Since the 2017 season mercifully ended for the Cincinnati Reds, I’ve had this sticky thought that keeps popping into my head. It’s an image I have of a competitive Reds team in 2018, a contender for the Wild Card, and it requires just three simple moves by club management:

1. Insert Jesse Winker into the lineup 140+ times;
2. Insert Nick Senzel into the lineup 140+ times;
3. Acquire a good starting pitcher (a #1, #2, or a reliable #3 starter).

That’s it. With relative good health: Playoffs here we come.

If it were only that easy…

The Reds, you may remember, have this annoying recent habit of losing at least ninety games each season. So even if the Reds took my advice — and the first two items are simple and completely obvious — and acquired Clayton Kershaw, there’s no guarantee Cincinnati would even climb back to .500.

But in my optimistic, off-season haze, I can squint and see how one good starter could really transform the Reds rotation. If you assume Luis Castillo is going to be good again, and the Reds pair another good starting pitcher with him…all of a sudden, there are a boatload of interesting options for the final three spots in the rotation. You could see that group really taking a gigantic step forward. And with Senzel/Winker added to a lineup that loses Zack Cozart, I think there’s a pretty good chance the Reds will have more runners on the bases than in previous seasons.

Again, I’m kinda squinting and trying to make the case, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable. So what have the Reds done when it comes to pitchers this off-season?

–They gave a two-year contract to a 32-year old reliever, Jared Hughes, who had been cut by two different NL Central organizations in the last two years.

–They signed a talented young lefty reliever, Kyle Crockett, to a minor league deal with an invite to spring training.

–They signed Brandon Floro, a right-handed reliever who — like Hughes — throws a lot of ground balls, to a minor league deal.

The off-season is far from over, but consider me underwhelmed. Not that any of these acquisitions are terrible — though the Hughes signing (a two-year contract?) is curious, at least — but they’re just meh. None will help the Reds take a significant step towards competing in 2018. (My holy grail, if you haven’t noticed.)

So when I see that GM Dick Williams is still tinkering with the roster, I get my hopes up. Until I read that piece and I see that much of the talk surrounds signing more relief pitchers.

There are, however, two interesting items to come out of that piece by Mark Sheldon (go read it). First is this quote by Williams, addressing his reasoning in adding bullpen arms:

“Also, by adding bodies, we can keep more guys starting as opposed to feeling we have to push them into a bullpen role to fill a space,” Williams said.

Okay, I can live with that. Give the Cody Reeds and Amir Garretts and Rookie Davises and Robert Stephensons, et al, more opportunities to establish themselves as starting pitchers before shifting them to the bullpen. Of course, a good argument could be made that those guys could have gotten more opportunities last year rather than handing dozens of starts to Scott Feldman and Tim Adleman and Bronson Arroyo, but there’s no use arguing about that at this point. (More on that in a moment, however.)

The other interesting item comes from Williams interview on the MLB Network’s “MLB Now” program, which you can view from the video at the top of the page. About the pitching, Williams says this:

If we add any more over this off-season, and I do intend to, I think it’ll be focused on pitching. That’s where we need to supplement a little bit. You know, fortunately,
we’ve got some internal additions that we think are going to help a lot, and that’s getting guys back healthy….

We were really struggling last year to get healthy, productive innings out of our rotation. DeSclafani missed most of the year. Finnegan missed most of the year. Homer missed a significant part of the year, and all three of those are expected to have normal off-seasons and come into spring training ready to go.

And then, of course, we do have a bunch of exciting young pitchers that were cutting their teeth last year. Tough at first, but some really good news in the second half of the year from that young group.

There is a good argument to be made that the Reds should wait until next off-season to go after a big starting pitching acquisition. I don’t think the Reds need to wait — and let’s be honest, there’s no guarantee that any such pitcher is even available right now — but I get that viewpoint. But let me say this: if no upper-level starting pitcher is available to the Reds (such as I described up there at the top of this rambling jumble of words), then Cincinnati should not sign or trade for any starter, period. Let me reiterate:

The Reds have no business whatsoever going out and finding an “innings-eater” of the type that they’ve signed every off-season for most of the 2000s. Don’t acquire anyone at all, if that’s the only type of pitcher available.

Seriously, it makes no sense whatsoever to acquire another Scott Feldman-type. I am appreciative of the services Feldman and his brand of pitcher brethren have provided to the Reds over the last fifteen years or so. But every single start a Feldman-type makes for the 2018 Reds is a start that Cody Reed isn’t making. Or Amir Garrett. Or…well, you get the picture.

When I hear the quotes from Williams above, it certainly sounds like he would rather go with the arms the Reds have in 2018, and I guess I’m okay with that. That’s not a recipe for a surprising playoff run, certainly. But it will allow the Reds to give valuable experience to some pitchers that will be counted on for the glorious march to the 2019 World Series.

Then again, maybe Williams should just go out and get Chris Archer or Marcus Stroman and allow us to dream of 2018 post-season success. Simple, right?

Blame Chad for creating this mess.

Chad launched Redleg Nation in February 2005, and has been writing about the Reds ever since. His first book, “The Big 50: The Men and Moments That Made the Cincinnati Reds” is now available in bookstores and online, at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and wherever fine books are sold. You can also find Chad’s musings about the Cincinnati Reds in the pages of Cincinnati Magazine.

You can email Chad at

Join the conversation! 87 Comments

  1. Co-sign.

  2. I dont think they should be right now. I think they should let the Young Guns shoot it out. See where they stand.

  3. I agree, if they can find a top tier starter by trade, then go for it. The free agent market isn’t there this year. Next year many starting pitchers will be free agents, but most are of the #3 and #4 kind. The Reds have a plethora of those types. So it makes much more sense to search for one by trade.
    The Dodgers yesterday picked up a very good lefty reliever (a big need for the Reds) in a nifty 3 team trade. Maybe (it is asking too much though) the Reds GM can get creative for a nice 3 team trade to get that top tier starter this year and 2018 won’t be about more sorting.

    • I thought the Dodgers were clever as well. My takeaway was that they didn’t give up much to acquire a high upside player.

      I see all the depth we carry in the minors and on the ML roster and think there’s a million moves that could be made.

  4. Copying a comment I made on a previous article:

    Per Fangraphs, the average major league team got 892 innings from their starting pitchers. Lets assume the Reds need 900 starting pitcher innings in 2018. Below is a list of what I think are reasonable expectations for number of innings available from pitchers who could start games for the 2018 Reds.

    Luis Castillo – 169 innings (combined AA and ML) in 2017 – assume 180 in 2018
    Robert Stephenson – average 149 innings in ’16 and ’17 (combined AAA and ML) – assume 160 in 2018
    Sal Romano – 136 innings (combined AAA and ML) in ’17 – assume 150 in ’18
    Tyler Mahle – 164 innings (combined AA, AAA and ML) in ’17 – assume 175 in ’18
    Homer Bailey – 107 innings (ML and minors) in ’17 – assume 140 in ’18
    Brandon Finnegan – 25 innings (ML and minors) in ’17 due to injury. 172 ML innings in ’16 – assume 100 innings in ’18
    Anthony DeSclafani – did not pitch in ’17. threw 145 (ML and minors) in ’16 – assume 100 innings in ’18
    Amir Garrett – 138 innings (ML and AAA) in ’17 – assume 150 in ’18
    Michael Lorenzen – 83 innings out of the pen in ’17 – assume 110 if starting in ’18
    Cody Reed – 124 innings (AAA starter and ML bullpen) in ’17 – assume 140 if starting in ’18

    That’s 1,405 available innings from 10 guys that have some potential to be quality ML starters. If the front office wants to sign some veteran relief pitchers so that the above all have a chance to show they can be a starter then I can get behind that. No “innings eater” should be signed for the starting rotation though.

    • 11 inning increase for Castillo? Way too low. 20% ( 34 innings) is more accurate increase. Same with all of the other pitchers.

      • You are probably correct for Castillo and I hope he can pitch 200 innings for the Reds this coming season. My point though wasn’t really any of the specific numbers, just that there are more than enough available innings from the young pitchers currently in house.

  5. They could consolidate and fix holes with a trade like Finnegan, Garrett, and Schebler, and prospect(s) to Tampa for CF Kevin Kiermaier and lefty Blake Snell.

    As it stands….they should have atleast 6 guys better then Homer? Or atleast equal with a higher ceiling. I hope he puts up 180 ip at 3.60, but I don’t see it. If he struggles then I fully expect the Reds to let him pull a “Matt Cain” for the next 2 years instead of finding another role for him and giving a young guy a shot.

  6. Here are the Zips projections for the Reds in 2018
    LF Duvall = 2 war
    CF Hamilton = 2 war
    RF Schebler = 2 war
    3B Suarez = 4 war
    SS Peraza = 1 war
    2B Gennett = 1 war
    1B Votto = 5 war
    C Barnhart/Meso = 3 war

    Bullpen = 3 war

    Starting Pitchers
    Castillo = 3 war
    Romano = 2 war
    Mahle = 2 war
    Finnegan = 1 war (due to few innings)
    Desclafani = 1 war (due to few innings)


    We need to be over 40 to be competitive for the playoff’s. If you squint, I can see it happening also. Senzel + Improved bullpen + health of the starting rotation. However, to get to say 42 war, we need to improve at SS and CF in my opinion.

    1. Yelich (5war, ZIPS) vs Hamilton (2war) +3 war (Hamilton was 1 war last year)
    2. Senzel (3war) vs Gennett (1war) +2 war (I can easily see 3 war from 2b in 18′)
    3. Improved bullpen +2 war (I think this can happen w/ no more moves)
    4. Healthy desclafani +2 war or added #2 starter

    32 + 9 = 41 war.

    This is another reason I am strongly for trading for Yelich in CF now. It is also why I think we need to start by improving CF and SS first.

    If Desclafani and Finnegan are healthy that will be a + 2 – 4 war in 18′

    • Nice write up. Hope DW it thinking this way.
      (as long as Yelich does not required Greene or Senzel).

      • Let’s say the reds somehow can pull off a trade for Danny Duffy and we use last years f war 3.4, that would be + almost 3 war. So if we keep Hamilton that gets us to the same team war. It also forces Finnegan to the bullpen likely and improves the bullpen.

      • Agree.

    • I’d give up Greene right now if we could get Yelich. No guarantees Greene is not another Brian Taylor, a first round bust. Yelich is a proven commodity that would get us moving in the right direction.

    • Dan Szymborski hasn’t shown up to deliver you your karate chop yet has he? 🙂

      “Finally, Szymborski will advise anyone against — and might karate chop anyone guilty of — merely adding up WAR totals on depth chart to produce projected team WAR.”

      • No karate chop yet, lol. If you look at the fangraphs site. It ranks team total war projected in real time. Interestingly the Dodgers and Astros were I believe 1 and 2 in team war last year. The year before the Cubs were 1.

  7. Should the Reds be looking for pitching? No, not for the coming season. I hope the FO can break the habit of acquiring 30 year old plus inning eating pitchers that extended from Marquis to Arroyo. Let’s see what Bailey, Finnegan and Disco plus the young pitchers can do this last year of the rebuild.

  8. I’m filing an amicus brief Chad. If a high quality starting pitcher is available without giving away the Reds best prospects then of course. And as far as I’m concerned Duvall, Hamilton, Gennett, Peraza and Iglesias are all available, along with the second tier prospects after Senzel, Winker, Trammell, Greene and one or two pitchers. But if we’re just talking about a veteran “innings eater” then N.O. PDUNC has listed above the appetite for innings available from all the Reds starters, all of whom are high ceiling guys (since he didn’t include Davis or Stephens). There is NO need to add a journeyman 4th starter to steal innings from guys who really need major league innings to develop and sort. Which is basically what you said. The gentlemen from Georgia votes Yea.

  9. Because the reds aren’t winning in 2018 and have so many questions with their internal SP options that need sorted… doesn’t make sense to sign a FA starter. I don’t see the mega trade for a controllable younger pitcher developing either. DW has basically said as much…..were not 1 player away.

    If a top elite bullpen lefty could be had to build that elite 2019 bullpen now, I would get that pitcher if the FA market drops to a team friendly contract.

    I suspect they will frustrate fans and sign a hybrid. …to start in the bullpen….but give Price that veteran SP who he loves and is available to switch to the rotation the first time Sal Romano or Tyler Mahle stumble or Finnegan goes back on the DL…..Jaime Garcia type….ex cardinal.. perfect

  10. They need to crunch some numbers and see which of these borderline starters like Finnegan, Garrett, Reed, etc do well in their 1st inning…or first time thru the lineup. I originally thought Bailey could close like or be used in high leverage situations like Bud Norris last year….or a destitute mans John Smoltz back in the day, but his first 20 pitches haven’t been that good thru his career. Turn Reed into a new age Mitch Williams? Who knows? He doesn’t seem to have a shot as a starter. This is some stuff they could’ve experimented with last year, but too busy with has-beens and never-weres.

  11. Do not sleep on Homer Bailey.

    Maybe he blows his arm out in Apr and is retired by August.

    Or maybe he takes his increased velo, sharper breaking pitches, and a full healthy offseason out for 175 innings of 3.40 ERA.

    His salary would suggest were already acquiring a high risk, high reward veteran free agent this winter. That guy has two No No’s and has the big game It Factor about him.

    Excited to see Homer in 2018!!

    • Btw he’s the opening day starter and I predict (if not on the DL) he’ll go 6 shutout innings.

      That’s where I think Homer is going for 2018.

    • We’ll see on Homer? He had his moments when he was throwing 95 and the average heater was 92. Now everyone throws 95 and he throws 93. He has to really “pitch”! I know he works hard and he had a few nice games sprinkled in last year after all that time off.

  12. Look, I can’t tell whether this piece is serious “go get Stroman or Archer”, or whether it’s wistful and tongue-in-cheek “It’s a shame we have to sort again in 2018.”

    Tampa just traded Longoria, face of franchise, and is seeking public support for a new stadium. Trading Archer would be a clear sign the team is dismantling for a 5-year or so re-build.

    Toronto is possibly losing Donaldson to free agency. Tradiing Stroman signals the tear-down.

    TB and Toronto won’t likely want Duvall, Hamilton, Gennett if they are tearing down. Top prospect pieces (multiple) from the Reds would be a starting point to talks.

    Plus, Stroman is controlled for only 2 more years, Archer for 3.

    If either guy was seriously shopped, the Reds would face fierce competition, and have neither the farm pieces or current players to be a top trading partner.

    Let the startng pitcher kids sort themselves out in 2018.

  13. Because we did little to find out about out young starters in 2017 I feel we don’t need to look for pitching help in 2018.Barring injury I can see our starting pitching being really good.

  14. If we want to win the WS in 2019 or 2020 (yes, it can happen), then we must take advantage of Votto, Senzel, Suarez, Winker, & Company (Schebler & Barnhart are diamonds in the rough as well) while we have them in their prime (Votto’s prime never goes away). That means trading Hunter Greene and BHam now for Christian Yelich, Christopher Torres, and Trevor Rogers, straight up. The Marlins FO, I believe, will jump on that. I’d hate to lose the dream of Greene, but it is just that. Yelich is real and proven and the piece we need now.

    • The Marlins do not take that deal. Taking on Hamilton means they don’t save much money in the deal. They are going to want prospects. Green or Senzel would probably be a headliner. Instead of Hamilton though, I could see them wanting one of Siri/Trammel as well a pitching prospect like Mahle/Garrett/Stephenson/Romano … I think that’s what it would take to get it done. The Reds may be able to not give up Siri/Trammel in the deal if they added 2 other prospects just outside their top 10.

  15. co-sign.

  16. Any word on the Reds Caravan?

  17. It takes a lot of optimism for things to go right, but since we are in an optimistic spirit. Who doesn’t think that Castillo couldn’t pull of 18 wins this season? If Bailey comes back and builds off of his strong finish last year then why couldn’t he win 15 games? If Disco comes back with 13 wins and who ever the last two pitchers are (in my book Stephenson and Romano) why could’t they together bring 22 wins. That’s 68 wins already, If other starters and the bullpen bring in 20 wins we are up to 88 wins. Probably not playoff bound but at least sniffing. (Oh how low have we come, when that is desirable). Again that is an optimistic, everything going right approach. Unfortunately I understand what Kris Kristofferson meant when he wrote “dreams that don’t come true, they never do.)

  18. Are they Reds doing anything should be the question. I keep waiting.

  19. I have zero faith that GM Dick Williams has any idea what he’s doing and I think Mr. Castellini’s group plans to invest as little as possible into salaries. We will continue to flounder until there is some type of change in leadership.

    • For those interested in actually seeing what profits the Reds make before complaining that the owners are just trying to make money

      • As the link states they are providing franchise valuations, not audited financial statements. Revenue and operating income do not provide you with NET PROFIT.

        • Operating Income is reported and while it is not the complete financials it gives enough to show the Reds aren’t bringing in massive amounts of money

          “Operating income is the net income of an entity, not including the impact of any financial activity or taxes. The measure reveals an entity’s ability to generate earnings from its operational activities. Operating income is positioned as a subtotal on a multi-step income statement after all general and administrative expenses, and before interest income and expense.”

  20. I scratch my head every time I read a comment from a smart baseball mind touting Robert Stephenson!!!!!! The argument seems to be he has not been given a decent look!!!! The flashes of brilliance can blind people to the fact he hasn’t progressed!! He has shown flashes since being drafted but there is no real improvement!! He dominates 12 to 15 percent of the time the rest is awful!!!! There has to come a time that people figure out he is unwilling to learn!!! The fear is if they give up on him he goes somewhere else and reaches his potential!!!! The fact that he is at best a 4A player with his gift tells me he has a million dollar arm and 10 cent head!!! I may be harsh and wrong but watching his body language speaks volumes!!!! There are gifted athletes who have so much fire and competitiveness it hampers them.

    • You might be right. However, he looked pretty good at the end of last season. Can he go back to AAA as is likely this season and keep his head up and improve his pitch location while waiting for his opportunity again?

    • 32 exclamation points, sweet!!!

    • They asked him to work on his command last season when they sent him down to AAA. He did so. He drastically reduced his BB-rate down there. When he came up, his BB-rate was higher than it really should be but he definitely showed improved command of all his offerings. I think he’s starting to get it. If that isn’t the case though, what I’d do is put him in the pen at AAA. I’d have him only using his best 2 pitches and I’d have him work exclusively from the stretch to simplify his mechanics. This should improve his command. That would make his floor that of a middle-reliever I’d think and at that point his ceiling would be setup reliever or possible closer.

  21. I could get behind an Archer trade, 3 years is pretty good, having him for 2019-2020 when I think Reds will be true competitors is key. If Stroman is only 2 years I’ll pass. I want to think 2018 will be competitive but I think Winker and Senzel will need a year to settle in before they make a big difference. I’m leaning toward staying pat on pitching, possibly even use 6 man rotation to get looks at more guys.

  22. Why are you sooooo high on Senzel? I’m not arguing, he’s just really unproven and he seems blocked at 3B, SS, and 2B. Unless Dilson Herrera is so bad they waive him, there’s 4 guys for the three positions Senzel would possibly occupy.

    • I would take Senzel over 3 of those 4 right now.

      • But why? He’s played up to what, double-A? He’s gonna be a great player, why start his service years especially when we have other guys already ticking.

  23. To answer the question in the title, yes they should be. Arrieta, Cobb, Darvish, and Lance Lynn are still out there. Those guys are probably not going to get more than like 18M per year, especially with the big buyers trying to reset their luxury tax penalties this year. We’re sitting at 99.5M payroll right now, including Mesoraco at 13M for one final season. I hope they’re at least trying to snag one of those four guys for like 3 years/$55M, 4 years/$70M.

    • Arrieta and Darvish will both clear the $18-million mark as far as AAV. I think Cobb and Lynn will be at $14-$16-million as far as AAV. I’d look at next year’s class and try to land someone or try to work a trade a la the Latos trade.

  24. There is only one pitcher I would go after this year – Brent Honeywell. He is Tampa Bay’s #1 prospect. It would take a monster package to get him. A future rotation of Castillo, Mahle, Honeywell, Garrett and Romano or Greene sounds pretty darn good to me.

  25. Let our youth continue to get innings under their belt.With good health,winning will come.

  26. I don’t understand the inclusion of Reed into any projection for next year. He was awful last year. Until he gets straightened out at AAA, he has no business being included with the rest of the group.

    • I agree. Reed has done nothing for me to even consider him a good prospect. And imagined him at Castillo’s level by now.

      I wish this team could pick up Yelich and Hosmer. Give Votto to Toronto and we would be set up to compete with them Cubs.

      • Cannot afford Hosmer. Besides he is a fist baseman, and we have Votto.

      • Assuming the Reds could just hand over Votto to the Jays and get rid of the contract why would they then pay over $20 million a year for the next seven years to a lesser player?

        • I am fairly sure Hosmer will be better than Votto over the next seven years. Hosmer can play. I really liked him and Yelich on the USA National team this spring.

          • What?
            You are prioritizing our first base value problem as a fix to 3 consecutive 90 loss seasons?

          • Maybe the last two or three years, but replacing Votto with Hosmer probably has very little impact even if Hosmer becomes a MVP winner

      • I don’t think we would compete next year, but I believe we would have enough talent, with Hosmer and Yelich, on that team to compete for the Division, (assuming Winker and Senzel have impacts, and the injured players,[ Mesoracco, Bailey, Finnegan, and DeSclafani], return to pre-injury form)

  27. I like Jackie Brantley Jr of Boston to solve our center field issue. A straight up trade for Duval would give Boston some added power and allow them to move Bennetendi to CF. Our outfield would be Winkler, Brantley, Schebler. (Win, Win)

  28. 2017 was essentially a wasted year as far as SP sorting goes. If the Reds had reversed fortunes and could send out a healthy Disco and Finnegan for the majority of the season this offseason would look a lot different. Going with a rotation of Disco, Finnegan, Feldman, Garrett, and one of Stephenson/Reed/Romano to start the year would have felt a lot different than sending Davis and Arroyo out there with Feldman as the OD starter. I don’t know why the Reds thought Davis had any business starting over some of the other guys, or for that matter why Bronson was dusted off the cast-away shelf. Maybe they were sending a message, but I’m not sure what that message was, other than they preferred consistent mediocrity to potential upside.

    We would probably know a lot more about Stephenson if he’d not been assigned to be misused in the bullpen to start the season. We might have felt more comfortable assigning some of this SP depth to the bullpen (Reed/Davis) if we had viable starting pitchers to man those roles. We might have sent Garrett to the DL instead of allowing his hip issue to worsen. By midseason we would have had Bailey and Castillo join a rotation that could legitimately think about moving Feldman to the long-man role (as discussed over the offseason when he was signed) instead of continuing to send him out there on a bum knee, effectively deteriorating any potential trade-flip value he might have been building. No one would have been rushed ahead of their time. The Reds would have much more known about the 2018, where now there is largely question marks.

    But, health was not, and has not been, part of the Reds rebuild. So questions abound. 2018 will continue to be about sorting. I think the 2017 could have been handled better, but I understand that some of the pitchers could have used a little more seasoning and the Reds didn’t want to completely destroy their confidence.

    With better health, it may have been time to find the “missing piece” to the rotation and make a legitimate charge toward the playoffs. Without that health, we’re pretty much back where we were.

    • The biggest issue was the mishandling of Stephenson and Reed. But that was the result at least in part to bringing in Bronson and using Feldman as a starter from Opening Day forward.

    • Starting pitchers are like fine wines & not ready before they are fully matured. There’s tons of valid reasons to criticize Bryan Price & the Reds, but misusing there young pitching prospects isn’t among them. The fact is that Stephenson, Reed, R. Davis, Romano, Mahle, & Castillo weren’t ready until late last year. Finnegan, DeSclafani, & (eventually) Garrett were injured. I feel at least a half dozen of those mentioned plus Bailey should be ready come late March to be ML SP(s). Were I in charge I would commit DeSclafani to the bullpen in the first half (to better monitor that shoulder) & Finnegan to the bullpen in mid August on innings limits. Whatever they do, without another rash of injuries, the Reds will have at least enough & probably a surplus of starting pitching in 2018. They’ll still find ways to lose 85+ games in 2018.

      • Stephenson was absolutely misused in the bullpen last year. Even if you want to say it was fine to put Stephenson in the bullpen (I would disagree) the way he was used out of the bullpen was negligent to his development.

        Stephenson had been a SP since being drafted. Yet instead of giving him consistent outings he was jerked around, sometimes not pitching for a week or more. And yet, at no point was he the “long man” out of the pen. He actually completed 4 games out of the pen. He could have been piggy-backed with Arroyo or Davis to form some sort of consistency in his preparation in an entirely new role. But no, the Reds just sent him out there at random. How is that a good plan for a guy who is already struggling with consistency in his pitches? How is that plan better than letting him get consistent starts in AAA?

        He pitched back to back games one time in the two months he was a reliever. He had 4 K’s and 0 BBs in that outing, btw. Yet with inconsistent appearances out of the bullpen he had an ERA over 8 and an OPS over 1000 as a reliever with 27 Ks and 16 BBs in 24.2 IP. When he came back, after getting consistent reps as a starter in AAA, he had an ERA of 3.30 and an OPS of 702. He had 59 K’s and 37 BBs in 60 IP.

        Everything was better for Stephenson as a starter. He was never used correctly out of the bullpen. You can’t look at those numbers and tell me he wasn’t misused/miscast in a bullpen role.

      • I think you’re right, except I think both DeSclafani and Finnegan will start the season in the bullpen if they are ready to pitch at all. Unless Reed can beat out other candidates (e.g., Crockett) as a LH reliever, he’s back to AAA. Garrett likely will go to AAA as quasi-rehab to see if he can bounce back from the injury. Williams has said he’s only looking for another reliever, not a starter. Absent injuries, I think the starting rotation at the beginning is likely to be Bailey, Castillo, Romano, Mahle, and Stevenson.

        • Both Disco and Finnegan will be starters. I predict Bailey, Disco, Castillo, Finnegan, and Stephenson. If someone is injured then Ramano, Garret, and Reed get a chance. Reed may end up in the bullpen, but much like Garrett was last year Reed was once predicted to be the future ace of the staff by many. Bailey and Stephenson were also highly regarded prospects who didn’t perform to expectations initially and everyone wanted them traded, now project to be starters in 18. I think both Reed and Garrett could end up as serviceable starters, but both probably need to work out issues at AAA as a starter before they are relegated to the long man or extra inning emergency option in the bullpen

          • Amir Garret cannot pitch in the minors anymore if I’m not mistaken

          • Was he banned from the minor leagues?

          • BMBlue,

            Amir Garrett has a 4th option (technically his 3rd, but a 4th season) available for the 2018 season, but that will be his final option. After the disappointing results, probably injury-related, in 2017, the additional option for 2018 is a real benefit for Garrett and the Reds. Without that option, Garrett would be strictly competing for a bullpen slot and the Reds would have to keep him on the 25-man roster or risk losing him. Now the Reds have one final opportunity to give Garrett a chance to still compete for the starting rotation while pitching at AAA and promoting him to the 25-man roster if the opportunity arises at the major league level.

          • He was supposed to be out of options so couldn’t have gotten optioned there. Reds would have had to DFA him and risk losing him. An extra option was added as Cossack described. Anyway, that’s probably what BMBLUE was talking about.

  29. I like your idea regarding DeSclafani and Finnegan. It makes a lot of sense.

    • Thanks. Unfortunately it won’t happen. I project AD on the 60 DL by mid June.

  30. Signing another starter this season would be premature. The Reds don’t even know what they already have in-house, and most likely wouldn’t have begun to find out last year if Arroyo/Feldman/Adleman/Bonilla/et. al hadn’t gotten injured/stunk up the place.

    The Reds were forced to pitch their youngsters. And you know what? Castillo/Romano/Mahle did pretty good. It kind of makes you wonder how far along things would be if those 3 had been in the rotation much earlier.

    No more external options. It’s time for the Reds to figure out what they have internally.

    • I’m looking forward to watching the trio of youngsters you mentioned. I think each of them have the ability to become solid rotation guys.

  31. Price has committed to Bailey/Finnegan/Disco/and Castillo as starters- assuming normal ST health progression. Pitchers and catchers report in just 5 weeks. Any updates on:

    Reed in a bullpen role this season?

    Lorenzen coming to camp preparing as a starter?

    Have the Reds commented on innings limits at all for Finnegan/Disco/others?

    • Price knows about the first 3 starters and believes Castillo is the real deal.He would have known more about the others if he had not used the warm bodies last year but in his mind they weren’t ready or couldn’t throw stirkes or hadn’t earned a spot etc etc etc which was and still is a joke.He will use the same thought process this year regardless of who performs in the spring but because we will be minus of the warm bodies our starters will be much much better.

  32. To answer the authors question; Definitely, YES, they should be!

    As Red’s fans we tend to overvalue our own players/prospects.

    Personally, I only see Castillo and Mahle as givens in the rotation, and they’re unproven. Lorenzen has an outside chance if his elbow is up to it. Stephenson is my dark horse, if he can command his fastball. For some pitchers it takes time.

    If Bailey keeps progressing he’s there. So far Desclafani’s injury history should tell us not to expect him to make it, if he does great. That’s a VERY uncertain rotation.

    I see Romano, Finnegan, Reed and possibly Garrett as bullpen pitchers eventually.

    Iglesias is the only given in the bullpen, but I’m solidly behind trading him for talent. There’s no need for a top-flight closer on a team that will not sniff the playoffs for at least 3 years.

    • 3 years? Geez, I hope not. I had 2018 figured and am resigned to 2019 now. If it likely goes beyond then, the rebuild has failed and we need to rebuild the rebuild starting now. Personally, I think they need to try to win in 2019 and if they can’t, then they need to start over. At that point I’d clean house as far as the front-office too as the rebuild would have failed rather catastrophically.

  33. What you mention about the pitching has been the Reds question mark the last 2 seasons. The last 2 seasons, they’ve gone with a lot of the pitching they’ve been stockpiling over the recent years. And, at least as starters, none of them have really panned out. Oh, Castillo was good for how much, less than half a season? Let’s see how he does have the book gets around about him. That’s what is needed.

    The question is still simple. Do you go with the youngsters, or do you go out and get some more seasoned people. I say it’s a mixture. I’m not talking about someone like a Kershaw. I’m talking about, for example, what the Cubs got with Lester, or maybe someone just a bit cheaper. But, regardless, it’s going to cost the Reds money, whether they go through trade or FA how however.

    My choice right now is somewhat a mixture. I do believe we need at least one veteran like this, preferable 2. They can also act as leaders for the pitching staff as well.

    I wouldn’t bet on Homer. I’d actually look to trade him away. Sorry, but just not enough production there.

  34. When we talk about finances we should remember they always backload multi year contacts, and next yeart they free up big money with the meso and bailey contacts off the books, right? I say take a shot sign Arrieta and pray the stars align. Its better than the alternative.

  35. I grimaced at your own, personal, Holy Grail…but then I really thought about it. 94 losses…Darvish was at 3.5 WAR, 16th in the big leagues last year. If we added that, plus the value of knocking out our #5 starter (probably a couple wins below replacement, not a 0 replacement-level or a 2 league-average, but an Arroyo negative whatever), we’re up 5 or so. Add in just a half win extra from 4 young pitchers in the rotation and the pen combined, plus a win or two from running out decent or league-average middle-innings guys instead of tire fires, and we’re picking up another 4 or 5. Suddenly that 94 loss season looks to be hovering around .500.

    I’m not sure Winker greatly outperforms Duvall, certainly not enough to compensate for Peraza instead of Cozart, and I’m sure Senzel won’t have a rookie season to match Scooter’s 2017 (you guys know he’s still here, right? Even if he regresses…) so our offense slides a bit. That said, a little health from three solid-to-very-good pitchers who missed half of the season plus and the 81-81 above could quickly turn into an 88 or 90 win season, so maybe your Holy Grail could exist, after all, Mr. Jones.

    Give it another year of the young pitching evolving and Senzel/Winker/Peraza finding their legs and yes, I think the 2019 Reds are a serious, contending Phoenix of a team, rising from the 90s-like ashes to combat the Yank…well, they should make the playoffs in 2019, maybe even sneak in in 2018.

    • They may have a chance in 2029.

      I doubt the Reds pay $100MM for Darvish, you really believe they will?

      Making the playoffs in 2019 without making any other changes to the present roster, really?

  36. RA Dickey seems to me someone that the Reds could get on a 1 year deal that would give them some guaranteed innings. There was stories that he would like to pitch in the midwest with the Reds, Cards or Braves since his family was in Nashville.

    Red Sox always thought having Wakefield in front of a fireballer seemed to slow up hitters a bit.

    It would be good shot to go see a knuckleballer in person too, which I have never seen live at a game.

    • Maybe if it was a minor league deal. I don’t want starts going to guys in their 40s unless the entire rotation ends up on the DL

  37. Reds went through quite a few starters last year and eventually it did wear down the bullpen. I think they are in better shape going into 2018 than they were in 2017, but the top pitcher they got coming back only pitched 91 innings last year. Castillo and Romano both got over 150 when you add in the minors. Stephenson had about 120 innings. Don’t know how much you can count on Disco and Finnegan, I guess any would be good at this point.

    I think the Reds will be slow with Mahle just to get another season, unless he just flat out pitches his way into the rotation. Even then they might wait until May or June to get that bonus year. Garrett probably is the next young starter in line, being able to have consistency is a huge thing. I think Cody Reed is just a bit wild with all that big swinging movement, I don’t think he will ever throw strikes with enough consistency to be a starter. I think he might have more success just throwing gas out of a bullpen, try to throw one pitch the same way every time.

    I’d figure the Reds are not going to sign anyone, most likely until someone gets hurt. I kinda think they could use someone else, but don’t look like it is going to happen. Be great if they could actually get a #1 or #2, but the bet is on Castillo becoming that this year and hopefully Homer Bailey settling in and giving them a good year.

    I think Dickey would be a good starter to run out for those day get out of town starts, pretty much ink 6 innings into the game and knock wood you score a few and try to get a win.

Comments are closed.

About Chad Dotson

Blame Chad for creating this mess. Chad launched Redleg Nation in February 2005, and has been writing about the Reds ever since. His first book, "The Big 50: The Men and Moments That Made the Cincinnati Reds" is now available in bookstores and online, at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and wherever fine books are sold. You can also find Chad's musings about the Cincinnati Reds in the pages of Cincinnati Magazine. You can email Chad at


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