante for other markets who don't have the money to compete with the runaway payrolls of mega-market teams.
The willingness of the Reds to go out on a limb for Bailey will force other teams to do the same or else lose their top talent to free agency. Only 13 others pitchers have ever received a contract with more money than Bailey just did. That shock wave will send a lot of teams scrambling for what to do next.
Robb Hoff has worked as a freelancer for ESPN's production and news departments for the past five years. He covered the Cincinnati Reds and Cincinnati Bengals on Yahoo Contributor Network in 2013.
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