Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Dodgers should entertain a Homer Bailey trade if they don't sign Tanaka

The Dodgers have a surplus of outfielders. The Reds need an outfielder. There has to be a match here, no?

Maybe, but probably not one you're thinking of.

While it'd be easy to try to mock up trade scenarios involving Andre Ethier, the Reds aren't really looking to add significant payroll at the moment. In fact, they're potentially looking to trade Homer Bailey to free up payroll, and to get something for the pending free agent.

The Reds acknowledge it'd be hard to sign Bailey to a long-term deal, and he's due a raise from the $5.35 million he made in 2013 to somewhere in the neighborhood of $9-plus million. With Brandon Phillips locked up for $50 million over the next four years, the savings the Reds desire are going to have to come somewhere.

Bailey, 27, had a slow start to his career, posting a 4.89 ERA in his first 436 innings. The former No. 7 overall pick in the 2004 MLB Draft looked like a bust. However, a solid 2012 campaign followed by an even better 2013 campaign is setting him up to be one of the better right-handed pitchers just entering his prime.

Bailey was a 2.5-win player in 2012 and was nearly a 4-win player in 2013 while he posted a 3.31 FIP that outperformed his 3.49 ERA. From 2012-13, Bailey was able to improve in every pitching category. His ERA went from 3.68 to 3.49, his WHIP from 1.24 to 1.12, his hits per nine innings from 8.9 to 7.8, his home runs per nine from 1.1 to 0.9, his strikeouts per nine from 7.3 to 8.6, his strikeout-to-walk ratio from 3.23 to 3.69 and his FIP from 3.97 to 3.31.

A reason for Bailey's improved performance in 2013 could be due to his improved fastball. FanGraphs rated it at 18.9 runs above average, which was good for sixth-best in the majors among starting pitchers. His velocity on the four-seamer increased to an average of 94.1 MPH -- seventh-best among starters. His slider regressed a bit this year from the previous two seasons in that category -- from 10.9 and 10.1 in 2011 and 2012 to 2.8 in 2013.

The Dodgers are in on Masahiro Tanaka, unless they aren't. There's actually no clear indication one way or the other. If the Dodgers fail to land Tanaka, Bailey could be a nice alternative.

Here are some of the results of an informal Twitter poll I posed today which had the Dodgers sending Joc Pederson to Cincinnati for Bailey.









Mostly "no," but a few "yes" votes spliced in. It isn't as one-sided as some may think.

I've grown rather fond of Pederson, especially after his fantastic 2013 season. I don't especially want the Dodgers to trade him. But if it means getting a stud starter like Bailey, it'd be something I would consider.

Bailey is a free agent after the season, so if the Dodgers were to sign him to an extension, it'd make the deal that much better for them. If they don't, they can give him a qualifying offer after the 2014 season and either negotiate a long-term deal or earn a compensatory draft pick in the 2015 draft.

Remember, Bailey has thrown more than half his innings in a hitter-friendly ballpark, and the numbers reflect that (4.74 ERA at home, 3.73 ERA on the road).

It's clear the Dodgers aren't going to move a guy like Ethier or Carl Crawford, and Pederson won't do the Major League team much good in Triple-A. Matt Kemp and Yasiel Puig are penned in as starters, provided they're healthy (i.e., provided Kemp's healthy), and Scott Van Slyke is likely the team's No. 5 outfielder if the Dodgers keep all of their high-priced ones.

This wouldn't be making a trade for the sake of making a trade, either. Bailey is a quality No. 3 starter in the game and seems to be getting better with age -- and he's entering his prime. He'd be the Dodgers' No. 4 starter, and a damn good one.

I don't feel especially comfortable with the Dodgers turning to Josh Beckett to be their No. 5 starter in 2014. I'd rather have Zach Lee than a guy like Beckett or someone else who doesn't at least have potential. But if the Dodgers can't land Tanaka, a Pederson-for-Bailey swap is something I would consider.

Photo credit: Wknight94, Wikimedia Commons

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