SOUTH HILLS – Homer Bailey is Exhibit A on why clubs should never give up on a talented arm. The former top 10 overall prospect took his time in finding his way at the major league level, but over the last two years he has become a top-of-the-rotation pitcher. The Reds locked up Bailey to a six-year, $105 million deal this week, which seems somewhat remarkable given he is the owner of a middling 49-45 career record and 4.25 ERA. But remember the Reds are paying what Bailey is now and what he could be in the future — and there’s a lot of cash in the game.
Here’s what Bailey’s contract looks like: $9 million this year, $10 million in 2015, $18 million in 2016, $19 million in 2017, $21 million in 2018 and $23 million in 2019 and a $25 million option in 2020. (Gerrit Cole is going to be more expensive than this).
The Reds have also made a $100-plus commitments to superstar Joey Votto. Jay Bruce is locked up to an Andrew McCutchen-level contract, and Brandon Phillips is near the end of a pricey deal.
The Reds and Pirates are rooted in similarly sized-markets. They are similarly valued franchises: the Reds are worth $680 million, the Pirates $610 million, according to Bloomberg. They have similar lower-tier local TV deals (The Reds earn $10 million more per year in total media rights, per Bloomberg). The Reds have enjoyed better attendance and higher ticket prices over the last several years, but the Pirates showed they can close that gap in 2013 simply by winning. If you build it they will come to PNC Park. The Reds generated $205 million in total revenue in 2013, the Pirates $185 million, again, per Bloomberg.
What’s interesting is an examination of the two clubs’ future financial commitments:
2015: $70.8 million
2016: $54.5 million
2017: $55 million
2018: $46 million
2015: $22.3 million
2016: $25.9 million
2017: $15.6 million
2018: $1 million (Option on Andrew McCutchen)
Will the Pirates eventually rise to meet the Reds’ level of future spending? They’ll have to to keep the core together.
The Reds have shown a willingness to commit substantial dollars to core pieces. They are a smaller-market club and they have now shelled out two, $100-million plus contracts. For the Pirates to keep its core together ownership will have demonstrate a willingness to pay out nine figures. Pedro Alvarez will likely require a nine-figure deal in a power-depressed environment. If Cole is to pitch in Pittsburgh as a 29-year-old, he’ll require a nine-figure deal. If Francisco Liriano follows up his 2013 with a similar 2014 he could near nine-figure territory. If the Pirates want to make McCutchen a lifetime player, it will be a nine-figure deal.
The Scott Boras factor complicates things with Cole and Alvarez, who will likely test free agency. But the point is if the Reds can make such a commitment so, too, can the Pirates.
SEVEN PIRATES LAND ON BA’S TOP 100
The last major top 100 list was unveiled today, Baseball America’s 25th such ranking. The Pirates landed seven names on the list, which is an organizational record, I believe, and remember these seven prospects have helped the Pirates earn the No. 1 farm system ranking in the Baseball America Handbook.
Gregory Polanco (10)
BA: “After he takes a breather from his successful winter ball stint in the Dominican Republic, Polanco can set his sights on winning Pittsburgh’s right-field job by midsummer.”
*I was actually surprised by the aggressive Polanco ranking. Ahead of Francisco Lindor and Addison Russell? Wow.
Jameson Taillon (22)
BA: “Taillon has frontline stuff and has put himself on the cusp of the Pittsburgh rotation, and more consistent fastball command will get him his Pirates puffy shirt.”
Tyler Glasnow (46)
Austin Meadows (49)
BA: “Following a tight spring prior to the draft, Meadows played loose and free after signing. A repeat of that approach would serve him well in his full-season debut.”
Nick Kingham (64)
*I think Kingham could be a top 30 prospect next year: he has the complete package.
Alen Hanson (76)
Reese McGuire (81)
BA: ”The history of high school catchers drafted in the first round isn’t the greatest, but McGuire showed the defensive chops and bat to make good in his debut. He’ll just look to continue that trend in his first full season.”
*I’m higher on McGuire than most.