There has been plenty of speculation on Homer Bailey’s future this offseason, with Reds general manager Walt Jocketty recently conceding that it will be “difficult” to sign him to an extension, but the right-hander tells FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal that he hasn’t dismissed the possibility of staying in Cincinnati.
“To say that I ‘want out of Cincinnati’ is not true,” said Bailey, who is from La Grange, Texas. “I have nothing but good things to say about ownership and management, and I hold a great relationship with the coaching staff.
“If I am in the organization’s future, my priorities are that things make sense for me on the business end, that we are a team that continues to be a highly competitive team in the league and a team that plays the game the right way.”
There’s nothing particularly surprising about that statement, but the key is the part about whether “things make sense for me on the business end.” Bailey is due to hit free agency next offseason and given his age and career trajectory, the 27-year-old could land a contract north of $100 million on the open market. Even if he hasn’t ruled out staying in Cincinnati, the price simply could get higher than the Reds are willing to go.
Bailey has bounced back from early injuries and disappointment to post a 3.58 ERA over the past two seasons, throwing two no-hitters along the way. With MLB Trade Rumors projecting him to earn $9.3 million in his final year of arbitration, contract talks with the Reds are on “hold” at the moment.
Spring training is tough for players under the best of circumstances. Even in an age when players work out all year, getting back into the swing of baseball-at-full-speed is tough. Many players spend the bulk of February and March knocking off the rust and getting their timing back. Because of this — and because the games have no real stakes — it is not wise to take spring training statistics super seriously. Especially if the player in question is assured of a spot on the roster and is trying to avoid injury before the regular season arrives.
Spring training for Shohei Ohtani is doubly difficult. Not only does he have to knock the rust off from the offseason, but he (a) has to get used to a new country and language; (b) has to get to know all new teammates, coaches and, really, an entirely new baseball culture; and (c) do all of that while dealing with a media crush that hasn’t been seen in baseball since Ichiro first arrived 17 years ago. In short, Ohtani is under massive pressure and has to make massive adjustments in a short time.
With that said, neither the Angels nor Ohtani can be all that pleased with how his spring training has gone. In two actual major league exhibition games he’s allowed eight runs in two and two-thirds innings. Seven of those came on Friday when he was shelled by the Rockies in an inning and a third. If you include B-games against minor leaguers, he has allowed 17 runs on 18 hits, four of which were homers, in four games. As a hitter he’s 2-for-20.
As Jeff Fletcher of the OC Register notes, Ohtani’s peripherals are not bad, as he has struck out a lot of guys and walked very few and the average on balls in play against him has been brutal, which is not super sustainable. Bad luck and some fat pitches at a time of the year when luck doesn’t really matter and the pitches, because of the rust, are likely to be fatter than normal.
As Fletcher also notes, Nolan Arenado, who faced Ohtani on Friday, said that his stuff looked good and that he’s going to be a good big league pitcher. Ohtani and Angels officials are all striking the right notes about bad luck and adjustments, saying that they’re not worried.
I imagine they’d be worrying even less if things had gone well this spring. Unless of course this is just a professional wrestling-style work aimed at getting more of us to watch his regular season debut, in which he’ll reveal that he was sandbaggin’ all along.