Owing to vacation, it’s been a solid minute since I’ve checked in, and boy has a lot happened. The new kids have arrived and they are ready now. The National League Central is more winnable than it’s been in a long time, and the Cincinnati Reds are in first place, somehow. It’s a wonderful confluence of events, which leads me to the question: How do you get the Reds to the playoffs and then how do you make sure they have a chance to win.
These are not the same question.
I believe with something approaching certainty, that if you gave the Reds a couple of barely adequate starting pitchers, they would win the division. They don’t even need to be average. Just serviceable. The offense is fabulous, and though I might personally use Kevin Newman and Nick Senzel a bit less, I don’t think anything is going to prevent this group from putting together one of the better hitting teams in the league for the rest of the year. Add that to a division with no strong opposition, and an NL Central crown is within grasp.
If you want to win a championship, you are going to need good pitchers.
Right now, if everyone were healthy at the right time, the Reds rotation would be:
- Hunter Greene
- Nick Lodolo
- Andrew Abbott
- Graham Ashcraft
- Ben Lively
Let’s start here: Andrew Abbott is not pitching in the playoffs unless he is shut down very soon. In 2022, he threw 118 innings. This year, he has already thrown 83. If you go with the idea that he can up his total by 30 without significant injury risk, that takes him to 148. That’s 65 innings. That’s only 10 or 11 starts. Even if the Reds go with a 6-man rotation for the rest of the year, Abbott needs 13 more starts just to finish the season. Then potentially another 4-5 in the playoffs. I just don’t see how it’s happening.
In the playoffs, you have to hope Greene and Lodolo are healthy. If they are, they should be ready to go since they’ll both have missed significant time this year with non-arm injuries. After that it’s all question marks. Maybe Ashcraft gets it together. But, as good as he’s been, do you want to start Ben Lively in a playoff game? And what if one of Greene, Lodolo, or Ashcraft isn’t up for a playoff start, then who do you pitch? Because that’s a very good possibility.
And so the Reds need pitching. Really legit pitching. If they are going to be in the playoffs, they ought to try to really make a run of it. Come to win, not just to say you got there.
And there is going to be a lot of pitching out there. Over that last couple of weeks, the baseball world has started to sort itself, and at least a third of the league should be entering a sell mindset. Some, like the Mariners, will be willing only to part with rentals. Others might be willing to part with more substantial pieces for the right price. I don’t think there’s a right answer here, but I do think the Reds should do what they have to do.
Somehow, even having graduated a ton of top-flight prospects this year, the farm system still has a variety of interesting pieces, and they should all be available. All of them. I mean it. Listen: Elly De La Cruz, Matt McLain, Jonathan India, Spencer Steer, Tyler Stephenson, Jake Fraley, TJ Friedl. That’s 7 out of 9 in in the lineup and they are all under control for at least 3 years after this one. That is a long time with not a lot of holes to fill.
A baseball team is not supposed to try to have the best farm system. It is supposed to try to have a team that goes to the playoffs as often as possible. The Reds have a serious opportunity to win this year. And, with little help from the minors, they have an opportunity to keep doing so for the next several years. They just need more pitching. Go get it.