The Cincinnati Reds have been rumored to be in the market for a frontline starting pitcher. They haven’t been linked to anyone on the free agent market that fits that description, but they’ve been linked to both Tyler Glasnow of the Tampa Bay Rays and Dylan Cease of the Chicago White Sox in trade rumors for the past week or so. The asking price has been rumored to be high for both players. Earlier today, though, things got more specific with what the White Sox were asking for. Bruce Levine of Marquee Sports Network out of Chicago said they asked the Reds for Rhett Lowder, Chase Petty, and the clubs #9 and #11 prospects for Cease.
The question that has to be asked is…. is that too high of an asking price? Starting with Dylan Cease, we need to acknowledge that he’s a year removed from finishing second in the Cy Young voting, but also that at least from a runs allowed perspective, he took a massive step backwards in 2023. His ERA more than doubled from 2022 to 2023, going from 2.20 to 4.58, and that 4.58 was below the league average mark (97 ERA+).
Cease has led the league in starts two of the last three seasons, and in that other season he has as many starts as he had in 2021 and one less than he had in 2023. He’s a guy that you should feel comfortable with (at least by comparison to your typical pitcher) will take the mound every 5th day. His control hasn’t been great – he’s walked 3.8 batters per 9-innings pitched over the last three seasons. His ability to miss bats as a starting pitcher, though, has been elite – striking out 667 hitters in 526.2 innings in those same three seasons.
When it comes to his contract there are two things that we know. He’s under team control for both the 2024 and the 2025 seasons and is arbitration eligible in both seasons. As for how much money he will make, that’s a bit tougher to know. MLB Trade Rumors projects him to get $8,800,000 in 2024. For 2025 we’ll have to wait and see how he performs next season. Neither of those things should matter all that much since the Reds should have more than enough money to spend in each of those two seasons without even thinking of digging into the couch cushions.
When it comes to the prospects being asked for let’s start with the two that we absolutely know about: Rhett Lowder and Chase Petty. Cincinnati took Lowder with their 1st round pick in 2023. He was the 2nd pitcher taken in the entire draft after going 15-0 at Wake Forest last season and posting an ERA of 1.87 as a junior. He didn’t pitch in the minor leagues in 2023 after the draft. Cincinnati also paid him a signing bonus of $5,700,000.
Chase Petty was acquired by the Reds in the spring of 2022 in the deal for Sonny Gray with the Minnesota Twins. An elbow injury in the spring of 2023 kept him off of the mound for the first six weeks of the season. When he returned the club put a plan in place where he would throw 65 pitches or 4.0 innings before being replaced in the start – whichever came first. He made 18 starts once he returned and didn’t miss any of the scheduled starts, but he also threw just 68.0 innings on the season due to those restrictions.
When Petty was on the mound he was dominant. He posted a 1.72 ERA between 16 starts with High-A Dayton and then two starts with Double-A Chattanooga at the end of the year. He didn’t allow a home run all season, walked 15 batters, had 66 strikeouts, and was the top groundball pitcher in the farm system (56% groundball rate – 42% is the MLB average). You can see his career stats here.
One could argue that Rhett Lowder and Chase Petty are the top two pitching prospects that the organization has. They currently rank #2 overall (Lowder) and #6 overall (Petty) on the RedsMinorLeagues.com rankings.
Where things get a bit cloudy is simply saying “the Reds #9 and #11 prospects”. What list is being referenced there? Someone pointed out on twitter that Levine has used the MLB Pipeline rankings in the past. If that’s the list being referenced, then those two players would be Carlos Jorge – a second baseman/center fielder – and Sammy Stafura.
All that Carlos Jorge has done since signing is be arguably the top offensive player in every league he’s spent more than a few weeks in. He finished in the top five in OPS in the Dominican Summer League, the Arizona Complex League, and the Florida State League in the last three seasons. In all of those seasons he also ranked in the top 10 in the league in stolen bases. He’s a career .294/.395/.503 hitter with 101 walks and 173 strikeouts in 792 plate appearances (career stats here). In the 2023 season he began to play some center field in the second half of the year.
Sammy Stafura was the Reds 2nd round draft pick last summer. The shortstop was a then 18-year-old and he played in a handful of games out in Arizona. In the 12 games he got into before the season ended he struggle, hitting .071/.212/.191 with 8 walks and 23 strikeouts in 53 plate appearances. You can see his full stat line here.
Now that you’re armed with all of that information, is that too big of an ask by the White Sox? Is it a price that the 82-80 Cincinnati Reds should pay to add to their young and hopefully improving roster?