Posted on July 14, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine

Cincinnati Reds Homer Bailey
Image via cbssports.com

The Oakland Athletics aren’t going to wait around until the trade deadline to improve their starting rotation. On Sunday, they swung a deal with the Kansas City Royals for starting pitcher Homer Bailey. In exchange for Bailey, the Royals will receive infield prospect Kevin Merrell.

The 33-year-old Bailey has become a bit of a castaway in recent years amidst a series of injuries. After going 1-14 with a 6.09 ERA in 20 starts with the Reds last season, Bailey was part of a trade that sent him to the Dodgers. The Dodgers quickly cut him loose, forcing Bailey to settle for a minor league deal with the Royals. But he made Kansas City’s rotation and has been solid if unspectacular this year, going 7-6 with a 4.80 ERA.

“We’re trying to get incrementally better wherever we can,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin said following the trade. “Before he got hurt obviously was an electric arm, and it seems like he’s coming back to form at this point. I think it makes our rotation better, and that’s the objective.”

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If the A’s are going to make another charge in the second half and return to the Wild Card Game for the second straight year, they need to bolster the back end of their rotation. The trio of Brett Anderson, Mike Fiers, and Chris Bassitt has led the way. But with Frankie Montas more or less out for the rest of the season following a PED suspension, the final two spots in Oakland’s rotation remain question marks.

The good news for Oakland is that reinforcements could be on their way. Jharel Cotton is currently in triple-A working his way back from Tommy John surgery. Sean Manaea, last year’s ace, has also started making minor league rehab appearances on his way back from shoulder surgery. Marco Estrada could return from the back issues that sidelined him early in the season. However, the A’s can’t afford to rely on their injured starters returning to form. They need someone like Bailey to bring some consistency to the back end of their rotation.

One benefit of acquiring Bailey is that he comes cheap. The Dodgers are on the hook for most of his $23 million salary this season. The Royals were only paying him the league minimum. That means Oakland will only owe him around $250,000 for the rest of the season. Without spending much to get Bailey, the A’s could still have enough financial flexibility to make other moves before the deadline.

As for the Royals, were able to get something for Bailey after initially offering him a minor league deal. Merrell is likely to end up as a utility man in the majors but could use his blazing speed to carve out an everyday role. They’ve also opened up a spot in their rotation for younger starters to see more action down the stretch.

Of course, this trade is all about the A’s trying to get better. A year ago, Oakland put together a rotation down the stretch of journeymen pitchers who had been overlooked and forgotten by other teams, not unlike Bailey. They can only hope that lightning strikes twice, especially with Fiers and Anderson having such strong seasons. The A’s currently own the second Wild Card spot in the American League. But they’re going to need help to stay there, and adding Bailey is surely a small step in the right direction.

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