The Cincinnati Reds starting rotation has been a hot stove topic for the last two offseasons. Much of that chatter has revolved around the team fielding offers and calls for Luis Castillo and Sonny Gray. Both of those guys are still Reds, though, as apparently no one has made an offer that’s been nearly good enough to get the Cincinnati front office to bite. Scott Mitchell of TSN reported this week that the Toronto Blue Jays were “very interested in Cincinnati Reds starter Tyler Mahle”.

It’s not surprising that teams would be interested in Mahle. The 27-year-old right-handed pitcher is 15-8 with a 3.72 ERA (129 ERA+) over the last two seasons for Cincinnati. He’s thrown 227.2 innings with 270 strikeouts in that span and posted a 1.22 WHIP. He’s good. And he’s not going to be a free agent until after the 2023 season, so he would also give any team he’s on multiple seasons.

PECOTA Standing Projections

Let’s start this off by saying that these projections are mostly worthless right now because with the owners having locked the players out and freezing all transactions, including both free agency and trades, not many teams are set to go with their rosters for the upcoming season.

Still, Baseball Prospectus has released their PECOTA Projected standings ($$) for the 2022 season. In one way it’s good for the Cincinnati Reds, who are projected to finish in second place in the National League Central Division. The not-so-good news is that they are projected to finish at .500 and 16 games behind the first place Milwaukee Brewers. All of that is likely to change, though, once the lockout is lifted by the owners and free agency opens back up and trades are allowed to happen.

Where these projections can be at least sort of useful is understanding that on paper this is about where teams stand. While all teams probably have their own internal projections for where they and the rest of the league looks to be, the publicly available projections (not to be confused with predictions) probably aren’t too far off from the ones teams are utilizing.

Cincinnati probably feels that the team assembled today is solid, but unspectacular. They have some talent on their roster, but if they want to truly compete then they are likely going to have to fill out several questionable spots on the roster. What the Reds could, and maybe are hoping for is that some things go right with some of the players who have a high upside but haven’t cashed in on it yet. Getting good production from Nick Senzel and Jose Barrero could go a very long way for the club. And if some of the top prospects such as Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo, and Graham Ashcraft can step into big league roles and perform well, it could be a bit of a game changer. There’s a lot of “ifs” in there, though.

26 Responses

  1. LDS

    Yeah, that last paragraph sure feels like the very definition of fantasy baseball. Hope it works out but certainly nowhere I’d bet money.

  2. Mark Moore

    Yep, a boatload of “ifs” … now “if” they would only settle on a new CBA and get things moving.

  3. Alan Horn

    Doug, those “ifs” are the problem. You don’t want to enter a season with a lot of “ifs”. Senzel remaining uninjured and productive would be great but it is a stretch that it will happen. I would put more trust in the the 3 pitchers helping next season but again, how much and how soon. Castellanos’s departure leaves a huge hole in the offense. If Barreo could produce, that would help. But again, that is a gamble and a stretch. If Suarez could put together a full productive season with the bat that would help but again that is a huge unknown. If Moose is not done and can produce out of the DH slot that would help but again that would be a huge leap in faith. So there we are. There needs to be a few more additions to this team in order to be competitive and those additions are the problem with the current management. No team wants to begin the season knowing they are behind the 8 ball.

    • Doug Gray

      Yes – definitely not something that I would be betting on, but I do think that a team that is “aligning payroll to resources” will accept their fate and just hope for the best in those scenarios rather than be able to convince the ownership to spend more money to get more likely productive results.

  4. MBS

    Out of our top 3 starter Mahle is the one I’d be less inclined to deal, he won’t get the return of Castillo, and he’s way cheaper and younger than Gray. So your not getting the impact return or easing the budget to SPEND on bigger needs, like an OF.

  5. Chris Wheeler

    This roster is like holding a 2/6 hand with a 3 on the table. Just horrible management to bet on this roster. Or horrible management betting the fans will be ok with this effort from management. Sad.

  6. Votto4life

    If Toronto want Mahle enough they are willing to overpay for him then fine make the deal. Otherwise, I would not be eager to trade Tyler Mahle.

    The starting rotation has been this team’s strength the past few years. But after losing Trevor Bauer after the 2020 season and Wade Miley after this past season I don’t think we can depend on smooth sailing with our starters.

    Nick Lodolo and Hunter Green have not even established themselves at AAA let alone the Majors yet. If You trade Mahle and Castillo and/or Luis Castillo gets injured then there you have it l, another lost season.

    If the Reds trade Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray or Tyler Mahle they are clearly punting on the 2022 season.

    Also, I think projecting this team to finish .500 after it traded/released it’s best hitter, most effective starting pitcher and gold glove catcher, without getting a single thing in return, is a bit far fetch.

    • Hotto4Votto

      Well, they actually will get a draft pick for Castellanos since he rejected the QO. But your point stands. Lots of losses without any replacements. Sort of like not replacing Bauer, Iglesias, Bradley (etc) the offseason before and hoping you can just sort of deal with the loss of production there. Obviously they didn’t and likely won’t next season either.

  7. Frank

    If any of the starters were to be traded, I d say its Gray. I likw him a lot, but with one year on his contract he might bring an interesting return.

    Mahle is still young and relatively cheap, and Castillo is your ace.

    with young guns Greene and Lodolo on the way, that could be an interesting starting tandem.

    More worried about hitting, with Castellanos gone, who will be the shoulders to carry on. Can Winker be as good as he was before he got injured? What dies Moose have left in the tank? And which Suarez will turn up?

    As for Senzel and Barreo, you cant really count on them to produce, it would be a nice positive surprise if they could, nothing you can count on.

    • Shawn

      Gray has a team option so you would be trading him with 2 years of control. Also, if you trade one you may as well trade all of them. You ain’t going to be competitive. I actually think we should trade all of them anyway, Unless we can extend Mahle.not going to be competitive, would be better off in the long run if we traded them for prospects

  8. Hotto4Votto

    I’m still hoping they tear it down and target being competitive in 2024. Get what you can for Castillo, Gray, Mahle, and Winker. See if you swap bad contracts. Moose/Suarez for Didi, Meyers, maybe Grichuk? See if you can work out a deal to send Akiyama back home. Get Greene, Lodolo, Barrero, Friedl, Lopez, Ashcroft plenty of opportunities.

    • Mike

      Too close to contending to tear down.might trade Gray for an outfielder but were not much different last year from Atlanta if not for St.louis freak streak

      • Hotto4Votto

        IMO, teams projected around .500 aren’t really that close to contending.

    • Shawn

      Agree completely about rebuilding. The reds should be looking to add a short term bad contract if it comes with the right prospect.

    • SteveLV

      I agree with the compete in 2024 concept. Castillo, Gray, Mahle are all gone in 2024. Either extend them – which I would be fine with – or trade them now when they real trade value. I’d rather extend Castillo and Mahle than lose them, but burning through their value over the next 2 years on mediocre teams and then letting them walk makes no sense.

  9. Old-school

    I dont see the Reds trading Castillo or Mahle. They are controlled for 2 years and affordable. Maybe they trade Castillo next offseason if they determine they cant sign him long term but there’s no way BC or PC or DB are giving up on the next 2 seasons before 2022 even starts.

    Sonny gray would be my trading chip.

    Mahle has really struggled at GABP but a lot of good pitchers do. Mahle was a Cy Young type pitcher on the road. If they trade him to a pitcher friendly park, he will post a 5 WAR season and finish in the top 5 of the NL in ERA/wins/K’s and innings.

    Keep MAhle and let DJ work with him on his home splits.

  10. MuddyCleats

    NO discussion on who Reds might get in return – the key to any trade. I wouldn’t be opposed to moving Mahle. His overall numbers r good, but his performance is still spotty a lot of the time. Perhaps he will continue to mature and become more in control & dominate? Blue Jays have only 2 top 100 prospects. Top guy, #32, is a young catcher so not sure Reds would want or need that w/ Stephenson on board? Next guy is a SS/3B prospect so not sure that fits. They also have a rookie slotted to play 3B and a very heavy RHH lineup which is where it could get interesting. Could the Reds off load one or more LHH and a more seasoned 3B along w/ Mahle?? Even so, who could Reds get in return? There doesn’t appear to be a natural fit?

  11. Mike Bittenbender

    The argument FOR trading Mahle is that his numbers are worse, by far, at GABP. So half of his starts are compromised. On the road he’s excellent. Not sure if it’s in his head at this point or his locating but the disparity is real. Return is the key but I would be open to listening. The team will only contend if payroll meets resources with a side of everything breaking their way. Hunter Greene could be the equal of Joe Burrow in this market but ownership doesn’t appear interested in spending and building around him. If the return were good I would move Mahle and not hesitate but the return has to be impactful now and for the future for it to make sense to me

  12. CFD3000

    Keep Mahle. Duh.

    As for projections, I’ve said here before that they’re codswallop, and especially so for a season where rosters aren’t even set. And I’ll bet you Bob Eucker’s box seats that the Brewers don’t win 97 games in 2022. Of course, at this rate they won’t even play 97 games…

  13. Gonzo Reds

    I don’t favor trading any of our top 3 SP because what the return would be isn’t going to be top prospects or MLB ready hitters, it will be for the purpose of a salary dump of Moose’s or Suarez’s contract. Then we’ll be short both a SP and an experienced possible comeback player of the year. We’ll be worse overall and worse for several seasons.

    • Greenfield Red

      Please no “major league ready” players in return. That is code for major league ready, but not very good, or teams wouldn’t trade them. Been there, done that.

      That’s why they need to move the big 3 and Winker this Spring. Get high end prospects that are 2 to 3 years away.

      Combined with the young talent in the system, the high draft picks that would come, there could be a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

      The Reds can get all the “major league ready”, but not very good talent they want off the waiver wire in March.

      What they are doing, is not working.

      • MuddyCleats

        IDK, Reds need a ML ready SS, CF, RF who can hit and steal a bag or two. I’d call H. Greene ML ready or certainly very close to it. Barrero fits in that class as well. IMO, Reds need some ML ready bats pretty quickly or they’re going to waste what’s left of their current pitchers and jeopardize the early success of Greene, Lodolo, Ashcroft etc… I get your pt, but I wouldn’t say every prospect ML isn’t ML ready. Padres R a good example. McKenzie Gore is a young LHP who should b ready, but has struggled putting it all together. C, Campusano is ML and SS, CJ Abrams may b ready sometime this yr? Essentially, he’s ML ready. All 3 R in SD’s top 5 prospects.

      • Greenfield Red

        MC, I like your posts most of the time, and I think we are talking past each other here. Let me explain.

        Teams are not going to trade a ML ready all-star type player for an existing all-star type player that costs $10 mil a year. You will not get an ML ready guy who has any likelihood of being anywhere near as good as Castillo for Castillo. If he were that good, they would just keep him and save the $10 mil for when their young guy is arbitration eligible.

        Teams will make tons of guys available in that scenario who have little to no shot of being anywhere near as good, but are ready to contribute something at the ML level. Just think back to the Cueto trade. He was an all-star. The Reds got 3 ML ready left handers for him. One was already a middle reliever (Finnegan). One was a 26 year old prospect (Lamb), and I can’t even remember the other right now. All contributed something. None approached Cueto… not even added together did they approach Cueto’s contribution. Cueto is still in the majors. Are any of the other three even still pitching? He was older than all of them to begin with.

        The Reds could sign any number of guys at that level to minor league contracts with an invitation to Spring Training during the winter.

        Requiring ML ready prospects when Jockety so proudly declared that was what was expected is proof he had no idea what he was doing. That and the stupid Chapman trade is what ruined the rebuild of 2015 or whenever it was.

  14. Steven Ross

    Season can start in late May or June for all I care because it just doesn’t look like the Reds are going to be contenders except for 3rd or 4th place. Never wanted Bengals football to begin again so soon.

  15. Tomn

    A real shame that the Reds ownership can’t or won’t take a cue from what the Bengals have done and how the fans have responded – and how the team responded! Buy good players, have a very good team, the fans go crazy and spend lots of $ and lots of great publicity.

    Growing up in Louisville, I was always a die-hard Reds fan and though I liked the Bengals, the Reds were #1 in my mind. But after this past NFL season, it’s a tie. The excitement and the thrill of the Bengals, especially in the post-season have me pulling as much for them as the Reds now. But with the Reds, I just have a sad feeling now that the front office is just in it to make $. I refused to believe it for years, but I was just wishing that wasn’t true. I’ll still watch the Reds, pull for them and even go to games occasionally (100 mile round trip), but I’d rather do that for a team that’s committed to winning. Love the players. Love the history. But the current ownership just S*CKS.