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Bailey taking contract talks one day at a time

Righty weighing benefits of signing a deal now vs. waiting until after '14 season

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CINCINNATI -- Typical of a period of high-stakes contract negotiations, Reds pitcher Homer Bailey was more diplomatic than emphatic about his situation. While Bailey remains open to a long-term contract with Cincinnati, he certainly isn't willing to paint himself into a corner ... yet.

Bailey is one of two Reds players eligible for arbitration, with closer Aroldis Chapman being the other. But Bailey is the one who can be a free agent after the 2014 season. His agent, Casey Close, and Reds general manager Walt Jocketty have been engaged in talks about a multi-year contract throughout the winter.

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"There is [interest], but it has to be something that works out for both ends," Bailey said on Sunday before a Reds Caravan event at Great American Ball Park. "That's kind of tough to do. You see a lot of the signings that are going on, so, of course, it's going to raise eyebrows on my behalf. Obviously, with a mid-market team, it's tougher for them, also. We're just going to have to see how everything goes."

During a Saturday caravan stop in Ashland, Ky., Bailey appeared with Reds CEO Bob Castellini. The two then flew back to Cincinnati together on Castellini's private jet, but Bailey said no discussions about his contract came up while on the brief 20-minute flight.

Bailey has an intriguing set of options in front of him. He could get immediate long-term security now or wait until after the season and potentially get an even bigger contract once he's on the free-agent market next winter.

"That's just a gamble that every player takes," Bailey said. "There's always risk of injury or no performance or whatever the case may be."

Even though the Reds are aiming to lock in Bailey with a multi-year deal, the two sides already exchanged arbitration figures for a one-year pact earlier this month. A wide disparity exists, as Bailey filed for $11.6 million, while the Reds countered at $8.7 million -- a gap of $2.9 million. If a deal -- for either a multi-year or a one-year contract -- is not reached, the two sides will have an arbitration hearing sometime in February.

A year ago, the Reds and Bailey avoided arbitration with a one-year, $5.35 million contract.

Bailey, 27, wasn't concerned that something be completed before Spring Training opens on Feb. 14.

"I'm not going to sit there and put a timeline on anything," Bailey said. "These things are not processes that get done overnight. Last year, we did our [arbitration-avoiding contract] four days before we went to the hearing. They had a bunch of guys to sign. I'm not one to just rush things and say, 'Hey, it has to be done by this type of date.' It's not something I really want to deal with during the season."

Bailey is coming off of back-to-back strong seasons in his first two arbitration years. In 32 starts last season, Bailey was 11-12 with a career-best 3.49 ERA. He achieved career bests in innings (209) and strikeouts (199). He threw the second no-hitter of his career on July 2 vs. the Giants at Great American Ball Park. The righty had a 13-10 record and 3.68 ERA in 33 starts over 208 innings in 2012, and threw his first no-hitter vs. the Pirates near the end of that season.

The Reds will have a new manager this season in Bryan Price, who has been the team's pitching coach the previous four seasons. Bailey already has a good relationship with him, and was optimistic he would work well with new pitching coach Jeff Pico. Don't discount Price's presence as a chip in the Reds' favor.

"That's obviously something," Bailey said. "You hear from players who have been with other teams talking about other managers, other GMs, other front-office people -- whether it's good or bad. [It's important] knowing Bryan and knowing the relationship I have with him. I like our front office. It's a good bunch of guys. I like the owners. They do a lot here. Yeah, that definitely counts for something. At the end of the day, this is still a business. This is the way baseball works."

Bailey, who had surgery after last season to repair a hernia, maintained his fondness for the city of Cincinnati and the club itself. The Reds selected him in the first round of the 2004 First-Year Player Draft, and he debuted in the Majors for them during the 2007 season.

"If you've only been one place, you only know one thing, right? You know what's here," Bailey said. "That's one of the variables that you do know. You can go somewhere else and, again, that's part of the gamble that you have to take."

Is Bailey the gambling type?

"We'll find out," he replied.

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.

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