A little more than two weeks ago we wrote up some thoughts on the free agent starting pitchers that could be of interest for the Cincinnati Reds. Among that group of pitchers that we covered was now former New York Mets right-handed starter Zack Wheeler. Here’s what we wrote about Wheeler on November 5th:

For what feels like the last decade, the Cincinnati Reds have continuously been linked to Zack Wheeler. After bursting int he Majors in 2013 and 2014 with a 3.50 ERA over 49 starts, he missed all of the 2015 and 2016 season. His first season back in 2017 was struggle. But he’s been above-average in the last two years, throwing 377.2 innings with a 3.65 ERA for the Mets. Wheeler misses plenty of bats and he doesn’t walk guys anymore, either. This could be an interesting one to really keep an eye on given how frequently the Reds have been rumored to be interested in acquiring him.

NAILED IT. Ken Rosenthal is reporting this afternoon that the Cincinnati Reds are indeed interesting in Zack Wheeler. His article about this is over at The Athletic if you would like to check it out.

It seemed like catcher Yasmani Grandal was the top target for the Reds this offseason. And yesterday he was off the board, signing a 4-year and $73M deal with the Chicago White Sox. That’s pretty close to what his contract prediction was, so it’s fair to say that the Cincinnati front office was willing to spend somewhere near that amount of money to bring him in. Now that he’s not available, that money probably won’t just sit around if the team can help it.

The goal for 2020 isn’t marginal improvement. The goal is to compete and make the playoffs. Or at least that’s what President of Baseball Operations Dick Williams has stated publicly. The team appears to be better on paper than their 2019 record suggests. And they currently project, as is, to be an 82-85 win team. That’s not good enough to make the playoffs in most seasons. But for a team that seemingly has a decent chunk of money to spend, that’s a good baseline of wins to start with.

The biggest issue with the 2019 Reds was that their offense simply wasn’t good. It was inconsistent, and overall, just a below-average offense. The obvious area for an upgrade is shortstop, where right now it seems that Freddy Galvis will be the option if there isn’t a move made. Catcher was another area that the team was targeting and Grandal being one of the best in the game, would have provided a big upgrade there. But the next catcher on the list is probably Robinson Chirinos, who would be an upgrade – but not nearly as big of one as Grandal would have been. In terms of WAR, Chirinos would only be a 1.5-2 win upgrade, versus about a 3-4 win upgrade for Grandal.

But baseball is a zero sum game. You just need to score more runs than your opponent. It doesn’t matter if that comes because you score a bunch of runs, or if you simply don’t allow the opponent to score many runs. Zack Wheeler would be a significant upgrade to the pitching staff. Essentially he’d replace Tyler Mahle in the rotation as things stand now. For 2020, Marcels projections would have that as a 2-3 win upgrade for the Reds.

That alone isn’t likely going to be enough to get the Reds where they want to be. But it would be a step in the right direction. The move, however, wouldn’t be cheap. MLB Trade Rumors predicts that Zack Wheeler will land a 5-year deal worth $100M. Depending on exactly where you believe the Reds payroll will fall, that would still leave them somewhere in the $15-25M range of money to spend – assuming of course, $20M is the right number for Wheeler.

Upgrading the rotation, possibly giving Cincinnati one of if not the best rotations in all of baseball? Still having enough money to add quality players? It’s not the worst plan in the world, even if it wasn’t necessarily Plan A for the franchise when free agency began.

Photo of Zack Wheeler by slgckgc on flickr and was altered to fit the site. The license can be found here.