When it comes to decisions that the Cincinnati Reds will have to make in the next two weeks, what they do with Wade Miley is going to be the biggest one. Unlike the Nick Castellanos option, where he gets to make the decision, the Reds actually get to decide what to do when it comes to Miley’s option. They can either pay him $10,000,000 to come back and pitch for them in 2022, or they can pay him $1,000,000 to go pitch somewhere else.
The decision, on the surface, seems as easy as it possibly could be. Wade Miley was the best pitcher on the Cincinnati Reds in 2021. He made 28 starts and led the team in ERA with a 3.37 mark in his 163.0 innings. His WAR, according to Baseball Reference, also led the pitching staff as well as the entire team (position players included).
Ever since Wade Miley learned the cutter back in 2018 he’s made 81 starts and 2 relief appearances and posted a 3.53 ERA in 425.1 innings pitched. The two seasons prior to that saw him post a 5.48 ERA in 62 starts. The cutter turned his career around and he hasn’t looked back.
For the Reds, it’s basically a $9,000,000 decision. That’s the difference between picking him and paying him to go pitch somewhere else. It’s going to be tough to upgrade, or even break even with what Wade Miley should be expected to give you if you were to try and spend that money in free agency. Yes, it’s possible you could. But the likelihood and certainty involved in doing so aren’t great. You know what you’re likely to get with Miley and that’s worth a lot more than $9,000,000 on the free agent market.
Unfortunately, the Reds budget isn’t going to just be unlimited. And among the players that they actually have the ability to “save” money on that could be useful, Miley is the big one. And that, alone, seems to be the only reason why the team could decide to not pick up his option.
One thing that could, at least in theory, give the Reds a slightly better feeling about not picking up the option on Wade Miley could be their “close” starting pitching options. Outside of Miley, the Reds are returning (at least as things sit right now) Luis Castillo, Tyler Mahle, Sonny Gray, and Vladimir Gutierrez.
But it’s the options beyond those four that could allow the organization to think that they may be able to get a little bit more “bang for the buck”, potentially. Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo, and Reiver Sanmartin all reached Triple-A last season. Sanmartin even got a chance, and pitched well, in two late-season starts with the Reds. Tony Santillan pitched mostly out of the Cincinnati bullpen in 2021, but he’s a guy who could start in the long run and should be an option for the rotation entering 2022. And then there was the Reds minor league pitcher of the year, Graham Ashcraft, who topped out in Double-A last season.
It’s probably unreasonable to expect any of those guys to come out, particularly from the very start of the season, to pitch like Wade Miley should be expected to pitch in 2022. But is the team confident enough in one of those guys that they feel their performance plus what they can do with $9,000,000 can exceed what they would get out of Miley? That’s a much tougher question and answer to put together.