Multi-year deals could follow Reds' tender decisions

Multi-year deals could follow Reds' tender decisions

CINCINNATI -- As much of the baseball landscape is consumed by which players could be changing teams via trade or free agency, there is another component to the Hot Stove season that can create its own intrigue -- arbitration-eligible players.

The deadline to tender 2013 contract offers to arbitration-eligible players is 11:59 p.m. ET on Friday.

On the Reds' 40-man roster are seven affected players -- starting pitchers Homer Bailey, Mat Latos and Mike Leake; outfielders Drew Stubbs and Chris Heisey; and relievers Logan Ondrusek and Alfredo Simon. Two others, reliever Bill Bray and infielder Wilson Valdez, became free agents after both were sent outright off the roster earlier this month.

While there are no obvious non-tender candidates after the departures of Bray and Valdez, a surprise is always possible. What is known: All of the players on this list are in line for significant raises. And recent club history indicates a couple could land multi-year contracts.

With starting pitching being the most coveted area of the game, it could very well mean those types of deals fall to the likes of Latos and Bailey.

Reds' arbitration-eligibles
All seven of the Reds' arbitration-eligible players are in line for significant raises.
Player '12 salary Arb. eligibility
Bailey $2.4 mil Second year
Heisey $495,000 First (Super Two)
Latos $550,000 First
Leake $507,000 First
Ondrusek $492,000 First (Super Two)
Simon $487,000 First
Stubbs $527,000 First

Latos, who earned $550,000 in 2012, is eligible for arbitration for the first time. The 24-year-old arrived in last winter's blockbuster trade that sent three top prospects and Edinson Volquez to the Padres.

In a career-high 33 starts that was tied for the league lead, Latos was 14-4 with a 3.48 ERA and two complete games in 209 1/3 innings, also a career high. In 105 starts since 2009, he is 41-33 with a 3.41 ERA lifetime.

Bailey, who is heading into the arbitration season for the second time, avoided a hearing last January by signing a one-year, $2.4 million contract. The 26-year-old had a spotted history heading into that deal but finally came into his own in 2012.

The 26-year-old Bailey was 13-10 with a 3.68 ERA, also in 33 starts and established career highs in wins, innings (208), starts, strikeouts (168), quality starts (21). He led the National League with a 2.32 road ERA.

Of course, Bailey also made history on Sept. 28 by throwing the first no-hitter of his career against the Pirates. In 111 career starts, he is 38-33 with a 4.50 ERA but after multiple injuries and setbacks, seemed to put it all together last season.

Teams have routinely showed a willingness to overpay for pitching. On Nov. 20, the Royals retained free-agent starter Jeremy Guthrie with a three-year, $25 million contract.

Guthrie is 55-77 with a 4.28 ERA lifetime over nine seasons.

Arbitration-eligible starters with better track records can be more cost effective if locked up. Last winter after his trade from the A's to the Nationals, lefty Gio Gonzalez avoided arbitration with a five-year, $42 million deal -- which at the time was the largest signing for a first-year arbitration-eligible pitcher. While earning $3.2 million in the first year of that contract, Gonzalez won 21 games in 2012.

Right-hander Ryan Vogelsong avoided arbitration with the Giants last winter with a two-year, $8.3 million contract. Vogelsong was a 14-game winner this past season while making $3 million.

Multi-year contracts to avoid arbitration can be mutually beneficial to all parties. For the clubs, especially smaller market teams like the Reds, it brings the often-mentioned cost certainty when figuring out an annual budget. For players, it brings security and an assurance of avoiding the dreaded arbitration hearing that can sometimes bring acrimony and bad blood with their club. The Reds have not had a case go to a hearing since 2004, when they won a decision over reliever Chris Reitsma.

In January 2011 alone, the Reds signed three arbitration-eligible players to multi-year contracts in first baseman Joey Votto (three years, $38 million), right fielder Jay Bruce (six years, $51 million) and starting pitcher Johnny Cueto (four years, $27 million). Another pitcher, Volquez, was offered a deal similar to Cueto's but turned it down to sign a one-year deal.

Cueto, who earned $5.4 million in the second year of his deal, went 19-9 with a 2.78 ERA and established himself as the staff ace and one of baseball's best.

Whether Latos, Bailey, or the others receive similar windfalls won't likely be known until later in the winter. But it all starts with the initial offer, and that has to happen by Friday night.

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.