There are several players that were designated for assignment this week that could make sense for the Cincinnati Reds to look into. One of those players could be Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Ryan Yarbrough.

The left-handed pitcher has split time between the rotation and the bullpen throughout his 5-year career with the Rays, going 40-31 with a 4.33 ERA in 579.2 innings that included 59 starts and three seasons where he threw more than 140 innings.

Cincinnati has three starting pitchers locked in for 2023 with Graham Ashcraft, Hunter Greene, and Nick Lodolo. After that they have a handful of guys who either have never pitched in the big leagues or guys who have that also have big question marks around whether or not they should be big league starters.

The Reds bullpen isn’t exactly flush with quality pitching and while they may be counting on some guys returning in 2023 who have had success in the past with Tejay Antone, Lucas Sims, and Tony Santillan – all of them are coming back from injuries that aren’t exactly “easy” things to return from with two back injuries and a second Tommy John surgery.

With starting and relief experience, Ryan Yarbrough could potentially help out in either the rotation or the bullpen. The question we need to look at and try to answer is can he do either or both roles successfully?

The last two seasons have been the worst of his career. In his first three seasons he posted ERA’s of 3.91, 4.13, and 3.56 – all seasons where his ERA+ was better than average (ERA+ is adjusted for the parks a guy pitches in). The last two seasons, though, have seen his ERA just to 5.11 in 2021 and 4.50 in 2022 with an ERA+ well below-average in both seasons.

The soon to be 31-year-old had more than a few interesting splits during the 2022 season. As a starter he held opponents to a .731 OPS versus an .848 OPS as a reliever. His ERA was nearly identical in those splits, though, and despite nine starts and 11 relief appearances his innings total was also nearly identical (40.1 and 39.2).

As a lefty you would expect him to dominate left-handed hitters. He did. Righties hit .308/.367/.500 against him. Lefties didn’t get to see him nearly as often – just 80 total plate appearances (275 for righties) – but when they did, they hit just .159/.253/.261 against him.

The first half and second half splits were quite big. In the first half he posted a 5.49 ERA and opponents hit .296/.263/.484 against him with 11 walks and 24 strikeouts. In the second half of the year he posted a 3.54 ERA and opponents hit .256/.322/.413 against him with 11 walks and 37 strikeouts. He faced just one more batter in the second half than he did in the first half, so his walk rate remained the same but his strikeout rate jumped up more than 50%. His groundball rate also went up, going from 34.1% to 42.1% in the second half.

There’s no way to spice things up for Yarbrough when it comes to velocity – he doesn’t throw hard. If you put him on any D1 team in the country he would probably have 6-7 guys that throw significantly harder than he does. This season he didn’t quite average 87 MPH. After returning from the injured list in May he averaged 86.7 and 85.8 MPH for the first two months, but did pick up a little from there as he went 87.5, 86.8, and 87.3 in the final three months of the year.

What is also interesting to see is that in August and September all of his pitches started to move differently than they had earlier in the season. His slider picked up nearly 2 inches of horizontal movement and an inch more sink, his cutter picked up similar additional movement, the fastball didn’t pick up any additional sink but did pick up about an inch of horizontal movement, and his change up also saw additional run and sink to it.

There are some reasons to believe that he could return to the kind of pitcher he had been in the past. His second half was good and it doesn’t just look like it was luck – his pitch profile changed and the results followed. But the wiggle room may be very small for a guy who can’t hit 90 MPH in today game, too.

With Cincinnati there’s always going to be the question of money and free agency. Yarbrough isn’t a free agent until after the 2024 season if he’s picked up on waivers or traded for before he clears waivers. MLB Trade Rumors projection for his 2023 salary was $4,200,000. That’s not expensive, but it’s also not cheap for a pitcher coming off of a year where he was considerably below-average.

There is plenty of money for the team to spend. As things sit right now, using the projected arbitration numbers, the team has a payroll of about $70,000,000 for 2023. Would it make sense to put in a waiver claim on a guy like Yarbrough who could potentially provide starting pitching depth but also be an option out of the bullpen at that price?

66 Responses

  1. Votto4life

    They Reds should probably sign him, but they probably won’t because of money. If this team can’t spend $4.2 million on a player, Bob really should sell the team.

    • Mark Moore

      It’s isn’t about “can’t” it’s about “won’t”. Sell it, Bob & Phill and move on to another “hobby”.

  2. BK

    He’s the player I liked the most of all those DFA this week. I doubt they will get him if the Reds don’t put in a waiver claim. He fits a need and could potentially be traded at the deadline–both aspects should be attractive to the Reds.

  3. LDS

    It can’t hurt to try him. The Reds have certainly spent more for less capable pitchers. And he’s got to be better than some of last year’s deep dives into the dumpster. At an estimated $70m, Castellini isn’t trying to field an MLB lineup and the team’s management and personnel aren’t going to pull a Cleveland (2022 Sportrac estimate at about $60m) and win the division. The best thing that could happen to the Reds this off season is the announcement that the Reds have been sold and that the new owners have fired the front office, Bell, and DJ.

    • Votto4life

      Exactly, if you really can’t afford to field a major league team then sell the team. If the financial restraints are so burdensome, then sell the team. if you are losing money and creating financial insecurity for your family, then sell the team. I don’t buy into the notion that Castellini is losing money. But if he truly is, then the solution is to sell the team.

      • Jim Walker

        I would not be at all surprised if they are running the Reds as they are to be sure and make money on them to support the rest of their business operations as a result of the pandemic and the following fallout.

      • LDS

        Perhaps so, but unethical at a minimum, if not illegal.

  4. CI3J

    Should they? Yes.

    Will they? Probably not.

    Why? Money.

    Simple.

  5. Tar Heel Red

    He is one of two pitchers the Reds should try to acquire…the other being Jarlin Garcia. Both are LH’ed, both have had success at the major league level and both are affordable. Of course, other teams will be interested too.

  6. TJ

    Doug, wondering if you or anyone else commenting would like to try this exercise. I thought about what I would do if I was the Red’s GM and I had $200 million. Since I live in Southern Illinois I thought I’d keep it commensurate with the Cardinal’s payroll which should be around $180 million.

    • Rednat

      would be an interesting exercise. my idea would be to spend all available funds on making gabp a more competitive field for a small market team that will have to rely more on speed and defense to ne competitive. move the wall way way back. larger gaps in the out field, faster surface. not sure how much that would cost but i am sure it would be a pretty penny. any money spent on one year rentals for next year just seems like a waste to me. it will likely be another 100 loss year anyway

    • Votto4life

      The other day one of the writers over at Redsreporter, Wick Terrell, ran a simulation in which the he had $119 million to spend. He put together a pretty nice roster. Basically, a .500 ball club.

  7. west larry

    The reds should try to sign him. I really like that both his slider and cutter had more movement in the last two months of the season, maybe he found or rediscovered the movement needed to make him an effective starter,

  8. Michael B. Green

    I think the Opening Day rotation includes (in no particular order):

    Greene
    Lodolo
    Ashcraft
    Cessa
    TBD

    TBD is likely a free agent or trade acquisition type. The key is for that player to step aside when Williams is ready. Either transition to the bullpen or take Cessa’s spot and allow him to go to the bullpen.

    That allows time for Dunn, Overton and Stoudt to either establish themselves at AAA or pitch in long relief at the MLB level. Those three (3) add nice depth.

    Another key is to allow for the growth of Abbott. He got to AA very quickly this past year and he was drafted with a quick rise in mind. Guessing he could take Cessa’s spot at some point – either in 2023 or 2024. That depends on his growth.

    Of most importance, we need a training/conditioning program that does not result in any of our SP’s hitting the DL for extended periods of time.

    Yarborough is a potential fit. I think any acquisition may slot at #1 in the rotation so that the youngsters don’t have to carry that burden so early in their careers. To me, that still points to Cueto. It should not point to Minor again (no offense, Mike).

    • Michael B. Green

      Williamson – not Williams.

    • Optimist

      Dunn is already the 4/5 starter, it’s just a major question of how many innings is he good for, considering the injury history. If he is healthy for spring training and they can get 5 or 6 starts from him before June, that should give them time to decide who to call up from AAA/AA. Cessa and Overton remain too unproven as starters, though Cessa clearly has value in some role.

    • JayTheRed

      Would love to See Johnny Baseball back in a Reds uniform. I can’t imagine it would be too expensive either considering his age now and the fact he has not been an elite pitcher the past few years.

  9. Optimist

    Need a refresher here – if a player is DFA’ed, is there any way to get a physical exam before making the waiver claim? In a trade, isn’t the exam typically a requirement – “pending a physical”? Is there a similar mechanism for a waiver claim, or is it simply make the claim/take the risk? Would the player(agent) have the most recent info to make available?

    Yarbrough is less than 1/2 the price of minor, and seemingly offers much more to the team. They should have plenty of current analytics data, just wondering about the physical condition.

    • Jim Walker

      As far as I am aware waiver claims are strictly caveat emptor. There is probably something buried in the rules regarding not putting a player on waivers who is too injured to play. Recall that clubs will often specifically announce publicly when waivers will be sought specifically for the purpose of “granting” an unconditional release. My guess is that is a red flag to other teams to cover the backside of the team placing the guy on waivers.

      • Optimist

        Thanks Jim – I was thinking that, but also thinking if the player is healthy he and/or agent would want to advertise that to draw interest; particularly if there’s a chance of competition as a free agent after an unconditional release.

    • Stock

      If he fails the physical just put him back on waivers.

  10. MK

    Yarborough is the #1 guy on my list after checking the DFA’s. I was thinking more for the bullpen but he would be an outstanding #5 starter. I’d offer him two years with an opt out after one.

  11. Gary

    Recently, Reds’ beat reporter mentioned three outfielders who are free agents who would fill their needs, at least until the “prospects” are ready. One of them was former Yankee outfielder Andrew Benetendi. I’ve not seen many thoughts or opinions on the Cincinnati possibly signing him. Just curious, what do you all think?

    • KG

      Would love to see the Reds pick up Benintendi! Wouldn’t be cheap though–probably $15 to 18/mil per year. Out of our price range? If that’s the case, we should close the doors and turn out the lights. He would be an excellent addition, 28 years old and from the Queen City!

      • Optimist

        Yep – unlikely for two reasons – the AAV is too high, and the rumored length of contract 4 or 5 years, is too long.

      • craig

        Yup pretty darn sure out of Reds price range by about 11-14M. Reds are cheap and rebuilding although would love to have him.

  12. TR

    Yes, go for Yarbrough. Lefties are usually needed either as a spot starter or in the bullpen.

    • craig

      Reds need a LHRP in the bullpen think they only have one but doubt they will pay that money.

  13. Brad

    If I close my eyes I can hear little phil “but they cost money………..”.

  14. old-school

    I would not. They have all winter to look for value and quality. A soft tossing lefty who cant hit 90 MPH has had 2 down years in a row and isnt wanted by Tampa bay is a bad sign. They already have San martin as a change of pace slow tossing lefty guy. Id spend $4 million elsewhere.

    • Votto4life

      I wonder what outfield prospects he was referring to? When it comes to outfield prospects the cupboard looks pretty bare to me. I am in favor of the Reds signing Andrew Benetendi but I don’t think it’s very likely the Reds would meet his asking price. I have mentioned before signing Benetendi and Conforto would give the Reds a semblance of a major league line up. At this point though, it’s a pipe dream.

      • Votto4life

        Sorry, that was in reply to Gary’s post above.

      • old-school

        C Trent had an article up with old friend Adam Duvall and Wil Myers as possibilities. He also suggested Joey gallo on a pillow contract to reprove himself on a 1 year deal with mis hits in GABP finding the first few rows that dont anywhere else.

    • VegasRed

      Agree! Krall has to be smarter than that.

  15. KG

    Agree with you. Put Benintendi and Conforto in our outfield along with Friedl (or whoever our best option is) and we’re much improved over last year.

    • Tom Diesman

      Just a little food for thought from the Steamer projections, that Benintendi and Conforto may not be be all that much of an improvement over what we already have in house. I know they wouldn’t be a big enough improvement in my eyes to spend what it would take to bring them to Cincy.

      Name PA AVG OBP SLG OPS
      Conforto 554 .244 .340 .418 .758
      Fraley 495 .236 .330 .422 .752
      Benintendi 567 .267 .338 .408 .746
      Friedl 488 .248 .326 .417 .743

      • Jim Walker

        Again, we agree Tom. All these guys clearly have over Friedl and Fraley is a longer MLB history. They probably be a past their prime by the time the Reds grow into contending status

      • Old-school

        Nick Solar hits lefties well. Fraley and Solar in LF will be fine in 2023 as platoon partners.

  16. AllTheHype

    I’d say very light velo and below-league-avg GB% won’t play well in GABP, hard no.

  17. DX

    Why should they spend money now? Did you see last years trades for prospects? They are rebuilding. Unless they are trying to flip a player for another prospect why would they sign someone who isn’t going to be here for 2024+? Its different if they sign someone like Benintendi who is young enough and could sign a multi year deal? Most of the young players are a year or two away from helping the Reds. It’s setting up nicely that the young players are maturing and the big money is coming off the books.

    • Doug Gray

      Because some people want to watch a team try to win? Rebuilding is a choice. You can try to win now, by spending money to add to the roster, while also keeping your prospects you just traded for and allowing them to develop and join the team when they are ready.

      • DX

        I agree with trying to win but being 75-87 vs 70-92 at the expense of holding young players back is not something I think they should do.

      • Doug Gray

        Who exactly would they be holding back here? Absolutely no one is ready to come into the big leagues as a pitcher right now and the Reds have multiple spots in the rotation and bullpen that should be up for the taking.

      • Old-school

        I’ll play Devil’s advocate here. The combination of a multitude of factors in the roster construction for the long term has paralyzed decision making in the short term.

        1.) The non-development of Nick Senzel and Jose Barrero at CF and SS is weighing heavily on the franchise. Reds arent willing to give up on them and arent willing to spend money when Siani and EDLC are perhaps a half season away

        2.) The aging vets Moose, Votto, and Farmer. They need Votto and Farmer for Reds fest and marketing. They arent walking away from Moose’s $22 million in exit fees either because then you have to sign up for a a legit FA bat which is more money( Josh bell would be a silver slugger at 1b/DH in GABP). Not happening.

        3.) infield defense is awful. They need more time to see india and Steer in the infield in 2023 as well as Barrero.

        4.) Stephenson’s lack of durability. They need a catcher. Id spend money on Houston’s 1b catcher or go all in with a trade to the A’s for Sean Murphy and send some prospect capital that way. Reds arent doing that. They’ll sign a cheap vet that helps the young pitchers and buy another year to figure out Stephenson.

        5.) always spend money on pitching. Here is where Reds could spend but won’t.

      • AllTheHype

        @Old, it is tough to sign quality pitchers, at any price. They could try one or two year contracts again. Last year they could have controlled up to 3 guys making close to $10M (Gray, Miley, Minor). Only Gray was worth that contract, and keeping him would have meant the loss of their current #9 prospect. There is inherently huge risk getting production from $10M. They look good on paper in January when they sign, different story in June.

        Multi year contracts (3+), $40M++ are definitely NOT something they should be doing this year, and that is what they would have to offer to attract decent, less risky talent. But even then you risk eating a sunk cost contract like Bailey ($100M) or Milton. Everyone talks about Moustakas, but the Bailey contract was the worst ink to paper ever for the Reds.

        I suspect they’ll dip their toe somewhere, but it will not and should not be any dynamic pitching signing, at least this year.

    • Votto4life

      The Reds are not going to go from losing 100 games in 2022 to winning in 2024 without trying to improve now. That means using every Avenue available including their farm system, trades and free agency.

      According to reports, the Reds are still is payroll slashing mode. You guys who think this team is going to competitive in a year and a half from now without spending a lot of money are fooling yourself.

      • Votto4life

        I just think it’s foolish to all your eggs in one basket.

        I hope EDLC is the next ARod. But what if him and Marte don’t plan out. What if they falls on their face, like Nick Senzel and Jose Barrero have? Which let’s face it, is not all that far fetch.

        What’s plan B? Another rebuild?

      • Jim Walker

        The Dick Williams hurry up in 2019-20 was something of a Plan B

        So I think this plan is Plan C or and next would be Plan D 😉

      • Votto4life

        Maybe..Dick Williams made some mistakes but it sure felt like the Reds were a major league team when he was in charge.

        Most all teams get stuck with bad contracts from time to time, The difference being other teams don’t wallow in it and use it as an excuse to not field a major league team.

        Again , if the Moose and Shogo contracts were so devastating, then Bob Castellini should sell the team and let someone who is more finically stable run the franchise.

      • Votto4life

        My spelling and grammar are absolutely atrocious today. I need to stop posting.

        Edit button please!

    • craig

      Agree DX. I think the Reds are kicking tires but not really serious buyers from the showroom floor. They are more after the Dodge Dart that’s used as the guard dogs dog house toward the back of the lot. As you mentioned they are rebuilding. They want a veteran SP innings eater and mentor the young guys. As for OF I think they want someone who can hit 20-25 homers, try and give the team some much needed pop.

      • TheCoastMan

        Good observations here, but I think you are a little optimistic, Craig, on the Dodge Dart. I think the Reds are more in the market for one of those 1970 AMC Gremlins.

  18. Jim Walker

    MLB Trade Rumors is reporting that the Reds and Buck Farmer have reached an agreement on a deal for 2023 at $1.75m. MLB credits Jon Heyman for the original report via Twitter.
    https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/cincinnati-reds

    The MLB TR article points out that under the new CBA contract one year agreements with arbitration eligible players reached without a hearing are now fully guaranteed while in the past the player could be released prior to or during spring training and receive only fractional severance payment. Will this new rule influence who the Reds sign versus nontender?

    Keep in mind the tender date for arbitration eligible players is tomorrow (18 Nov).

    • JB

      Thanks Jim. I for one thought Farmer pitched well last year and I am glad the Reds signed him.

  19. RedsGettingBetter

    I think Yarbrough should be picked up by the Reds because his numbers but if it were because of his velocity definitely they do not. That 86 – 87 MPH fastball velo in GABP will remind Mike Minor frequently although you can argue the movement and sink added to his braking balls could make him a reliable pitcher

  20. MBS

    Vote No on Yar. It feels like a misuse of whatever funds are available. I’d rather spend more to get a better quality option.

    15M gets you a closer, he seems like a guy I wouldn’t spend more than 2M on. Bad trajectory

  21. Joey

    I’ve been pretty optimistic in my reds fandom over the years. Early/mid 2000’s we just needed the pitching. Then we got the pitching but needed a stronger lineup. Then we needed the pitching again. Then we needed pitching and hitting and ended up getting a bunch of pitching and won the cy young. Now we need everything. This team always needs something else and even when it seems like we have it on paper there is something else like injuries or bad coaching. The truth is this team stinks and if we woke up in the morning and we had Mike Trout and Othani on our team we would still stink. How do I know? Because the angels have both of those guys on their team and they still stink. There’s no reason to suggest that our organization would put forth better results than the angels.

  22. Michael B. Green

    I’d like to see a significant push to win at the minor league level. I think our A+ team started on fire but then faded. That is likely related to promotions, etc. Still, I thinking a winning culture will start with having young prospects know nothing but winning. That approach has worked for many championship teams.

    • Jim Walker

      I agree. I recall hearing Joe Morgan talk more than once about how closing out and winning games was an acquired skill beyond mere physical talent. Joe felt that obviously the greater the physical talent level on a team, the better the team could become at closing out games with wins but that the mental mindset and decision making process to effectively close out games was a talent unto itself.

      If guys learn this process coming through the minors, that’s one less thing for them to figure out at MLB.

    • Votto4life

      Winning at any level would be welcomed. There will be a lot of pressure to promote EDLC and others, especially if the team gets off to a miserable start. I hope the Reds will let the young players develop in system and not rush them.

      I guess we will see how committed the Reds are to their latest plan. Still, there is no excuse for the Reds not fielding a major league team in the meantime.

  23. Votto4life

    Nick Krall has said the 2023 team will be basically the same as the 2022 team. It might not be a great selling point, considering they 2022 loss 100 games, but I take him at his word. There will be no significant signings.

    • LDS

      Yeah, Krall is a real inspiration. Maybe he should try to pry Bellinger away from the Dodgers. The Reds don’t have much the Dodgers want or need, but the Dodgers seem greedy at the moment so there’s possibly a narrow window – maybe Moose & Senzel (I’m joking though that would earn Krall a few votes here as GM of the year).

  24. Michael B. Green

    I wonder if McGarry gets a non-roster invite to Spring Training this year? Depending on how CIN handles Encarnacion-Strand, I’m wondering if McGarry gets a shot at 1B in the future…

    • Old Big Ed

      McGarry will almost certainly start and play in several spring games. There is no downside to the Reds’ playing him, and he would be in the minor league camp in any event for most of the games. I’m not sure exactly what being an NRI entails, but he’s earned some exposure and will get it, especially with Votto being iffy for spring training.

      McGarry’s problem has been too many strikeouts and too few walks. Spring training can give false clues, especially in Arizona, but giving him some Cactus League ABs will help both him and the Reds to know where he stands.

      If nothing else, McGarry will make Moustakas look bad in comparison.

      • Jim Walker

        And the party line will be as it has been for decades, “He (Moose) is just getting his work in”. 😉