Cubs: Homer Bailey could be underrated 5th starter option

Whether the Cubs look within their own organization to fill the 5th starter position, Homer Bailey is an intriguing name to consider.

While the Cubs could certainly turn to internal candidates to fill the open 5th starter position, one name – from outside the organization – that perhaps hasn’t been considered is Homer Bailey. The Cubs should be familiar with Bailey from his 12 years in Cincinnati. The now 33-year-old began his 2019 campaign in Kansas City but was able to generate enough trade value and was dealt to the Oakland Athletics in July.

Between both clubs, the big righty tossed 163.1 innings in 31 starts while spinning a 4.57 ERA and put up really good numbers in the second half with Oakland. In 13 starts, he had a 4.30 ERA (3.65 FIP) with 68 strikeouts and recorded his highest K/9 since the 2016 season.

His career resurgence was aided by the use of his split-finger fastball at a career-high 26.4 percent. Opposing batters were able to hit just .182 off it and Bailey generated a 38.2 percent whiff rate. He made $555,000 last year after being signed to a minor league contract with an invite to Spring Training, so he shouldn’t be an expensive commodity.

That being said, he is a free agent and weird things happen in the offseason if a team feels they are desperate for pitching. The Cubs are not desperate for Bailey’s services as they could turn to the aforementioned internal candidates – like Adbert Alzolay, Tyler Chatwood, or Alec Mills – if they cannot reach a deal with Bailey. His injury history is mildly concerning and it would appear that his off-speed pitches are no longer above average, considering that opponents were able to hit .311 and .343 off his slider and curveball last year, respectively.

Alzolay, 24, got a taste of the big leagues last year and dazzled in his debut, tossing 4.0 innings of one-run ball while striking out 5 batters and took home the win on June 20. He was roughed up for 7 earned runs in his start on July 1 in Pittsburgh, where he lasted just 2.2 innings and was sent back down to Triple-A.

Chatwood got off to a rough start in a Cubs uniform, posting a 5.30 ERA during the 2018 season while walking an MLB-leading 95 batters in 103.2 innings. He performed better last season, mostly from the bullpen, and made 5 starts as well. He struck out 74 batters in 76.2 innings but did allow 37 free passes.

Next: Non-tender candidates team should consider signing

Alec Mills is not an exciting name but the 28-year-old was impressive last season in 4 starts (9 appearances), tossing 36.0 innings while striking out 42 batters. He did allow 11 earned runs on 5 home runs and 31 hits but posted a very respectable 2.75 ERA. If not a good fit for the rotation, Mills could potentially be a useful bullpen arm in 2020.

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