Is Homer Bailey’s Contract the Worst in MLB History?

Ever since the Reds decided to resign Homer Bailey in 2014, he has been nothing short of disappointing. Add this to the fact that he is currently in the middle of a six year, $105 million contract, and it should become very apparent that the Reds made a huge mistake. But, is Homer’s contract the worst in the history of the MLB?

Since signing his extension in February of 2014, Homer hasn’t exactly had his share of success in the big leagues. He has amassed 18 wins with 25 losses, posting a 5.27 ERA, 1.502 WHIP, and averaging only 12 starts per season. Also, since 2014, Homer has had -3.7 wins above average (WAA) and -1.0 wins above replacement (WAR). His 2018 season has been especially disappointing, posting, as of the date this was published, 1 win with 7 losses, a dismal 6.68 ERA, and a horrible 1.694 WHIP. This season alone, he has had -1.3 WAR. His salary for 2018? 21 million dollars.

While there’s no doubt that Homer hasn’t lived up to his deal, there are also some additional factors at work: namely, his numerous injuries and DL stints. I mean, just look at his Wikipedia page since 2014.

Screen Shot 2018-06-04 at 4.28.57 PM
Holy injuries, Batman

Since 2014, Homer Bailey has gotten paid $77 million dollars. Dividing this total by the number of starts he has made (61), we can see that he has made $1,262,295 per start. Clayton Kershaw, considered by many to be the best pitcher in baseball today, has averaged $1,248,768 per start ($144,857,142 over 116 starts). Now, of course, this wouldn’t be the case if Homer wasn’t hurt so much every year, but these statistics just go to show how much money the Reds have wasted on this contract. All of this money, for the Reds, has only resulted in a -1.0 WAR, meaning the Reds have wasted $77 mil. on a pitcher whose presence has cost the Reds an additional win that could have been salvaged by a replacement-level pitcher.

Other notable SP contracts that live in baseball infamy include the contracts of Barry Zito and Mike Hampton. In 2007, Zito signed a 7-year, $126 million contract with the Giants. During his time with the Giants, Zito amassed 63 wins and 80 losses with a 4.62 ERA and 1.429 WHIP. He also totaled -6.7 WAA and 2.4 WAR (approx. -1 and 0.3 per season, respectively). Zito’s W-L%, ERA, and WHIP are all better than Homer Bailey’s (since resigning). Homer’s WAA is higher, but that could just be due to appearing in less games. Bailey will average $17.5 mil. per year over the course of his contract, whereas Zito averaged $17 mil. per year over the course of his deal.

Zito went from a 102-63 record with a 3.58 ERA in OAK to 63-80 with a 4.62 ERA in SF

In 2000, the Rockies signed Mike Hampton to an 8-year, $121 million dollar deal that was, at the time, the largest contract in baseball history. In just two years in Colorado, Hampton had a record of 21-28 with an ERA of 5.75 and a dismal 1.677 WHIP. He also totaled -4.7 WAA and -1.6 WAR before being traded to the Braves, where he had a record of 35-24 with a 4.10 ERA, 1.432 WHIP, 0.5 WAA, and 4.5 WAR.

I can’t imagine how angry Rockies fans were when Hampton’s ERA went from 3.14 with the Mets to 5.41 in his first season in COL. 

While Homer Bailey’s contract will undoubtedly be regarded as a mistake by Reds fans in the future, I don’t think it’s the worst deal ever given to a pitcher. Firstly, it’s not Homer’s or the Reds’ fault that Homer has been plagued by a number of injuries. I mean, he hasn’t pitched a full season since 2013. In a way, I kind of feel sorry for him because the Reds are paying him so much money that expectations are bound to be high. But then again, he’s made over $86 million over the course of his career, so I don’t feel too bad for him.

Secondly, while Zito made less money per year than Homer, pitchers weren’t paid as much then as they are now, so Zito’s deal was more meaningful (by baseball inflation, I guess). Also, he had been a 3 time all-star and former Cy Young Award winner before he signed his deal. Barry Zito faced much higher expectations at the time of his contract than Homer Bailey, whose only accolades included throwing two no-hitters. Mike Hampton’s deal was also stunningly awful, especially when he was in Colorado. I mean, a 1.677 WHIP and 5.75 ERA? For a $121 million deal? Now that’s just sad!

So, while Homer Bailey’s deal isn’t exactly a dandy, it isn’t the worst in baseball history. Two lefties, Barry Zito and Mike Hampton, both had worse deals with higher expectations. Homer Bailey does have some time left on his contract, so hopefully he can find a way to make the most out of his remaining time with the Reds and maybe duplicate his 2012 and 2013 seasons.

MLB: Cincinnati Reds at Philadelphia Phillies

Thank you all so much for reading. Thanks to Baseball Reference for all the stats and contract information. Disagree with me? Let me know in the comments below. Make sure you check out all the other articles here on Mid-American Culture, as well as our weekly playlist. Follow me on Twitter @coryedwards50, and follow the site @M_American_C. See you all next time.

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