Some of you might remember, or maybe you’re trying to forget, that the Reds started a rookie pitcher in 110 games last season. Homer Bailey’s injury plus the trades of Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake created a perfect storm. However, Cincinnati seems to be well aware of its need for depth in the rotation and they’ve used the draft, trades, and international signings to stock pile at the position.
Given all of that depth, you might not expect the Reds to be on the market for a starter. That’s not the message that was coming out of Reds camp last week. On Friday C. Trent Rosecrans tweeted out that Bryan Price, "wouldn’t rule out adding a veteran starter later in spring, either free agent or someone cut late."
Derek and Wick have already done a good job of detailing potential free agent starters, and the current state of the starting rotation. What about the other possibility that Price mentioned? Are there any veteran pitchers likely to be cut this spring that the Reds might be interested in?
Maybe you’re thinking, "Why would the Reds want a pitcher that another team felt like they could cut?" It can be a productive strategy. This is how the Reds acquired Alfredo Simon in 2012, and he provided three above average seasons split between the rotation and the bullpen. It's a crapshoot, but signings like this occasionally work in the short term.
Most of the players below, excluding Beachy, are on minor league deals. Whether or not they all have an opt out unless they make a major league roster is unknown. However, all of these pitchers find themselves in a situation where they might be on the outside looking in at the start of the season. Could one of these veteran starters provide stability to a young Reds rotation?
Kyle Kendrick - Signed a minor league deal with the Atlanta Braves
The 31-year-old Kendrick was…less than good last season in Colorado. His ERA rose to a career worst 6.32, and he led baseball with 33 home runs allowed (tied with James Shields). It is hard to get excited about a pitcher coming off of that kind of season, but you have to expect some regression with those numbers. His career HR/9 rate is 1.24 (as opposed to 2.1 in 2015). At the very least he has been an innings eater. Over the past four seasons he’s pitched at least 142 innings.
Kendrick probably won’t know his fate until late in spring training. As a part of their rebuild the Braves have stockpiled starters from ages 20-25. If some of their young producers pitch this spring, then it would make sense for Atlanta to give them the experience. It’s unlikely that Kendrick will earn a spot in the rotation, but the Braves could hang on to him for depth.
Even if he is available, it’s hard to get too excited about the idea of adding Kendrick to the mix.
Jhoulys Chacin - Signed a minor league deal with the Atlanta Braves
Chacin finds himself facing the same obstacles as Kendrick in Atlanta. If the Braves decide that they need a veteran in the rotation, it’s possible that Kendrick and Chacin could be competing against one another. Given the choice between the two, Chacin’s history suggests that he might be worth taking a flyer on if he’s available.
Chacin has shown the ability to not only be good but very good. In five out of seven years he’s been an above average pitcher by ERA+. While calling Coors Field home, he had three seasons where he held his ERA under 3.62. So why has a pitcher with this kind of potential found himself on a minor league contract? Injuries and velocity concerns have followed him the past few seasons. Specifically, he has regularly battled shoulder issues.
It is worth noting that in the major league time the Diamondbacks gave him last season he was productive. In four starts he had a 3.38 ERA, and got his SO/9 rate back up over seven. Yes, it’s a small sample size, but he showed enough to be given another chance by a big league club. If Atlanta decides they don’t have room for him, the Reds could do worse than rolling the dice on him.
Dillon Gee - Signed a minor league deal with the Kansas City Royals
Gee could potentially be a very intriguing option for the Reds. The Royals already have more than enough starters to fill out that starting rotation. It also helps that Gee has a March 2 opt out if he hasn’t made the 40-man roster by that time. Last season he battled groin injuries, and he was forced out of the Mets rotation by all of their young talent.
Prior to 2015 Gee has four straight seasons of at least 17 starts for New York. He always seemed to hover right around league average as a pitcher (which Cincinnati could definitely use in the rotation). If he is healthy it is likely that Kansas City will hang on to him, possibly as a bullpen option. If he is let go, he could be an enticing option for the Reds if they want to let their younger pitchers gain more experience in the minors.
Brandon Beachy - Signed a one year deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers (not on the 40 man roster)
There was a time that Brandon Beachy was one of the most promising young starters in all of baseball. In his first full season in Atlanta (2011) he was 7-3 with a 3.68 ERA while strking out 10.7 hitters per nine innings. Expectations became sky high early in the 2012 season. In thirteen starts he had a 2.00 ERA before he tore his UCL. He had Tommy John surgery again in 2014. Atlanta cut him later that year.
In 2015 Beachy threw eight innings for the Dodgers. Over those eight innings he gave up seven runs. The Dodgers can cut Beachy and only pay him termination pay this spring. With seemingly 15-20 starters to pick from, it is unlikely that Beachy will be in LA this season. It’s hard to know if he'll ever be able to pitch productive innings again, but the promise he showed a few seasons ago might make him worth taking that chance.
Bronson Arroyo - Signed a minor league deal with the Washington Nationals
What else needs to be said here? You want this. I want this. The greater Cincinnati area wants the Bronson Arroyo Band. There’s not much of a chance Arroyo will crack the "super rotation," but his relationship with Dusty might ensure that he’s able to keep a job this year.
There are a couple other pitchers worth mentioning here. Chris Capuano signed a minor league deal with the Brewers. He was an All-Star in 2006, but he hasn’t even been a league average pitcher since 2012. Ross Detwiler signed a minor league deal in Cleveland, but he had a rough 2015 primarily coming out of the Atlanta bullpen. If he is cut and the Reds don't want to start him they could always consider him as a left handed option out of the bullpen.
Is it likely that the Reds will land any of these pitchers? No. Should it excite you that these might be legitimate options for the Reds rotation in 2016? Probably not. If nothing else, it is an intriguing story line to watch this spring as the Reds look to finalize their roster.