Starting Pitchers or Bust

Jobs 1 through 4 on the Reds’ off-season to-do list are adding quality starters from outside the organization. Nothing else matters.
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Patrick Corbin. Dallas Keuchel. Sign them both.

Right now, the Reds’s starting rotation consists of Luis Castillo. Despite a rough start to the season, he’ll finish with numbers near the league average. The average MLB ERA is 4.20 for a starter; his is currently 4.30. That’s it for starting pitching quality.

Anthony DeSclafani, Tyler Mahle, and Sal Romano all had good stretches this season but will finish with poor numbers. Cody Reed has looked good in a handful of chances. But there’s no one from that group who feels like a sure-fire thing, and there’s no one in the minors knocking on the door. Whatever you think about Matt Harvey, he’s not under contract for next year.

In order to compete in 2019, the Reds must go outside the organization for starting pitching help. Front-line starting pitching help.

The Reds, if they want, can field this lineup next year: Votto, Suarez, Gennett, Senzel, Winker, Schebler, Peraza, Barnhart. They can hit. And the bullpen is solid. But they don’t have starting pitching. At all. And it’s foolish to pretend otherwise at this point.

Corbin has had a fantastic year (3.23 ERA, 6.2 WAR) and is going to be expensive, as is Keuchel (3.75 ERA, 3.5 WAR). No Reds fan should care. They—or players very much like them—are essential to the Reds’ future success.

Some will want to make the case that the Reds should be money-conscious and dip into their well-stocked farm system to trade for someone like Jacob deGrom or Noah Syndergaard or whoever else you fancy. They will say that signing pitchers is a bad deal and that Homer Bailey is proof. To which I shrug my shoulders and say, “Meh.”

Free agents are more expensive than players who aren’t yet free agents. The system is set up to work that way.

Correspondingly, the financial risk is greater. I don’t think fans should care. It’s not our money. What we should care about is the product on the field. A good team matters. How much it costs is not a detail that concerns anyone but the owner.

In fact, I could stand to see the Reds be truly bold. Sign Corbin and Keuchel and trade the farm (or part of it at least) for another good starter or two. Come into 2019 with the current lineup and a starting rotation of Luis Castillo and three or four new starting pitchers with track records.

The one and only thing that should not be tolerated from fans is the Reds opening next season without any significant starting pitching additions. No, extending Harvey doesn’t count.

Don’t listen to any excuses they give. Don’t listen to any spin. The Reds must add real, viable front-end starting pitching. Until they do, they aren’t contenders or even pretenders. They are merely a restful stop on the schedule of competitive teams grinding their way to the playoffs.


Jason Linden is a contributor to Nuxhall Way, Redleg Nation, and The Hardball Times. You can follow him on Twitter at @JasonLinden.

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