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Bailey, Reds close to long-term contract

Right-hander confident arbitration hearing won't be necessary

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Homer Bailey is nearing agreement on a long-term contract with the Reds that would avoid arbitration, the starting pitcher confirmed on Monday.

Bailey's arbitration hearing is scheduled for Thursday. As of last week, there was a large gap in the negotiations between the two sides, but that difference appears to have been bridged as a hearing loomed closer.

"It feels like we're really close. That's all I can say," Bailey said. "This whole process has been a long drawn out deal. That's the way it goes. To say this is as confident as I've been, yeah, I think so."

Bailey, 27, would not reveal the details of his potential contract, but a report from the Cleveland Plain Dealer on Sunday night said it could be worth around $100 million over six years.

If the Reds aren't able to sign Bailey beyond 2014, he could become a free agent after the season.

As the hearing day draws closer, Bailey says he hasn't been getting more nervous or stressed.

"Not so much. There are a lot of things that we have in place, I think," Bailey said. "I feel like a majority of it is fairly worked out. It's some of the little details, I think, that we're really close with. With us being here and everybody in different time zones, it puts a little bit of a damper on things."

In his arbitration case, Bailey filed for $11.6 million, while the Reds had countered at $8.7 million. One year ago, the Reds tried to sign Bailey long term but couldn't get it done. They avoided arbitration with a one-year, $5.35 million contract.

Bailey has been with the Reds organization since he was a first-round Draft pick in 2004. Since his big debut in 2007, he has a 49-45 lifetime record with a 4.25 ERA in 143 starts.

Improvement has come mainly over the last three seasons, as Bailey went a combined 33-29 with a 3.79 ERA. Over the 549 innings during that span, he has a 3.40 strikeouts-to-walks ratio, a 1.21 WHIP and 105 ERA+. He's also thrown a pair of no-hitters -- vs. the Pirates on Sept. 28, 2012, and against the Giants on July 2, 2013.

In 32 starts last season, Bailey was 11-12 with a career-best 3.49 ERA. He achieved career bests in innings (209) and strikeouts (199).

Bailey is part of a strong Reds rotation that includes Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Mike Leake and Tony Cingrani. Getting Bailey locked up is important for the club's future. Latos and Leake can be free agents after the 2015 season, while Cueto has a club option for that season.

"You look at that rotation there, I wouldn't mind any of those guys being here long term," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "Five guys between 24-28 years old. I'm not scratching my head wondering about any of those guys, if they're going to be good long term."

A smaller-market club with a payroll already over $100 million, it won't be easy for the Reds to retain all of their pitching with big contracts.

"There's definitely going to be challenges," Price said. "That's a great group right there. If we have Homer long term, I'd be really excited about that."

How confident is Bailey that a deal might get done soon? He hasn't bought a plane ticket to go to the hearing in Florida.

"Not yet. But I also don't have a suit so I might have to go to Men's Warehouse today," Bailey said.

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon.

Cincinnati Reds, Homer Bailey