On April 1, 2016, the Cincinnati Reds claimed pitcher Dan Straily off waivers from the San Diego Padres.

On the surface, this acquisition looked like the Reds were desperate. That assumption would be correct. They were. The Reds pitching staff coming out of Goodyear, Arizona was inexperienced, decimated by injuries and the season was getting ready to kick off.

The Reds were getting a pitcher that was affordable ($512,00 per year salary) had some major league experience and they would have four years of control over him if things went right.

Five months later, the addition of Dan Straily can be justified as a brilliant move.

As of Tuesday, Straily leads the Reds pitching staff in wins (13), innings pitched (178) and strikeouts (150). In those 178 innings of work, he’s allowed 143 hits. Straily has started 31 games for Cincinnati and his earned run average is 3.83. He’s been generous with home runs allowed with 28, just behind Brandon Finnegan’s 29. But all in all, Straily has been a bargain.

Dan Straily was never a big-time pitching prospect. He was drafted in the 24th round of the 2009 draft by the Oakland Athletics, then traded to the Chicago Cubs, then traded to Houston and eventually wound up with the Padres. The 6’2”, 220 pound righthander is has been used both in the bullpen and as a starter over his career.

Now there’s a debate on whether the Reds should keep Straily or trade him. His stock is much higher now than it was on April 1st. But to me, Straily is a keeper for the next few years. He doesn’t have a record of injuries, he consumes innings, he’s reliable (based on his time with the Reds) and I see him as a #4 or #5 starter down the road.

It’s not like the Reds have five better starting pitchers than Dan Straily right now. Anthony DeSciafani, yes. Possibly Finnegan next season. A healthy Homer Bailey. But unless our big pitching prospects (Cody Reed, Robert Stephenson, Amir Garrett) emerge next spring, the Reds are going to need Straily.

Getting Straily reminded me of when the Reds traded for Fred Norman, a crafty lefthanded pitcher, during the 1973 season. Both played for five organizations before coming to the Reds. Neither had much success before coming to the Redlegs. And although their pitching styles are different and Norman’s resume was a bit longer, it may have been a case of finding the right team at the right time.

Norman played for the Padres and had a 1-7 record with a 4.26 ERA in 74 innings of work in 1973. Sparky Anderson was desperate for starting pitching. He had three solid starters in Jack Billingham, Don Gullett and Ross Grimsley but the cupboard was bare after that. Gary Nolan was injured and out for the year. Roger “Spider” Nelson, acquired from Kansas City for Hal McRae, was in and out of the rotation with a sore arm and pitched just 51 innings the entire season. Jim McGlothlin’s career was about over. And the Los Angeles Dodgers were building a sizable division lead over the Reds. The Reds were sorely in need for a reliable, back of the end rotation starter.

GM Bob Howsam traded Reds prospect Gene Locklear, a Triple-A first baseman, and sent some cash to San Diego for Norman. In his first outing with the Reds, Fred Norman threw a shutout. He kept on pitching outstanding for the Reds. Norman sometimes drove Anderson crazy. “He’s experimenting again!” Sparky would yell to pitching coach Larry Shepherd in the dugout when Norman was on the mound. But make no mistake about it—the Reds wouldn’t have rallied and won the NL West in 1973 without Fred Norman.  He finished with a 12-6 record and an ERA of 3.66 in 166 innings. It was one hell of a trade for Howsam and the Reds and it’s routinely overlooked.

During his seven years in Cincinnati — all contending Reds teams — Norman was never better than a #3 or #4 starter but he was valuable to the Reds. His career record was 85-64 with Cincinnati, including nine shutouts. He averaged 187 innings pitched per year. He started two World Series games (Game 4 in 1975, Game 2 in 1976) and a crucial Game 4 against the New York Mets in 1973 with the Reds down 2 games to 1.

There’s certainly room on the roster for Dan Straily. There’s room on this horrible last-place Reds team and there’s room down the road when this rebuild gets better and we can truly have some fun. 2016 certainly wasn’t.

Going further, a solid case could be made that Dan Straily be named the Reds pitcher of the year. DeSciafani, Michael Lorenzen and Raisiel Iglesias have had good  seasons but missed significant playing time due to injuries. Straily has been there for Manager Bryan Price, day in and day out.

Like all at the Nation, I look forward to the next Reds winning team. And I hope Dan Straily is a part of it.