Baseball season is almost over, and, as has been the case for a few years, the question for Reds fans is: Will next year be any better?

Yes. It will.

In fact, I genuinely believe the Reds will be vastly improved next year. They may even contend for a wildcard spot. I’ll make this case in two columns: Today, I’m focusing on the pitching rotation, and in a couple of weeks, you’ll see one about position players.

Okay, let’s tackle this. The starting pitching has been beyond terrible this year. You know this. As has been said in other corners, if Tim Adleman leads your team in innings pitched, it’s gonna be a rough year (which isn’t meant as a put down of Adleman, but he’s not a top-of-the-rotation pitcher).

But the season is long and things change. In the first half, the Reds starters had an FIP (fielding independent pitching—basically ERA if you cancel out the fielding) of 5.95; in the second half, it’s sitting at 4.79. That’s a big swing. Granted, it took them only from being bad in a biblical way to being bad in a merely below-average way. But it’s something.

Now consider this: Luis Castillo will be in the rotation next year.

Read the rest over at Cincinnati Magazine, then come back and tell me what you think.

39 Responses

  1. Michael Hess

    I’m not on board with acquiring another pitcher. I believe we have enough arms as it is. The money should be spent on the bullpen; two or three top-end relievers for a staff whose bullpen has been at the bottom of the league for the last two years.

    • Jason Linden

      I agree that the Reds MIGHT have enough arms, but right now, there is no one in the rotation for 2018 who pitched a full season in the big leagues this year. Which is to say, there’s massive uncertainty. Bringing in a quality player would guard against that.

      • TomN

        Yep. Just hope they don’t blow a bundle on the next future Rotator Cuff victim.

      • Streamer88

        I’ve been thinking about the rotation next year and of course think an out of the box solution is best.

        Free Agent

        Note a 6 man rotation. With the duct tape that seems to hold Disco and Finnegan together and the innings limits the youngsters will be on, why not go 6?

  2. cfd3000

    I don’t think “better” is in question, in large part because the starting pitching bar was soooo low this year. But I’m even more optimistic than you Jason about next year’s rotation. I think Bailey will actually be good – 2nd or 3rd starter level – and if they’re healthy I think Disco and Finnegan are likely to be good as well. They could fill two slots, but I hope they won’t because… I’m expecting other options to be better. I don’t see Rookie Davis in the rotation unless injuries pile up in which case none of this matters. But Garrett, Lorenzen and Reed all have enough upside that I’ll be surprised if one of them doesn’t claim a starting slot. That’s assuming of course that they don’t just get the forgotten man treatment from Price and DW. Which I suppose is a way of saying that while sorting is incomplete, the process has now turned to finding very good among pretty good, instead of finding might be good among “we have no idea”. March 2018 can’t get here soon enough.

    • Dewey Roberts

      I think the top starter possibilities for next year are: Castillo, Bailey, Romano, Mahle, Strephenson, Finnegan, and DeScaflani. I don’t see Garrett, Lorenzen or Reed being starters next year. We should have a lot of arms to fill the bullpen.

      I want the Reds to quit the rebuilding process (via trading away all their trade chips) and focus on winning NOW. If that means acquiring a top-flight pitcher, so be it. The starting lineup is already in place if Cozart and Gennett are retained. There are some very quality arms who have displayed elite talent in the last month to six weeks. It is time to build a winner again. I am tired of losing year after unending year.

  3. De bear

    Actually in 2017 the year of juiced baseballs and inflated home runs Castillo pitched better than over half the other NL aces. He projects like the Yankees Severino, a top 5 pitcher in the AL.

    The worst thing the Reds can do now is overpay for pitching. Already saddled with Homer’s contract lets not repeat the same error.

    They lucked into finding out Stephenson can pitch well at this level despite Price’s attempts to bury him. To Price’s credit we discovered last year Finnegan has great starting potential.

    Between Castillo, Romano, Mahle, Stephenson, Finnegan, DeSclafani, Bailey, Garrett, Reed, Davis the Reds have the best staff in the NL Central. Maybe the Brewers come close. Whoever doesn’t begin the season starting will have ample opportunities – there will be injuries, poor starts, and given innings restrictions for some of the youngsters like Mahle and Castillo, the Reds will need pitching depth. It might even make sense to go to a six man rotation. In case they make the playoffs.

    The Mets in the ’80s did fine with a young staff, as well as the Braves in the 90’s after Charlie Leibrandt finished out his tenure. Let the kids grow together and have Homer serve as mentor if not Arroyo or even Feldman who helped out Mahle or Stephenson in their most recent start.

    • james garrett

      Finny got 31 starts and that’s how you find out about a young guy.If he had been a rookie this year he would have been in the minors learning to throw strikes.If we are healthy next year we will have 5 good starters with a chance to win every night.

    • G-Man

      I’m as excited as anyone about several of our young starting pitcher prospects (especially Castillo and Romano), but to say that the Reds have the best staff in the NL Central is truly looking at things through red rose colored glasses! With the hated Cardinals starting staff of Lynn, Wacha, Martinez, Weaver, and Flaherty…and the stupid Cubs starting staff of Quintana, Hendricks, Lackey, Lester, and Arieta coming back later this week…how can you make that statement? With a little more experience, maybe in a couple of years we will coming closer to having the best staff in the NL Central, but for now, we’re not there yet. Here’s hoping that the improvement continues and that everyone stays healthy next year! Go Reds!

      • Da bear

        The Cards are probably gonna let Lynn go via free agency and he has been their best starter this year. Wacha may or may not turn it around for good he was almost replaced in the rotation before stringing together decent starts midway thru the season. Martinez has also been inconsistent as the Cards haven’t provided him much run support. Flaherty remains to be seen. Weaver looks great so far.

        Quintana is capable of being a stud but has been up and down. Lackey and Lester are on the downside of their careers, not sure if the Cubs will retain Arrieta beyond end of contract. No doubt they will reload via free agency as well the Cards. Nice to see Mike Leake string together four or five straight solid starts once the Cards gave up on him!

  4. sultanofswaff

    In terms of talent, ability to stay healthy, and expected contribution in 2018, here’s how I rank our SP candidates:

    Stephenson (Aug/Sept. suppressing hits/HRs while striking out a lot.)
    Bailey (stuff is still there, his Sept. #s have settled back to his career norms)
    Lorenzen (better peripherals than those below him)
    Romano (lucky? the strikeouts to IP are actually quite low, hits allowed high)
    Mahle (didn’t allow a single HR, not striking out guys though and giving up hits)
    ______________cutoff line—-guys who I’d move to the ‘pen for good.
    Finnegan (the walk rate will always be a problem)
    Reed (bring him along like Peralta—low leverage then work his way up)
    Garrett (continue starting at AAA however)
    Davis (let his fastball/plus slider play up in short outings)

    So much uncertainty there, but there’s no way we’ll have a repeat of the last couple years, right? RIGHT?

    • Jason Linden

      Remember that relievers tend tot always have better peripherals than starters, so you have to knock Lorenzen down a peg. Plus, I know people want it to, but that isn’t happening.

      As for Romano, his K numbers are totally fine, especially since he’s adjusted during this second go round.

      Disco has pitched 1/2 of a season out of the last two. I agree on talent, but he’s gotta be several notches lower because of health. Especially because we know his UCL is partially torn.

    • TomN

      Mahle seemed like he had to get his feet under him every time he got moved up but then took off. I just think he hasn’t had enough time yet in the Majors. He seems very mature and just needs to realize he’s got the stuff he needs. (I also think he’s been squeezed but then I’m biased as hell).

    • Daytonian

      Agreed, Sultan. With one exception. Lorenzon has not been the consistent, And in the starting rotation, his stuff wears thin when batters see him for a second or third time. While I like him a lot, his record thus far points straight to the bull pen.

    • Nick Carrington

      I like your list, Sultan, though I prefer Romano to Stephenson. Fangraphs recommends that you drop a reliever’s SIERA by 0.37 if you want to convert it to a starting pitchers. If you do that, Lorenzen still rates better than Stephenson and Romano, so if you knock him down a peg, he’s still competing. Not saying Lorenzen would be better, just that he’s in the discussion.

      I don’t think we can trust Disco to through 100+ innings. Castillo, Bailey, Romano are my top three. I probably keep Mahle down in AAA for service time considerations unless there are injuries. Lorenzen, Finnegan, Garrett, and Stephenson compete for the final two (and I fear Finnegan needs to go to the pen because of shoulder issues).

    • Streamer88

      I’ll add that there is more than one type of BB. He was wild previously, averaging 3.5 BB per 9, and he’s less wild now, averaging the same. His pitches are executed better, just missing more often now, less chuck and chase pitches (true WPs) and overall seems to be nibbling and “pitching” more. These are qualitative notes and sometimes don’t show up in the stats.

      To me, Castillo is as close to a front line starter that we have. Bob Steve IMHO is a very close second. He’s a guy, like a Nolan Ryan type, who if he keeps putting miles on the tires, he discovers his accuracy with confidence and “helpful wildness” so to speak.

  5. TR

    I’m afraid that if Hamilton is healthy and Price is still the manager that Winker batting first is a passing fancy.

    • james garrett

      Correct and make no mistake about it.

  6. Robert Gibson

    I feel like a lot of these rotation questions should have been sorted out this year. This was supposed to have been a year of sorting. We gave too many starts to veterans who were never going to be in the long term plans of the club. Instead of having a full year of data on the young pitchers, we are left with a month or two at best. I’m just speaking for myself but the decision making of this organization made it really hard for me to watch what was put out on the field this year.

    • Jason Linden

      The guys who were supposed to be ready to start the year got there shot. Romano was hurt early. Mahle and Castillo weren’t ready for callups yet. That’s how it goes sometimes, but there’s no case that those last two should have been in the rotation on day 1.

      • IndyRedMan

        I don’t know about Castillo? He’s 24 with over 400ip in the minors. They fed Lorenzen to the wolves at 23 with less then 200ip in the minors? Arroyo was never more then a silly marketing gig. A sports version “Come meet Brady Bunch’s Barry Williams (Greg Brady) at Best Buy”. Idiotic…he could barely throw the ball 84 mph.

      • Jason Linden

        I take your point on Castillo, but he only had 14 innings above A+ coming into the year.

        I agree that Lorenzen probably was rushed a little, especially with the conversion to starting pitcher.

  7. IndyRedMan

    I guess I don’t see the renewed optimism for Homer, since his 10er debacle vs St. Louis…he’s had 7 starts with a 4.58 era. That’s not horrible, but its 5th starter level.

    I think I agree with a previous poster..Michael Hess. If we can’t get a really top-notch guy like Marcus Stroman, then take Cozart’s $ and get some high quality bullpen help. I’m still big on Finnegan as a starter, but maybe he could be helpful in the pen? We need a lefty like Mike Montgomery that can be a spot starter, loogy kind of guy. Plus another high leverage guy to help Peralta and Iggy. I personally think Lorenzen could be the 3rd-4th best starter on this team, but maybe he stays in the pen? This was a rough year for him! He needs to stick with 3 consistent pitches from 1 delivery and go with it! If Price can figure out an optimal lineup, then the offense should have no problems! I don’t know about playoffs next year, but atleast flirt with .500 and be in the discussion!

    • Jason Linden

      Offense is WAY up this year. MLB average for a starting pitcher is a 4.50 ERA, so Homer has been roughly average. AKA a #3 starter.

      • IndyRedMan

        Cubs have 4 guys under a 4era and their 5th guy (Lester) is 4.30….if you count Montgomery. Brewers have 4 guys under 4.00 if you count Suter’s 12 starts. 4.50 might be average but not on a NL bound playoff team.

      • IndyRedMan

        Not as a #3 anyway. That means you have 2 guys worse? That won’t cut it.

      • Jason Linden

        Perhaps not a playoff team, I’ll grant you, but on a team around .500, certainly. And some contenders will have average pitching staffs being carried by excellent lineups.

      • james garrett

        Average major league pitching wins a lot of games but costs lots of money.I think we have 4 or 5 guys that can approach that with only Homer making any money.I also expect our young guys to get better as they pitch more.The Cubs pitchers will not get better because Lackey,Lester and even Arietta are on the downside of their careers but they will just go buy or trade to get what they need.I would love to have a true ace or #2 put it would cost a bunch in players and a bunch in dollars to see him pitch in Cincy.Don’t see it happening.

  8. Bill

    I think a “Robert Stephenson, Amir Garrett, Scooter Gennett, and one of Adam Duvall/Scott Schebler/Phillip Ervin” package would be valuable, but I am not sure it brings back a #1 starter under team control. It could easily bring back a guy with one year of control from a team trying to rebuild. I don’t think the Reds are in a position to go all in next year. If Bailey, Disco, Finnegan, all return to their previous levels and Castillo continues to pitch the way he has come trade deadline and you can make that trade for Kershaw then you go for it. I don’t think you give up all that for another #3 starter while you possibly have five other guys to fill that role already on the 40 man

  9. Nick Carrington

    Mahle shouldn’t be guaranteed anything. Several of his peripherals are pretty bad, though we probably shouldn’t get too worked up over such a small sample, good or bad. It wouldn’t be unreasonable for him to be in the rotation or back in AAA refining his breaking pitches, which scouts seem to be concerned about.

    • IndyRedMan

      Mahle isn’t a converted basketball player with pitching mechanics that are different from week to week. He’s also got a slight bit of Arrieta-style crossfire action vs righties that should always be a little difficult on them. I like him a lot! He looks like a 30 yr old/6 year vet on the mound! Romano would be my #2 overall though…just a big strong kid that can throw 96 all night long and keep the ball down! Bob Steve, Lorenzen, Disco, and Finnegan. Surely, we can atleast get far away from the cellar dwellers in team ERA next year?

      I’m still big on Lorenzen as a starter! 8 hrs in 78 ip is pretty good when half your games are in GABP! He needs to just watch Lance Lynn and turn that 96 mph sinker loose! “Quit thinking meat! It can only hurt the team”

  10. james garrett

    That package may bring a good starter at a cost of what 20 mil or so and you lose Scooter and one of our corner outfielders and a potential starter.Don’t disagree it would be great to have a guy like that but that’s a steep price to pay.

    • james garrett

      I missed that part because I thought he was talking about acquiring a #1 starter.

  11. David

    Some people have mentioned trade packages.
    Others have mentioned the declining state of the Cubs rotation.
    And this has been a year when offense was up.

    Put this together, and realize that the ASKING price for a good starter is going to go up this winter. The wealthy teams (like the Cubs, Yankees, etc) are going to go shopping on the free agent market for one or two more good starters for fortify their rotations.
    A player with good offensive numbers for 2017 will not be viewed as THAT valuable. And a player that plays 81 games in GABP will also be viewed as not quite as valuable.

    I would be wary of trying to package too much to get one player. But then again, a winning team has to have a lot of high WAR pitchers and position players to get to 90+ victories in a season.

    The Reds have an iffy but PROMISING rotation for 2018. And yes, I would like to see them make a move to push them toward contending next year. They are not that far away. But it is the starting rotation, of course. The many poor starts this year have once again put a lot of stress on the bull pen.

    • IndyRedMan

      I totally agree. Marcus Stroman would be fantastic, but 10 teams will offer up a ton for him. They def can’t afford another Homer-style contract either.

      I watched a little of Det/White Sox game the other night and Tiger lefty Matthew Boyd was 1 out from a no-hitter. He has really good breaking stuff! He’s only 26. They could go out and try to get a couple guys like that to increase their depth. TIgers are old and their farm system isn’t rated very highly either. Toronto is in the same boat as well!

      • Craig

        Agree. While I certainly want to compete in 2018, I still think we are a year away from the push to get a top-of-the-rotation arm. I would not yet trade from our depth of prospects that we just spent 3 years accumulating. If the right opportunity for a mid-rotation starter like Boyd arises, I would prefer packaging areas of MLB depth (Duvall/Schebler and Scooter) rather than moving someone like Trammel or Mahle. Although, as someone mentioned above, the handling of Mahle this season has been curious. I would not be surprised to see them cash in on Mahle’s prospect hype and exceptional 2017 performance (packaged with an outfielder) to get a cost-controlled starter.

        Personally, I would prefer trying to sign a guy like Alex Cobb, even if it means overpaying. Not great peripherals, but he doesn’t walk a lot of guys and will be entering his age-30 season. Plus, they would not have to deplete the prospect pool to acquire him. Then, your rotation looks like this:


        During or after the 2018 season, if one of Disco or Finnegan returns to form and the young guys take steps forward, all of the sudden you have real SP depth to leverage in a trade for a Stroman or Archer-type.

  12. bouwills

    The answer is yes. The Reds rotation will be better in 2018 for the same reason it was lousy this year-depth (or lack thereof). There should be fierce competition for starts next year, not only in ST but throughout April, May, & into June( barring injuries of course). The starting rotation won’t be a team strength until at least the 2nd half of next year, but they will be competitive. That may be enough.

  13. David

    Castillo, Mahle, Stephenson (at last) and Romano all look good for next year. Pick one to regress or get injured. Bailey may be getting closer to his 2012-2013 abilities, but really, who knows? I would bet that Finnegan ends up in the bullpen, due to physical problems, much like Lorenzen in 2016-2017. Maybe back contending for a SP job in 2019. That’s where he wants to be.
    Lorenzen again gets a shot at the Starting rotation in ST 2018.
    I hope Anthony Desclafani can come back, but to be pragmatic, expect nothing from him.

    Darkhorses: Cody Reed and Amir Garret. One of them may step up and surprise. I think Garrett was hurt for a good part of the season and the Reds covered it up.
    Longshot: Rookie Davis, Jackson Stephens

    Over the horizon: Jose Lopez pitched in High A this year, then moved up to AA and pitched better (the pitchers league). A couple times he has been discussed on TV. There are a lot of comparisons of him to Luis Castillo. A year away, or less?
    Antonio Santillian. Two years away, at least.