The Cincinnati Reds rotation, as it stands right now, isn’t complete for the 2021 season. Sonny Gray, Luis Castillo, and Wade Miley will all be returning. Tyler Mahle, Tejay Antone, and Michael Lorenzen could also be options to fill out the final two spots in the rotation for the Reds if they can’t find what they feel would be an upgrade.

With that said, replacing what Trevor Bauer brought to the rotation in 2020 is going to likely be impossible. Expecting anyone to replicate his performance over a full season is just unrealistic. But, looking to bring in a pitcher who could help fill the role of stopper (along with the guys they already have that could certainly help fill that role), isn’t. Unless, of course, we start thinking about the price to do such a thing.

When it comes to the free agent starting pitching market, Trevor Bauer is at the top of the list. The pitcher we all hope is about to become the first Cy Young Award winner in Reds history is hitting the market at a bad time for himself when it comes to money, probably, but he’s still going to get paid in a big way compared to the rest of the pitchers out there.

Depending on where you look, you’re going to see different contract expectations for Bauer. Craig Edwards of Fangraphs is predicting a 4-year and $90,000,000 deal. Jim Bowden of The Athletic has Bauer going with 1-year and $32,500,000 or 5-years and $135M. ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel has Bauer signing a 1-year deal for $31,000,000. The MLB Trade Rumors crew is predicting a 4-year and $128,000,000 deal.

While the Reds would clearly love to get Trevor Bauer to return to Cincinnati, it’s tough to see the team spending that kind of money to make it happen. It’s just not something that they’ve ever really done in the past, and given what happened in 2020 and how teams are reacting to the financial changes that came because of it, it’s an even tougher sell.

The next starter on the list could be Marcus Stroman. Could being a key word there as he was offered a qualifying offer by the New York Mets after sitting out the 2020 season. In 2019 he posted a 3.22 ERA in 184.1 innings, splitting his season between Toronto (2.96 ERA) and New York (3.77 ERA). He’s not exactly the type of pitcher that is all the new rage these days – he’s a huge ground ball pitcher, with a 57% ground ball rate for his career. But there’s more than one way to get the job done, and by-and-large, Stroman has gotten the job done throughout his career. At 29-years-old, he’ll be a lot more affordable according to the predictions, with the range falling between 2-years and $26,000,000 and 3-years and $51,000,000.

Along the same contract lines as with Stroman, you get into Kevin Gausman and Masahiro Tanaka. Gausman, the former Red, was given a qualifying offer. That may mean he could not even reach free agency if he chooses to accept the offer. If he does get into the market, he’s being predicted to get somewhere between 2-years and $28,000,000 and 3-years and $48,000,000.

For Gausman, he’s coming off of a good 2020 season where he made 10 starts and two relief appearances, throwing 59.2 innings with a 3.62 ERA and 1.10 WHIP to go along with 79 strikeouts and 16 walks. The Reds are familiar with him, and he’s familiar with the Reds after making 15 appearances for them in 2019. What he showed with Cincinnati as a reliever seemed to carry over into a starters role in 2020 as he established himself – granted in a smaller than normal sample size – as one of the better starters in the league.

Masahiro Tanaka is being predicted to get anywhere from 2-years and $30,000,000 to 3-years and $45,000,000. The recently turned 32-year-old walked next to no one, with a career walk rate of just 1.8 walks per 9-innings pitched over his big league career. In 2020 he posted a 3.56 ERA with the Yankees in his 10 starts that spanned 48.0 innings. He’s had a bit of a back-and-forth stretch over the last four seasons, with his ERA’s being 4.73, 3.75, 4.45, and then 3.56 after a strong start to his Yankees career.

Tanaka may be the last of the group of starting pitchers that is looking at a multi-year deal from teams. Charlie Morton could probably land one if he were looking for one, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. Of course, there’s a chance that he may just retire – though the Rays, who decline his $15,000,000 option following the season, are hoping to re-sign him at a lesser price. He made just nine starts in 2020 and threw 38.0 innings with a 4.74 ERA while allowing just four homers, walking 10 batters, and picking up 42 strikeouts. He pitched in the playoffs for Tampa Bay, throwing 20.0 more innings with five walks and 23 strikeouts to go with a 2.70 ERA over that stretch.

The 2020 season wasn’t what Jake Odorizzi was hoping for as he pitched just 13.2 innings while battling a chest injury and a blister as he came off of an All-Star season in 2019 with the Twins where he posted a 3.51 ERA with 178 strikeouts in 159.0 innings. There’s some upside to a deal here as he may be looking to rebuild some value after a forgettable 2020 season.

The “others” in the market that could be interesting pick ups could include Taijuan Walker, who has always had the stuff but hasn’t quite put it all together in his career, Garrett Richards who could compete for a spot in the rotation or work in a bullpen role similar to what we saw from Tejay Antone or Michael Lorenzen at times during 2020, or a guy like Corey Kluber who may have to take a lower guaranteed deal with plenty of incentives given that he’s barely pitched over the last two seasons due to injury.

Cincinnati may very well decide that they can stick with things internally and find five guys to start the year with and have a little bit of depth with whoever loses out on that final spot between Mahle, Lorenzen, and Antone, and then have some depth in the minors with guys like Nick Lodolo, Tony Santillan, Vladimir Gutierrez, and maybe in the second half, Hunter Greene if things go right.

They could also decide that with what they did in 2020 that it could make a lot more sense to add another quality starter to the fold and push someone else to the bullpen and just strengthen the pitching all around to provide both depth in the rotation and bullpen. The prices could be right for that kind of maneuver this offseason more so than in the past.

37 Responses

  1. LDS

    As much as I like Bauer, let him walk. Go for Stroman, younger, cheaper, more consistent, and see what the Boddy and the pitching coaches can do to pump him up more. Spend the money on hitting.

    • doofus

      Stroman has not been that healthy during his time in the Show, but he does throw worm-killers.

      • doofus

        Stroman takes the QO. Remains in Queens.

    • Colorado Red

      I also like Stroman,
      I think, based on salary, a better option.

  2. Klugo

    Go for bullpen help. Slide Mahle, Lorenzon or Antone into starting roles.

  3. Ohioindiaspora

    Would the Reds be better off with one year of Bauer or one year of Lindor, money numbers aside?

    • Michael Smith

      I would say Bauer since it will not cost you prospect capital but I think adding an elite bat to the lineup will help more since the starting staff has good option.

    • MBS

      I assume you’re speaking of impact on the 2021 team. I’d go with Lindor, he’s an impact bat at the toughest position on the diamond. Plus Lindor is set to make about 21 M, and reports have Bauer up to 30+ M. Assuming the Reds could do that, that would leave 9 M more to add to the pen and bench.

  4. Redleg4life

    I like odorizzi on a cheap 1-3 year deal at worst he is an innings eater back of the rotation guy. At best he could be a really good third starter behind gray and Castillo. Plus signing him let’s us keep mahle in a lesser role. Also I think the reds should try to resign descalfani.

    • Tomn

      After last year, I’d say No to Disco. I was a fan of his but he really did not perform well at the end of last season. Just seemed to completely lose his confidence. Grey, Castillo, Lorenzen, Mahle are a good foursome. Then either Antone or Lodolo or Santillan as 5+ starters. Though I’d love to get Bauer back or another free agent perhaps.

      And maybe spend the $ on the Indians SS. That would be huge.

  5. SultanofSwaff

    I’m comfortable with what we have if Bauer goes elsewhere. I’d rather see additions to the bullpen as it’s generally more volatile from year to year. Having Lorenzen/Santillan capable of starting or long relief gives the team much needed flexibility.

    • doofus

      I am far from comfortable with the rotation less Bauer.

  6. Doc

    As great as he was in a shortened season, Bauer was only 5-4. Granted , that was with no offensive support, but it still means that he left at least four games trailing. Furthermore, he has had only one dominant full length season in his career.

    Play the younger pitchers and spread the money around that Bauer would get. Reality is that the Reds are not, and will never be, a big market team. Their niche to success will not be in signing big money free agents. They can’t afford that route. Until baseball has a salary cap, the team, and the fans, will have to accept that they are predominantly a feeder team to the Yankees, Dodgers, et al. and championships are not going to happen often, if at all.

    • Jimbo44CN

      I think your comment is pretty much spot on, even though it’s kind of depressing in the last part(Gawd I hate both of those teams). That being said I agree, giving up a bunch of money on free agents and one year deals is not going to do it. Keep our prospects and build from within, that’s really the only way we can do it.

  7. Optimist

    Don’t understand the seeming resignation about Bauer – Doug points out the bad market, and if he’ll take a one year deal for 30m the Reds should jump. Even sweeten it with a mutual option on a 2nd year. Avoiding anyone on the list with injury history, might only leave Tanaka, but Bauer may be worth the extra price.

    Keeping Bauer means 3 solid starters, and 4 others, without considering Greene/Lodolo, for the 2 remaining spots.

    Do this and focus on the 8 fielders.

    • Doug Gray

      I’m certainly not against it at all (1-year, $30M), but I just struggle to see where the Reds are willing to do it.

      • Michael Smith

        Really if it came down to the that and and if the Reds said no mas I have to ask why are we bothering being fans of a franchise that just doesn’t care?

      • Doug Gray

        “You’ve made it through the Lindner era, so we know you’ve got it in you.”

  8. Hunt4RedsOct

    James Paxton, get him out of NY and hopefully Sunny (Gray) situation.
    *misspelled on purpose.

    • Redleg4life

      That would be interesting and I think our rotation could use a lefty.

  9. Charlie Waffles

    I would give a legitimate effort to re-sign Bauer.
    Gausman and Stroman probably should accept their QO. And the Yankees probably re-sign Tanaka.
    Morton would make a good option if Cincinnati is close enough to the east and his home and family.
    If the Reds can’t get Bauer back, Odorozzi might be the best option to look at. Almost every pitcher at the next lower tier have plenty of issues. Long injury histories and/or a lousy 2020 or 2019. Huge gambles.
    I think the Reds could revisit the 2011 off-season and make another trade with SD for a starter a la the Matt Latos trade. I would like to see if the Reds could pry away Chris Paddock from the Padres. Joey Luchhesi has fallen out of grace in SD because he has struggled a lot the last 2 seasons. He would be much cheaper to acquire from SD and is a LH. But I like Paddock more and SD could part with him in a good deal.

  10. Jim Mc

    Im with Doug. 1 yr 30 mil. But would you agree to extra starts and mess rotation up?
    Im not against 4 yrs at 32 per yr. Not my money.
    I wouldnt want Tanaka. Maybe theres more upside to Tejay. Mahle might give you 20 quality starts with a high 3 era.

    SS: Didi, Siemen for 2 yrs??? Simmons for 1? Anyone else a plane ticket to goodyear.

    Kind of going to be interesting in figuring players growth from missed season or maybe better growth in the enviorment they had. Greene and Lodolo are my case studies. Younger vs more polished. 2 guys never above A, and faced some MLB experienced players. Where do they start, how many innings and how far they get this year.

    Dear Santa: All i want is a 162 game season and a SS.

  11. Reddawg2012

    Stroman sounds like a good fit at that price, but would there be any money left to potentially upgrade offensively? Or are we just hoping the same guys from last season improve in 2021?

  12. RedsGettingBetter

    Are Mike Minor and Jake Arrieta retiring?

      • RedsGettingBetter

        Doug…One of them (Minor or Arrieta), would not fit well in the rotation of the reds?

      • Doug Gray

        Maybe they could.

        There are about 40 free agent guys that could be “starting pitchers”. I wasn’t going to write up all of them. I stuck with the guys who were considered Top 30 free agents between a multitude of sources.

    • doofus

      I believe that Minor pitched at Vandy when Derek Johnson was pitching coach?

  13. Tom

    I would hope that Josiah Gray could establish himself as a big leaguer this coming year. What, we traded him to the Dodgers for Kyle Farmer? (sarc). Would love to have Bauer back, but not for a “Homer Bailey” contract. I would not even go for a FA pitcher. The starting 8 needs to be addressed first and they are not a pitcher away from being a big winner in 2021. In reality, the Reds need to start getting better at player development. They need to get Mahle, Greene, Santillian or Lodolo to establish themselves next year. When was the last time they had a ROY or had someone come through their system to really excel? Perhaps Joey Votto back in 2007. When was the last real quality starting pitcher the Reds have produced? Maybe Mario Soto back in the 1990’s. Developing your own players for your system is less expensive and more sustainable.

    • Doug Gray

      Someone is forgetting Luis Castillo (I’m counting him), Homer Bailey, Mike Leake, and my goodness, Johnny Cueto.

      • Tom

        As of course you know, Castillo started in the Miami organization. Depends on your definition of a quality starting pitcher. I will give you that I overlooked Cueto, but beg to differ on Leake and Homer Bailey. Bailey has a career ERA of 4.56 and a less than .500 W-L record. In my opinion, he never lived up to his potential. Leake was a 4th or 5th starter. Still have to admit the Reds player development has not been stellar, thus a big part of the reason they have not been truly competitive for years now.

      • Doug Gray

        Here’s my counterpoint to those:

        Castillo arrived without much of a change up and was a guy that Marlins had been using often as a reliever. He came to Cincinnati, drastically improved his change up and turned into an All-Star. That’s the Reds getting stuff done.

        Homer Bailey for the 2.5 years before he was injured, was arguably one of the 25 best starting pitchers on the planet. Fangraphs WAR puts him 29th in that time frame (for perspective, Johnny Cueto was 23rd). Bailey may not have lived up to the hype, and the first few times around the league were brutal – but he was very good for 2.67 years before his arm blew up.

        Mike Leake was more of a #3/4. A #5 guy is someone who can’t hold onto a starting pitching job, and that was never Mike Leake. To put into perspective – from the 1st round of that draft, Leake really only trails Mike Trout and Stephen Strasburg in WAR. He’s slightly behind AJ Pollock and Mike Minor. He’s outperformed everyone else – at least by WAR – by a good margin.

        The Reds certainly need to develop better – particularly pitching. It’s been a weakness in the organization for, well, just about the entire existence of the organization. But they did just fine on these guys.

  14. Redsvol

    I’m all for Bauer on a 1 year maxed out contract but not multi-year. I’m against giving any pitcher big $ on a multi-year deal until we purge Votto’s contract and we figure out what the young pitchers (Greene, Lodolo) have to offer.

    If Bauer signs elsewhere, I would like to see us sign one of the middle tier free agents and then piece it together with Mahle, Antone, Lorenzen. Pitching injuries always happen but that is quite a bit of depth. If they have $ to spend, I would like to see the bullpen upgraded and, of course and Shortstop. Trade some infield and corner outfield depth for a center fielder – Suarez and Winker are unnecessary.

    • Scott C

      I have a hard time understanding how one could think that Suarez is unnecessary, since he has been probably the Reds best power bat in the last two years. I also don’t understand the lack of love for Jesse Winker who was the one bright spot in the order this past year. I am against overpaying for Bauer and I think the Reds would have to do that in order to keep him, but we need to do more than “piece together” a stating rotation. The rotation kept us in games, we just need more OBP out of our batting order.

      • Doc

        Notice that the people who remark that Suarez is unnecessary conveniently forget to mention just who is going to play third base, hit 45 HR and drive in 90 runs. When I’ve looked, I don’t see anybody else on the roster with those credentials, and can play third base. Seems like a questionable move for an anemic offense.

  15. dennis perper

    he made 17.5m last season.
    had a cy young year
    why not bump him up and let him lead our staff like he did this year
    if im the g.m. which im clearly not,i would be begging ownership to keep him a RED.
    Just my bored 2 cents
    2 yrs 55-60 would clearly keep him here and not bust the budget

  16. Kevin Patrick

    Great ideas on possible free agent pitchers first of all… I wish I knew how long the 2021 season was. I think knowing that would really affect how I would invest in the Reds. If the Reds let a possible Cy Young winner go away easily, I think that would be a marketing mistake. And yet, 30 million for a 80 game season seems pretty frivolous. I’d do it for 162 though…