The Reds flung a lot of mud at the wall in 2018. They smeared Homer Bailey hoping he’d stick around long enough to justify his long term contract. The Reds tossed a crumbled up, dried out heap of Brandon Finnegan wishing he’d come together and cling to the starting rotation. They rolled up and slung a semi cohesive handful of Sal Romano anticipating he’d develop and find a permanent role as a starting pitcher. They even picked mud up off the ground and threw it again – giving guys like Michael Lorenzen and Cody Reed another shot to adhere to a starting rotation that nobody seems to want to be a part of.
2018 was a rebuilding year, but it was also a year about “progress”. The progress of the 2018 Reds was mainly focused on the development and maturity of their plethora of young starting pitchers. Sal Romano, Cody Reed, Robert Stephenson, Brandon Finnegan, Tyler Mahle – all of these guys failed at taking the next step to become decent starting pitchers. The main goal of 2018 – to improve upon a historically bad starting rotation in 2017 – was an absolute failure.
Because the mud hasn’t stuck to the wall (yes, pretty much ALL the mud) there’s been a lot of chatter about the Reds looking outside the organization in 2019 to fill the gap in starting pitching. Dick Williams is even recently quoted in saying:
“I would say we are more outwardly focused this year due to where we sit from a budget standpoint,” Williams told MLB.com. “Whether that’s free agency or trades has yet to be determined. We will be prepared to pursue both. We do think that will be an area that’s important to supplement.”
I give the Reds’ organization credit – this is an absolute necessary step for next year. Rolling out the same group of pitchers and hoping for some kind of drastic improvement is something that is most likely not going to happen. 2018 was the year for starting pitching improvement…and we all saw how that went.
If and when the Reds do look outside the organization for starting pitching help I hope they’re fully committed. By fully committed, I mean I hope they put a major emphasis on bolstering the starting rotation to the point where they aren’t relying on much improvement from younger pitchers and the quality of players they are planning to sign or trade for are good enough to put this team over the hump. Simply put, I hope the Reds don’t half ass it.
One positive thing about so many young arms failing to improve this year is that the Reds will have a ton of bullpen flexibility heading into 2019. If the Reds do choose to look outside the organization for multiple starting pitchers then guys like Sal Romano (who has already had some success), Tyler Mahle, Cody Reed, Robert Stephenson, or Michael Lorenzen could join an already decent bullpen staff. The Reds have an abundance of good arms that could play better out of the bullpen than starting games. So many good, young arms in the bullpen could also open up trade opportunities later down the road. It’s not likely the Reds are going to be able to fit all the pieces into the pitching puzzle.
So, it’s with great pleasure and a little bit of fear when hearing the Reds acknowledge and anticipate making a splash this off season to acquire starting pitching. Their recent track record of acquiring starting pitching from outside the organization is pretty good (Bronson Arroyo, Mat Latos), but this is different. They aren’t looking to supplement an already good rotation; they are looking to anchor an average core. The Reds haven’t flung this kind of mud at the wall in a while…and that’s what worries me.
Jeff is Cincinnati born, Ohio University educated. Reds baseball has been a central theme of his family ever since his mom and dad helped him skip school to attend Opening Day. Jeff has been accused of having a “man crush” on Joey Votto and longs for the day that he gets to witness the Reds finally win a playoff series. You can follow him on Twitter @Gaaangs