Late last night Jon Morosi of MLB Network and Fox Sports reported that the Cincinnati Reds were interested in two different free agent starting pitchers. His first tweet noted that the team was interested in Mike Fiers. Less than twenty minutes later he indicated that they were interested in Anibal Sanchez.

In some ways, the two pitchers are similar. In 2018 they both posted better than average ERA’s. Mike Fiers had an ERA of 3.56 in 172.0 innings. Anibal Sanchez was even better, posting an ERA of 2.83 – but he only threw 136.2 innings. Both pitchers were stingy with walks, and had good strikeout-to-walk ratios. Another way that both are similar is that just one year prior, both did not pitch well. In 2017 they posted ERA’s of 5.22 (Fiers) and 6.41 (Sanchez).

Anibal Sanchez has had more than a few strong seasons in his career. Back in 2013 he led the American League in ERA and FIP while making 29 starts for the Detroit Tigers. From 2009-2014 he posted a 3.47 ERA, a 3.23 FIP, had a WHIP of 1.26, and he threw 981.0 innings. He also allowed just 73 home runs in that span. And then everything changed. From 2015-2017 his ERA was 5.67 and he allowed 85 home runs in 415.2 innings. His home run rate went from above-average to among the worst in the league. And then in 2018, it went back to being solid, and his ERA rebounded in a big, big way.

Mike Fiers hasn’t quite been as good as Anibal Sanchez has in his career. He’s been mostly a league average pitcher for his career – though it’s been a bit up-and-down, too. From 2011-2016 he threw 572.2 innings with a 3.87 ERA. That came with a strong walk and a strong strikeout rate. But then in 2017 his home run rate and walk rate both jumped way up and his ERA followed. In 2018 his ERA dropped, posting that 3.56 mark, but his home run rate remained quite hit. He gave up 32 home runs over 172.0 innings. He did mitigate the high home run rate some by lowering his walk rate to elite levels.

With the Reds targeting pitchers like Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer, Dallas Keuchel, Noah Syndergaard – these targets seem like a big step down. And it’s true. They are a big step down. But they are also expected to cost a whole lot less to acquire. The highest projected contract that we saw for Anibal Sanchez was a 2-year deal at $22M total. Other places thought he’d only get a 1-year deal and $7M or less. None of these places looked at a contract for Mike Fiers as he was non-tendered and wasn’t scheduled to be a free agent.

Of course, there’s also a reason that both of these pitchers aren’t looking at big deals, or big money. There’s a bunch of risk involved with them – even on shorter deals. If Anibal Sanchez watches his home run rate return to the 2015-2017 rate, things will get very ugly in Great American Ballpark. For Mike Fiers, the home run rate has always been high, and that alone is a big issue. But if that also comes along with the walk rate he showed in 2017, well, that’s going to work out very poorly.

The Cincinnati Reds needed to add multiple pitchers to their roster. They’ve aimed high. They’ve been rumored to have been interested in elite pitchers. And they’ve also been rumored to have been interested in more than a few non-elite pitchers. The Reds are simply looking at every possible option that’s out there to improve their roster.

If they bring in one of these two guys, that’s not likely to be the end of things and them calling it a day. They know that they need better pitching. And they have been targeting just that. And they’ll keep looking to do that as they know these two aren’t the types that will anchor the top of their rotation. As Steve Mancuso showed the other day, the Reds should have plenty of money to spare right now. Even if one of these signings happen, there will still be a good chunk of money remaining to keep trying to get the pitching.

32 Responses

  1. scotly50

    I watched Anibal pitch quite a bit last year. He absolutely owned the Nationals. It would be interesting to see his numbers withe the Nationals games excluded.

  2. Streamer88

    These pitchers are depth options that the reds simply do not have the luxury of obtaining. They are ideal for larger payroll clubs to insulate from injury.

    The Reds need WAR efficiency from the #1 slot. The person who gets 35 starts as the de facto ace needs to do the most with it (obvi) but even if it’s inefficient money or prospect wise.

    What I mean is – if our top 5 starters are going to produce 14 WAR this year it’s crucial for the spread to be : 7war, 3, 3, 1, 0 and not 3.8, 3.7, 2.5, 2.5, 2.5.

    The reason for this is mid market teams can’t stock the cupboard with 2 WAR backups just sitting around (Dodgers, nationals, Red Sox, eg). Thus we need to “ride or die” with a legit 1. If he’s healthy and on point, we’re a WC team. (And also a tough out because we have a true 1). If he’s hurt, well, if a mid markets Ace is hurt does it really matter? We’re not likely to have the resources to replace him.

    Get Kluber. Does not matter the cost. We need an Ace who has 7WAR potential. That’s my take.

    • Streamer88

      My math is off up there. Funny enough, I’d still rather have rotation 1 even though it generates 1 less WAR.

    • Streamer88

      It’s a fair point. Total team success is all that matters. I guess my point is I’d rather sign one pitcher for $30 million per year who produces 7 WAR than twofold $15 million per year who produce 3.5. See what I mean? The former produces more “WAR per start” from the #1 slot, at the expense of “WAR per start” from slots 3-4.

      Same total wins, same total resources spent. Same bad defense. Everything else the same. Move one variable and see whats happens. I’d take the Ace in that scenario.

  3. James H.

    As a fan, I would rather stomach what the Reds have versus watch them settle for the mediocre and pay money for it. If they sign someone who is similar to.what they have, they’re wasting starter development time. Or, they may be willing to move some of last year’s starters to the bullpen, hire new starters as a stop-gap with the intent to flip and keep improving versus all at once, thereby prepping a reconfigured bullpen for a 2020 run.

  4. Doug Gray

    I’m intrigued by Sanchez. Not so much Fiers.

    Sanchez cut down on the 4 seamer and 2 seamer, started throwing a cutter a lot, and the home runs went away. If you think that’s the reason why his home run rate came back to Earth rather than why it looked like he was pitching in space the last few years, I can get behind a short, cheap deal.

    With Fiers, there’s not much reason to believe he’s got a chance to be good.

    • Doug Gray

      If his home run rate from last year is what we can expect, innings aside (I’m not sure that I see him as an innings eater), aside from Luis Castillo, I don’t think anyone else should be expected to match him. Doesn’t walk guys. Misses more bats than everyone should be expected to.

      Don’t expect a 2.83 ERA again. But 3.50-3.75? If the home run rate is where it was last year? I think that’s a reasonable projection. And I wouldn’t put that projection on any internal guy aside from Castillo.

  5. jgorrell.tcp

    Don’t we have enough mediocre pitching already on cheap deals that we don’t need to waste money or more of it?

  6. scottya

    I’m getting mixed messages from the Reds at this point, is the FO simply pursuing “improving over last year” or are they being bold and pursuing moves that are big steps forward toward being a playoff team?

    The rumor of Fiers and Sanchez fits into a too afraid to make a mistake mentality. We simply don’t need anymore #5 starters (Reed, Mahle, Sims, Romano, Lorenzen, Stephenson). This neither helps in 19′ and definitely doesn’t help in 20 and forward. Although, there seems to be a chance that Sanchez has figured something out and has become a solid #3, there are lots of reasons to doubt this as Steve pointed out above.

    At the same time, rumors of Jackie Bradley Jr., Ender Inciarte, AJ Pollock, Dallas Keuchal, JT Realmuto, Alex Wood, etc are signs of a FO considering bold moves.

    It seems that the Reds plan is simply to be “opportunistic”, “look for ways to improve”, “stike at the right time”. And maybe to be fair that is the right move at this point of the rebuild?

    I think it’s time to be bold and fearless. Adding 4.40+ probable ERA pitchers isn’t either, especially since they’ve already added Roark.

  7. JERRY

    I would rather the team give a chance to Reed, Stephenson, Garret, Lorenzen or Romano than Fiers or Sanchez. Reds need an ace not a 5th starter. Spend the money we don’t need mediocre veterans. Roark fits the veteran spot. Either put up the money for an ace or trade for an ace. Spend some money relievers too. If the Reds sign any of these two I ain’t buying that “building a winning culture” BS. Quit being cheapskates even if it means overpaying a little!

  8. burtgummer

    I hope ownership is ready for another year of empty seats.Fans shouldn’t have to support a team when ownership doesn’t
    What is it about the Reds and terrible owners ?

  9. Mason Red

    To me this is a sign this franchise knows they are going to whiff on big name quality pitchers.

    • Ray

      I agree, so far it has been all talk. Why sign 2 more Homers !

  10. burtgummer

    I doubt that they’re really trying as long as ownership still gets their pockets lined they don’t care if the team wins or loses

  11. Charlie Waffles

    These rumors are, well, very depressing. We’ve gone from get THE pitching, to get horse crap pitching.
    First it’s Tanner Roark, and now this. This will bring the fans back.
    Reds front office, all talk and no action. And when there is some actual action, it is very underwhelming. There is no Action Jackson in the Reds front office. Just the rather pedestrian Adventures of Dick and Nick.
    What a crappy off-season so far after all the talk. Come on Reds, throw the fans a bone.

  12. David

    Look at Sanchez’s xwOBA for 2018. He gave up a .278 wOBA and had an xwOBA of .272. It wasn’t luck. I’d have no problem buying him at the projected price. Sure, it could be a one off season. Hence, the price.

  13. scottya

    This pitching staff yields a 3.96 era which should be about 680 runs given up. (pirates 4.00 era 693 runs last year, see mets, phillies, cards also).

    Starters: 4.11 era x typically .59% of innings
    Wood 3.54 (3.45+3.63) 18% .6372
    Castillo 3.99 (3.97+4.01) 18% .7182
    Desclafani 4.33 (4.35+4.31) 17% .7361
    Reed 4.35 (4.35+4.35) 16% .696
    Roark 4.36 (4.56+4.15) 15% .654

    Bullpen: 3.75 ERA x typically .41% of innings
    Iglesias 3.40 (3.66+3.13)
    C. Green 3.26 (3.34+3.17)
    J Soria 3.71 (3.58+3.84)
    M Lorenzen 3.72 (*.**+3.72)
    J Hughes 3.61 (4.12+3.09)
    A Garrett 4.34 (3.92+4.76)
    D Hernandez 3.85(4.26+3.43)
    M Bowman 4.08(3.86+4.29)

    4.11 era X.59 + 3.75 X.41 = 3.96 era

    3.96 staff era (Fangraphs+Bref projections)

    After doing this I’m dialing back my criticism of the Reds moves so far and of the possibility of adding Sanchez. I’m not for Fiers as his GB% + peripherals don’t fit GABP IMO. This assumes we add some big time+ to the bullpen.

  14. Jeff reed

    Sanchez and Fiers are both well into their thirties. Is the FO returning to 2015 with Marquis and Gregg types to fix the starting pitching? The Reds have a good farm system and these guys are basically prospects so package a few for a trade or go the monetary way to get an elite starting pitcher. Enough of these also-rans. The Reds need a jolt to get out of last place and around .500 in 2019.

  15. Daytonian

    Yes. I like your rotation. Get a TOR guy. Then plug Mahle into #5, at least until he tires. I too would clearly take Harvey over Fiers and Sanchez. No need to the latter two at all.

  16. Reaganspad

    Well done you old Cossack you. I too am thinking there is great value to be had from the Dodgers. Nobody has thought there is any value in homers contract. Trading him for Wood is a steal. And not costing us draft picks. I like the 2019 team this suggests.

    I really like the idea of having Greene and Santillan arrive in the next few years along with Trammell and Siri.

    And it is not like we can’t spend $35 million next year when all these contracts come off the 2019 books. I like the idea that our new pitching coach gets a year with all these kids. If he does with Stephenson or Garrett or Reed what he did with the Brewers, we might be glad we didn’t spend $100 mil on one guy.

    If he does, we buy that pitcher next year for that price. Or resign our own free agent Alex Wood to a long term deal in 2020.

    I am really curious to see how they get more out of Lorenzen. The guy needs another 100 abs

  17. Tom

    On the 25 man roster, the Reds have amassed a wealth of underdeveloped starting pitchers. Some are father ahead than others. Derek Johnson has a massive task before him. The Reds must convert these pitchers to legit starters. If they can, the money freed up in 2020 sets up for an all-in type investment. I think adding Roark was a smart move. I still think adding a Top of the Rotation talent makes sense.

    Disco 28
    Castillo 26
    Romano 25
    Mahle 24
    Reed 25
    Stephenson 25
    Finnegan 25

    Castillo came on the second half and has significant upside. Mahle had flashes of brilliance and then fell apart. Romano is a competitor that might be better suited to the bullpen. Can Finnegan find it? He’s quite young and, hopefully, and I hope he’s had a productive offseason. Same for Disco. And, finally, can Reed and Stephenson finally find their control? If so, maybe 2019 is a fun year.

    • CFD3000

      Tom I agree and disagree depending on which pitcher we’re discussing, which in a way makes your point. The Reds don’t need all of these guys to thrive, just a few. I expect nothing from Stephenson and Finnegan, and little from Romano, though perhaps he’ll be a pleasant bullpen surprise. But DeSclafani, Mahle, Lorenzen and especially Reed are all exciting possibilities. The first dependent mostly on health – which I’m guessing even Derek Johnson can’t control – and the latter three ripe for a big step,forward under his tutelage. If that happens then it’s going to be a fun year!

  18. Charlie Waffles

    The Reds have been sorting for 3 straight full seasons. And the gist is that they don’t know what they have yet? So another season of sorting is needed?
    Welcome to being a perennial cellar dweller of the NL Central. Only seeking improvement on the periphials and edges does very little to improve the Reds. They need to churn up the roster. No more sorting. This getting beyond ridiculous.

    • Jeff reed

      Let’s just have another ho-hum year in 2019 and the Reds will compete in 2020 with their new outstanding pitching coach. Sure.

      • Jeff reed

        Another last place finish in 2018 was not a ho-hum year? Of course another sorting year in 2019 should bring the fans back.

  19. CFD3000

    Add my name to the “agree” list. I think Romano and Stephenson have missed their window (with the Reds anyway) but I think Mahle will only get better, I love the improvements we saw from Reed last year, and Lorenzen has a lot of upside. The Reds need to be targeting #1 and #2 starters now that Roark, Castillo and DeSclafani are set for 2019 – the back end of the rotation is already fine.

  20. CFD3000

    Agree Steve. At this point it’s #1 or #2 level starters only, otherwise don’t waste the money. And that needs to happen without burning any of the top five prospects. So maybe that’s a creative trade with LA, or maybe it’s Keuchel or another free agent arm. Maybe the most positive thing I can say about the Reds right now is that for the first time in years I have at least moderate confidence that the front office understands this calculus too.

  21. Mark Elliott

    Did I miss something here? Was it #GetTheMediocrePitching?

  22. Doug Gray

    A part of the problem may be that the site used to be hosted on, and it’s no longer hosted there.

    For now we’re hoping to keep the comments simply into a “fill out the name and email address boxes” situation instead of allowing people to create accounts for the site.

    • Doug Gray

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  23. Swayne1

    I have no problem signing Sanchez to a short term deal. If 2015-2018 taught us anything, it’s that you can never have enough league-average starting pitching. Assuming the Reds sign Sanchez, that frees them up to include one or more of Mahle/Stephenson/Romano/Reed in a deal for a TOR starter. If the Reds sign Sanchez and that is the last move they make, we all agree that would be a problem.