The Cincinnati Reds have their fair share of young starting pitchers with upside. This past season they got starts from the likes of Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo, Brandon Williamson, Graham Ashcraft, Andrew Abbott, Connor Phillips, and Lyon Richardson. All of them have the potential to be above-average starters in the big leagues. But not a single one of them has thrown 150 innings in a season, and only Ashcraft has topped 130 innings in a season.
While the Reds could go into the 2024 season with that group of starting pitchers, it seems that they are looking to add to it. And they probably should. The odds that everyone remains healthy happens once in a lifetime and for Cincinnati that was a little over a decade ago. But another reason they should add to it is that while there’s upside with that rotation, the floor can also be nowhere near playoff caliber. The latter two pitchers on the above list showed that they simply weren’t ready to pitch in the big leagues. There was a stretch from Graham Ashcraft in which he was the worst pitcher in the league for nearly two months. Nick Lodolo didn’t pitch after May 6th, and before then he was not good (though that could have been entirely injury related).
Nick Krall, Reds President of Baseball Operations, talked with Charlie Goldsmith of the Cincinnati Enquirer on what kind of pitching the club could be taking a look at. After reading all of it, it’s tough to say exactly what kind of pitching that would be.
Among the things Krall noted:
- A blend of quality and quantity of innings.
- Not a “upside” guy who could also be really bad.
- Doesn’t necessarily need the “upside guy”.
- Could be looking at a “swing man”.
A swing man is not a blend of quality and quantity innings. If you’re a swing man it’s because you aren’t good enough to be a starter. No team is using a guy who is a quality starting pitcher as a swing man on their team. A good reliever who can also start in an emergency scenario is a good thing. But that’s also not a starting pitcher.
It’s nice to see that the “upside” guy but who may not be all that good isn’t something they are looking at. That’s how you wind up with Luke Weaver in your rotation for 4.5 months while being the worst starter in baseball. Being cheap and hoping someone who hasn’t been good in the past is not how you improve, even if once in a lifetime that does work out.
The part about not necessarily being an “upside guy” seems to fit into an area where maybe they can get a #4 caliber starter who can be reliable and keep you in a game most of the time. There’s nothing wrong with those kinds of pitchers, and if you happen to be one of those guys you’re going to be around the league for a long time and make plenty of money.
Given the entire history of the franchise, as well as previous comments by Krall about the team needs to align their payroll to resources, it seems unlikely that if the Reds sign a pitcher that they are going to come from the top of the market. On Sunday we saw one of the top pitchers sign as Aaron Nola opted to re-sign with the Philadelphia Phillies for $172,000,000 for seven years. That was in line with some projected deals for Nola, but well above the 5-year, $120,000,000 deal projected by ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel.
Cincinnati’s current payroll, if we add in the MLB Trade Rumors projected arbitration raises for those who are due those, currently sits at $33,853,334. That does not include the buyouts for Joey Votto, Curt Casali, or Wil Myers – which is another $11,750,000. It also doesn’t include the $3,593,750 owed to Ken Griffey Jr. who will celebrate his 54th birthday tomorrow.
Even accounting for the money paid to guys who will no longer be playing for the team, Cincinnati should have more than enough money to sign just about anyone that they want to and have no real concerns about what it does to payroll for quite a while.
Just after the end of the season Karen Forgus, the Reds Senior Vice President of Business Operations noted to the Cincinnati Business Courier that the club did “way better than we thought we were going to do” and that “every dollar we make is invested back in the organization”, later noting that “additional money coming in makes everything bigger and you can do bigger things on the field and in player development.”
The words used seem to make it seem like there should be plenty of spending on payroll between now and March. Nick Krall’s words to Charlie Goldsmith over the weekend were just that – words. They didn’t provide a ton of insight into what the team might actually be looking for. Anything between a good starter to maybe a swing man is the difference between an actual at least sort of noteworthy acquisition and a guy on a minor league deal who might be able to make the team with a good 6-week stretch in spring training.
There are a lot of options on the free agent market when it comes to starting pitching. And at each tier between potential top of the rotation, good middle of the rotation, and back of the rotation there are more than a few options out there. The same can be said for the relief market. With the trade market, everything is probably available in the right deal. We’ll have to wait and see what happens because right now it seems like the Reds aren’t exactly unveiling their plans to the world.