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Homer Bailey’s contract sets the market for others, including Samardzija

Updated: March 22, 2014 6:43AM

MESA, Ariz. — When the small-market Cincinnati Reds finished off that six-year, $105 million deal with power pitcher Homer Bailey this week, it highlighted a salary trend for pitchers and could be one reason why Jeff Samardzija is already considered to be on the trading block before the season even opens.

“Pretty awesome, isn’t it,” Samardzija said when asked about Bailey’s deal as he rushed through the clubhouse Thursday morning.

“Nothing to talk about,” he added with a smile. “Speaks for itself, doesn’t it?”

When he returned a few minutes later, Samardzija still wasn’t willing to talk about Bailey’s deal as it relates to his own status.

“It is what it is, right? I don’t really have a comment on it,” he said.

He doesn’t have to. Bailey, who is a year ahead of Samardzija in service time and was in his final year of club control, offers an intriguing comparison point, if only to illustrate the price that the promise of frontline-starter quality can command.

And the kind of hard decisions the cash-strapped front office faces when measuring the value of a guy like Samardzija.

Until the next comparable pitcher gets another contract, Bailey’s deal becomes a starting point for Samardzija extension talks next year. Not that those will be had with the Cubs, who for 16 months haven’t been able to persuade Samardzija to choose the security of a long-term deal.

The Cubs are believed to have offered five guaranteed years to Samardzija before last season at less annual value than Bailey’s deal.

Bailey, who hasn’t won more than 13 games and has a higher career ERA than Samardzija (4.25 to 4.19), made roughly the same salary as Samardzija’s $5.345 million this year at the same arbitration level. On the other hand, Bailey has more starts in his career, is a year younger than Samardzija and has thrown no-hitters the last two years.

Samardzija, who fell short of having back-to-back 200-inning seasons because of a planned September 2012 shutdown after 1742/3 innings, had more innings and strikeouts than Bailey in 2013. And he’s projected to make a second consecutive Opening Day start, while Bailey opened the last two season in the fourth spot of Cincinnati’s rotation.

“It’s good for the game. It’s good for the players,” Samardzija said of Bailey’s deal. “It’s good to see a guy that started out really young in the big leagues get rewarded for his hard work and his consistency as of late for sure. It’s cool. It’s good to see.”

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