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Yankees Potential Free Agent Target: Homer Bailey

The veteran right-hander makes sense as a depth addition for the rotation

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Los Angeles Angels Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees are in an enviable position when it comes to pitching depth thanks to the Gerrit Cole signing. With J.A. Happ still on the roster amid trade rumors, the rotation depth chart has the newcomer Cole at the top, followed in some order by Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton, Jordan Montgomery, Happ, Deivi Garcia, Jonathan Loaisiga, Mike King, and Chance Adams.

Since some of the names in the bottom half of that group carry different question marks, it wouldn’t be far-fetched to think the Yankees have another move in them, specifically targeting a veteran starting pitcher on a low-cost deal.

Homer Bailey, a right-hander whose best days were at the beginning of the decade with the Cincinnati Reds, could be an attractive option. He won’t break the bank and likely won’t take much more than a one-year deal.

A tale of two seasons

Bailey, 33, started the 2019 season with the Kansas City Royals, where he had a 4.80 ERA in 18 starts, covering 90 innings with a 1.41 WHIP and 81 strikeouts. He was traded to the Oakland A’s, and there, he became a stalwart in the rotation as the team secured a postseason spot as one of the Wild Card teams.

With Oakland, Bailey started 13 games and had a 4.30 ERA with a 1.20 WHIP. However, if we take out one disastrous outing against the Houston Astros on July 22—in which he conceded nine earned runs in just two frames—his ERA with the Athletics would be 3.03 in 12 starts.

Of course, we can’t erase what happened, but the fact is that Bailey was quite good with the A’s. He was very consistent, conceding three runs or less in 11 of his 13 starts with Oakland, including his last eight. The Yankees could surely use an arm like that.

In total, and despite the mediocre showing with the Royals, Bailey managed to pitch 163.1 innings of 2.9 fWAR, which is actually the second-best mark of his career. Not bad for a pitcher that many deemed as “toast” at the beginning of the year.

The splitter, his bread-and-butter pitch

According to Baseball Savant, Bailey primarily relies on five pitches: a four-seamer (48.1%), a a splitter(26.4%), a slider (14.2%), a curveball (8.9%), and a sinker (2.4%.)

While the fastball (5.4) and slider (0.4) accumulated positive registers according to FanGraphs’ pitch value chart, Bailey’s bread-and-butter pitch was his splitter:

The pitch accumulated 4.5 runs above average, the second-best mark in the Majors after Yu Darvish’s 4.6, and the first in the American League.

Opposing hitters batted a meager .182 against the pitch, which had an xwOBA of .199 and an actual wOBA of .214. Bailey had a 38.2 whiff percentage with his splitter. The offering made American League batters look ridiculous on a regular basis.

With five pitches in his arsenal, a decent fastball that averaged a little over 93 mph in 2019, and one of the best splitters in the game, Homer Bailey can be a useful piece on any contender’s rotation, as he proved this season with Oakland. The Yankees definitely should ask around on him.