- Buster Olney, Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
Homer Bailey's career ERA is 4.30, and he's had two seasons in which he has thrown over 200 innings. He has not pitched to the level of a Clayton Kershaw, Justin Verlander, or even a Matt Cain. He's never had any kind of a vote for the Cy Young Award, and has never been picked for an All-Star team.
But Bailey has managed to shift perceptions in the market, when he got a six-year, $105 million deal from the Reds in February. To agents and players, this deal seems to represent a new benchmark that has ratcheted up their expectations. For some club officials, the Bailey contract represents one giant wrench dropped right into the middle of salary machinations.
So if you're sitting in Jon Lester's position, as a star left-hander with two championship rings just five months from free agency, a $70 million offer from the Red Sox might appear almost ridiculous, within the context of the Bailey contract. If you are in Jeff Samardzija's spot, more than a year from free agency, the Bailey deal might redefine the range of what kind of deal you seek.
In the end, the Bailey deal may prove to be the domino that eventually leads to Samardzija being traded before July 31.
Samardzija, 29, is off to a great start, with a 1.62 ERA in seven starts. Working as a reliever in 2011, Samardzija went 8-4 with a 2.97 ERA. When converted to a starter in 2012, he posted a 3.81 ERA in 174 2/3 innings, with a 1.22 WHIP; last year, he had a 4.34 ERA in 33 starts, with 214 strikeouts and a 1.35 WHIP.
The Cubs are at a crossroads: Pay Samardzija what he wants, which may be a Bailey-like deal, or trade him this summer, probably as the best available starter in the market.
It's not a sure thing that Samardzija is dealt, writes Jesse Rogers. From his story:
Samardzija wants to be paid like an ace -- in the neighborhood of a $100 million deal -- but the Cubs won't budge. While Hoyer indicated recently there are no trade talks currently going on with any players, that's expected to change with Samardzija as he drives up his value. The Toronto Blue Jays and Atlanta Braves are among the teams expected to be interested. Samardzija pitches against the Braves on Saturday.
The Arizona Diamondbacks have asked about Samardzija in the past, but they aren't expected to be buyers after an awful start to their season.
Maybe the White Sox can take their place.
"It wouldn't be a bad thing, anytime you can grab an arm like that," first baseman Paul Konerko said before Samardzija shut down the Sox on Monday. "He's a No. 1-type of guy."
For the readers: Would you pay Samardzija a Bailey-like deal? Or trade him?
The guess here is that they will deal him.
The Cubs are singing Samardzija's praises, writes Gordon Wittenmyer.
Around the league
• One leftover from the weekend: When we brought up the idea of possible promotion of Oscar Taveras with Cardinals manager Mike Matheny in our meeting before the Sunday night game, he shut down the conversation (without necessarily rejecting the possibility).
"We've got plenty of guys here," said Matheny, who said he didn't want anybody to think that Taveras is a "silver bullet" who is going to solve St. Louis' offensive troubles; that would not be fair to the current players, Matheny said, or to Taveras.
A rival evaluator who saw the Cardinals recently believes an overriding question about defense complicates the timing of any Taveras promotion.
"They don't have a single plus defender other than [Yadier] Molina," he said. "They wanted to make their defense better by bringing in Peter Bourjos. Taveras is not a center fielder; he is a corner outfielder who would be playing center field."
In the eyes of the evaluator, the best way for the Cardinals to create room for Taveras would be to eventually swap first baseman Matt Adams, sometime during the offseason -- and there definitely would be a lot of interest in Adams in the trade market -- and shift Allen Craig from right field to first base.
Derrick Goold has more on the Super Two issue and Taveras.
• On Tuesday's podcast, Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington on Jon Lester, the early play of Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr., plus his favorite baseball book; Keith Law on Laz Diaz and Max Scherzer; and Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer on what we have learned about the Phillies.
From ESPN Stats & Information: The Rockies as a team are hitting .355/.401/.600 at Coors Field this season with 33 homers and 136 RBIs in 715 plate appearances. Essentially, the Rockies at Coors Field have fielded a lineup of Stan Musials circa 1951, who batted .355 with 32 HRs over 678 plate appearances that year.
• The opinion of one evaluator: "The injury that's hurt [the Nationals] the most is Wilson Ramos. He's a very underrated catcher."
Washington is being cautious with him, writes James Wagner.
• Watched a lot of Robbie Ray's start and he was impressive, in the Mark Buehrle pace he pitched with and his command, in his first big league start. His delivery reminds me a lot of Bruce Hurst's, the former Boston and San Diego left-hander -- who happened to be traded for Brad Ausmus, now Ray's manager.
Here's Ray talking about his debut.
Moves, deals and decisions
1. The Pirates tried to sign top prospect Gregory Polanco to a long-term deal back in spring training. This news will only increase the pressure on the organization to summon the outfielder, who has an OPS of 1.070 in Triple-A -- but he probably won't reach the big leagues until sometime next month.
3. The Mets are getting closer to that time when they'll promote their young pitching.
4. Jesus Aguilar may or may not be able to help the Indians' offense, as Paul Hoynes writes.
4. The Royals snapped their losing streak.
5. The Jays beat a shift.
6. The Mariners climbed back over .500.
Dings and dents
1. Matt Wieters is going to see Dr. James Andrews about his right elbow. Earlier this season, during Baltimore's series in Boston, it was striking to watch Wieters throw to second base in between innings; he just didn't look comfortable.
From ESPN Stats & Info, how Henderson Alvarez shut down the Mets:
A. Alvarez threw 71 percent strikes, his highest percentage in the past two seasons. He threw only 53 percent first-pitch strikes but recovered to throw 85 percent strikes when he was behind in the count.
B. Twenty of the Mets' 27 outs came via strikeout (seven) or ground ball (13). Alvarez has the 10th-highest ground ball rate in the NL this season (56 percent).
C. Alvarez had three strikeouts on his fastball, two on his changeup and two on his slider. It's only the second time in 65 career starts -- and the first since 2011 -- that he had at least two strikeouts on three different pitch types.
• David Murphy wonders: Is this the start of Cody Asche's breakout?
• The Phillies are succeeding with shifts on D, writes Ryan Lawrence.
• The Brewers aren't drawing walks, as Michael Hunt writes.
• Royals GM Dayton Moore is stressing patience, writes Andy McCullough.
• Houston just keeps losing.
• If the Diamondbacks trade some veterans, they would have to eat a lot of money, rival execs tell Nick Piecoro.
• The Madoff settlement situation has gotten better for the Wilpons, writes Adam Rubin.
• The Mets changed up signs playing in Miami.
• Joe Girardi on Laz Diaz: No one comes to the park to see the umpire.
• An umpire had a tribute for Willie Mays.
And today will be better than yesterday.