Why he’ll succeed in 2020: When the news of Bailey’s signing with the Twins hit, it reeked of the typical bargain basement deals the Twins used to strike when former General Manager Terry Ryan was at the controls. While Bailey came on a cheap, one-year deal, there’s enough promise that he can be better than his predecessor Kyle Gibson.
As noted in a previous article at Puckett’s Pond, Bailey projects similarly to Gibson from 2018 where the right-hander posted a 10-13 record but also posted a career-low 3.62 ERA. The Twins were hopeful that Gibson could build off of that in 2019 and actually pitched well in his first 13 starts, going 7-3 with a 3.70 ERA.
Those numbers will fly for a No. 3 starter at the beginning of the season and there’s a chance that Bailey will provide just that. Thanks to increased usage in his splitter, Bailey’s career was resurrected in Kansas City before being shipped to Oakland midway through last season. The overall numbers (13-9, 4.57 ERA) weren’t eye-popping, but he showed he can run hot and cold like Gibson, going 4-1 with a 2.25 ERA in his final eight starts for the Athletics.
Why that’s not a given: Prior to last season, Bailey’s career was turning into a dumpster fire. The 33-year-old (who will turn 34 in May) hit rock bottom in 2018, going 1-14 with a 6.09 ERA in 20 starts for the Cincinnati Reds. With a massive contract complicating things, he was involved in a deal that sent Matt Kemp and Yasiel Puig to the Reds where he was basically a salary dump.
The biggest issue with Bailey has been his control where in his 13-year big league career, he’s posted a 2.5 K/BB ratio. Even in the first half with the Royals, his K/BB ratio was 2.13 and took a huge uptick when he was traded to Oakland.
But by comparison, Gibson’s K/BB ratio for his career is 2.16 and while last season sparked a 2.86 ratio. Bailey also throws more pitches in the strike zone (49.5% to Gibson’s 39.9%), so his job might be to simply be better than Gibson, but he’ll have to be more consistent to pull that off.