The Reds flung a lot of mud at the wall in 2018. They smeared Homer Bailey hoping he’d stick around long enough to justify his long term contract. The Reds tossed a crumbled up, dried out heap of Brandon Finnegan wishing he’d come together and cling to the starting rotation. They rolled up and slung a semi cohesive handful of Sal Romano anticipating he’d develop and find a permanent role as a starting pitcher. They even picked mud up off the ground and threw it again – giving guys like Michael Lorenzen and Cody Reed another shot to adhere to a starting rotation that nobody seems to want to be a part of.

2018 was a rebuilding year, but it was also a year about “progress”. The progress of the 2018 Reds was mainly focused on the development and maturity of their plethora of young starting pitchers. Sal Romano, Cody Reed, Robert Stephenson, Brandon Finnegan, Tyler Mahle – all of these guys failed at taking the next step to become decent starting pitchers. The main goal of 2018 – to improve upon a historically bad starting rotation in 2017 – was an absolute failure.

Because the mud hasn’t stuck to the wall (yes, pretty much ALL the mud) there’s been a lot of chatter about the Reds looking outside the organization in 2019 to fill the gap in starting pitching. Dick Williams is even recently quoted in saying:

“I would say we are more outwardly focused this year due to where we sit from a budget standpoint,” Williams told “Whether that’s free agency or trades has yet to be determined. We will be prepared to pursue both. We do think that will be an area that’s important to supplement.”

I give the Reds’ organization credit – this is an absolute necessary step for next year. Rolling out the same group of pitchers and hoping for some kind of drastic improvement is something that is most likely not going to happen. 2018 was the year for starting pitching improvement…and we all saw how that went.

If and when the Reds do look outside the organization for starting pitching help I hope they’re fully committed. By fully committed, I mean I hope they put a major emphasis on bolstering the starting rotation to the point where they aren’t relying on much improvement from younger pitchers and the quality of players they are planning to sign or trade for are good enough to put this team over the hump. Simply put, I hope the Reds don’t half ass it.

One positive thing about so many young arms failing to improve this year is that the Reds will have a ton of bullpen flexibility heading into 2019. If the Reds do choose to look outside the organization for multiple starting pitchers then guys like Sal Romano (who has already had some success), Tyler Mahle, Cody Reed, Robert Stephenson, or Michael Lorenzen could join an already decent bullpen staff. The Reds have an abundance of good arms that could play better out of the bullpen than starting games. So many good, young arms in the bullpen could also open up trade opportunities later down the road. It’s not likely the Reds are going to be able to fit all the pieces into the pitching puzzle.

So, it’s with great pleasure and a little bit of fear when hearing the Reds acknowledge and anticipate making a splash this off season to acquire starting pitching. Their recent track record of acquiring starting pitching from outside the organization is pretty good (Bronson Arroyo, Mat Latos), but this is different. They aren’t looking to supplement an already good rotation; they are looking to anchor an average core. The Reds haven’t flung this kind of mud at the wall in a while…and that’s what worries me.

19 Responses

  1. CI3J

    The thing is, even though 2018 wasn’t a successful year for the young starters, I think it would be criminal to give up on them now. Castillo has showed flashes he could still be something special. Mahle was halfway decent for a stretch before falling apart. Reed is only just now getting another shot after something clicked for him in AAA. And Lorenzen… Well, he should have been tried a long time ago.

    The thing is, none of these guys are over 26 years old. Not everyone can come up to MLB and have instant success, and lots of great pitchers struggled early on. I think the Reds need to add one starter and go into next Spring Training with an open mind and let Castillo, Mahle, Reed, Wisler, Lorezen, Romano, et. al. duke it out for rotation spots, with Castillo having the upper hand.

    It’s frustrating, but we really need to continue to be patient with the young pitchers, at least for one more year.

    • Jeff Gangloff

      In no way am I saying give up on these guys. I never mentioned Castillo in the write up because I think its a given he’s going to be in the rotation next year. Mahle has a good chance to be, too.

      If the Reds are looking for outside help like they say, though, and lets say they sign two guys from the outside…then that’s a rotation of:

      guy from outside
      guy from outside
      *insert any of the names from list of young pitchers above here*

      There just simply isn’t room in the rotation if the Reds look outside the organization for help.

      It’s a lot to ask fans to be patient with the young pitching for at least one more year and I think the Reds’ organization knows that. One more year of patience after 5 consecutive 80 loss seasons isn’t going to sit well.

      • Matt WI

        I agree with you very much on here. I posted a similar though in the game recap thread where the rotation was being discussed. I think two guys is the way to go, and that probably means parting with some of the glut along other way.

  2. roger garrett

    I am good with acquiring starters but I don’t want to go the Arroyo.Feldman or Colon route ever again.If that’s the best we can get I’ll stay with what we already have now and say let the young guys pitch.

  3. jreis

    I think we actually have enough talent in our system where we only need one veteran starter. Whether that be Harvey or another vet to go along with Catillo, Disclafani , Reed and Lorenzen.

    you are right we may not have quality BUT we do have quantity young arms and if we are creative we can have a really strong bullpen and we can limit the amount of times our young starters have to face the dreaded “3rd ” time through the line up.

    I really like Romano and Mahle coming out of the bullpen. I think those 2 guys could give us a lot of quality innings without worrying about arm fatigue at the end of the year.

    add these guys to Hughes, Hernandez, Garret, and Iglesias then we will really be able to “shorten” the game if we get an early lead.

  4. eric3287

    2019 is the year for the Reds to finally start thinking outside the box. Hire a smart manager and move to a 4 man rotation with the explicit instructions that they do not start any inning facing a batter for a 3rd time. With that dictate, you really only need to go out and get one starting pitcher.

    New guy

    The Reds bullpen is already loaded with failed starting pitchers who can give you multiple innings. And the organization can’t find 5 quality starting pitchers who, in the old school mindset, can give you 6+ innings. So instead of trying desperately to find that 5th starter, use 4 that throw about 80 pitches and get you to the 5th inning and use one of your plethora of failed starters for another 2-3 innings.

    Of course, this is the Reds, so they’ll probably run out Homer Bailey every 5th day.

  5. Streamer88

    I think they are strongly considering a package of senzel and Greene to go after someone huge in a trade. The “Senzel is going to be a LFer” talk certainly strengthens their position on the trade market. “We’re not trading him due to a log jam” will bolster their position to extract maximum value. If that is their strategy then great because it does make sense as a smokescreen in that sense. But who knows.

    I continue to advocate for $100 million or more in buying a starter. If you trade for one instead you’ll spend that much in the aggregate getting those prospects back. Why not keep the prospects and “put the money on the field (every 5th day)?”

    • Sliotar

      Agree 1000% Streamer888.

      For 2019, get out the checkbook. Do Not Trade High Potential Prospects in the Reds System.

      The brutal reality is that most small-market teams get about 1 window per decade (STL is definitely a regional team with regional revenues/TV deal and very well run. An outlier).

      Look at how Kansas City gutted their farm system to make 2 World Series. They are facing, by most estimates, 6-7 MORE years of rebuilding because of throwing everything into 2014 and 2015.

      If anyone thinks the Reds should wound the talent pipeline and “go for it” in 2019, to each their own.

      I don’t see the 2019 Reds team anywhere close to justifying that and hurting a good, cost-controlled window likely in 2021 – 2024.

      But, the Reds being run on the whims of an impulsive, 80 year old man and not standards-based MLB analytics….who knows.

      • Jeff Gangloff

        Absolutely agree with this. You could spend on a pitcher this off season, keep the prospects, and have the contingency to THEN trade away prospects based on how this upcoming season goes (by the trade deadline) or after next season if the Reds are close and in need of another high quality starter. .

      • lwblogger2

        That’s exactly what I think they should do. And I think they should bring in 1 starter and that the starter should NOT be Harvey.

  6. Old-school

    The reds payroll with Bailey’s contract and holes at some spots and depth at others doesn’t make sense for winning in 2019.
    2020 is the best bet.

    That said trading expiring contracts might make sense for 2019. Trade Gennett and
    A pitching prospect(RS or Keury Mella) to the Mets for Zach Wheeler. That opens 2b for Senzel, avoids long term money, keeps the stable of prospects and upgrades the rotation.


  7. David

    Robert Stephenson. Nobody wants Robert Stephenson. He is a bust. He may not even be on the 40 man roster come winter. The Reds may just waive him or designate him for assignment.

    Cody Reed has definitely looked good lately, but ….lately. I think he gets a shot as a starter next spring, but….we’ll see.

    Lorenzen is either a starter or reliever, but he’s with the team.

    Unless Romano gets a lot better, he is either in the bullpen or designated like Stephenson.

    Mahle is youngest, and gets another shot at starting.

    Frankly, I have my doubts that Desclafani is sturdy enough to last a season. This guy might be my trade bait.
    I want to see more of Keury Mella in Spring training. He intrigues me.

    And really, I have come to the realization that the Reds totally blew it on Harvey, and should have traded him for ANYTHING in July. I would really do not want to re-sign him and waste 30-40 mill on him for 3 years.

    I give Homer one more chance in Spring training, but I would likely designate him for assignment if I were running the Reds, and eat his last year.

    A lot of other problems, including Billy Joel playing Centerfield. I am tired of his offensive non-production. Tired, I say. Waive him after the season; of course, that is not going to happen. He is going to arb and getting 5 mill to run around and bat 0.220.

  8. Scottya

    I agree with you in adding more than one starting pitcher. Furthermore here is what I’d like to see the Reds FO do this offseason:

    1. Remove Bailey from the Roster.
    2. Sign and or trade for two or three league average +- pitchers to go with Castillo and Desclafani in 19′.
    3. Trade for Brett Phillips, to take over for Billy Hamilton.
    4. If payroll savings is needed move Billy Hamilton and Scooter Gennett in that order (if needed).
    5. Trade or place Sal Romano and Robert Stephenson in the bullpen for 19′.
    6. Keep Tyler Mahle and Lucas Sims in AAA to continue to work on offspeed stuff.
    7. Sign one or two relievers like Hughes and Hernandez, (lots of good relievers available this offseason).
    8. Be willing to play Senzel in a similar fashion as Kris Bryant in 19′.
    9. Use Billy Hamilton as a pinchrunner, late inning defensive replacement if the payroll allows to keep him.
    10. Use the Tampa Bay Rays approach to the starting rotation. They have two pitchers who have pitched more than 100 innings so far this season. This is working.
    11. Immediately hire more out of the organization people, from the Rays and A’s organizations to continue to grow the culture of analytics..
    12. Hire Kevin Cash as our manager (current tampa bay rays manager), if he’s not available someone like him.

    • David

      If the Reds don’t get rid of Billy Hamilton, then whoever is the manager next year will find an excuse to put him in and play centerfield. Castellini will tell him to do it. He’s a good flycatcher and fielder….but that’s it.

  9. George

    “I would say we are more outwardly focused this year due to where we sit from a budget standpoint,” Williams told

    Guy’s reread that statement again, the word “Budget” is the key noun in that sentence!!!
    Considering the upcoming “contract arbitrations” and Baileys contract, The estimated cost of 2019, based on baseball reference ( is 104.6 Million.
    My thoughts are the Reds will not walk away from Homer or Hamilton, so in my mind that will be about $30 million that can’t be used on “FA” pitching.
    The use of the word “budget” clearly sets a spending cap.
    I don’t believe the FO will over spend for 2019 but the team will only lose only 85 games..

    • David

      Only lose 85 games? Well…..THAT’S WINNING!!!!!

  10. Streamer88

    Ugh. I want dallas keuchel. Ground ball pitcher in his (late) prime. Would age well and keep the ball in the yard.

    Lorenzen or Mahle

  11. Bob Purkey

    Not sure I agree about Keuchel. We walks 3.5/9 innings, and I fear that is a recipe for disaster in Great American Small Park