Late last night, the Cincinnati Reds tangled with the Arizona Diamondbacks in a Cactus League game that most of you surely didn't watch. That wasn't really the news of the day, however, since the headline-stealer was that starting pitcher Jon Moscot was scratched prior to his scheduled start thanks to a muscle strain. Moscot has long been presumed to have an inside track to make the Reds' Opening Day starting rotation, yet his muscle strain became the latest in a long line of injury issues the young Reds rotation has stumbled into so far this spring.
That long line of injuries was apparently enough for the Reds to consider drastic alternatives, as on Thursday they announced the signing of former Red Alfredo Simon to a 1-year contract.
Free agent RHP Alfredo Simon agrees to 1-year contract.— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) March 17, 2016
Simon, who turns 35 in May, will reportedly earn a base salary of $2 million with a chance to earn up to $1.5 million more in incentives in 2016.
It's not a terribly surprising move in a vacuum. In fact, the team is in a situation where signing a veteran to eat innings is something we ourselves thought worth pursuing. Both Homer Bailey and John Lamb are out for at least another month while recovering from various surgeries, Michael Lorenzen is facing time off with a UCL sprain, Moscot's battling said muscle issue, Raisel Iglesias is coming along slowly from a shoulder strengthening routine, and the Reds would be wise to avoid starting the service clocks of both Robert Stephenson and Cody Reed...and all of that pointed towards adding a healthy, durable arm to back Anthony DeSclafani at the start of the 2016 season.
As a Reds fan, you'll remember Simon, an All Star with the team back in 2014 who was traded to the Detroit Tigers after that season for Eugenio Suarez and Jonathon Crawford. Almost exclusively a reliever until age 33, Simon claimed a spot in the Reds rotation prior to the start of the 2014 season and has since managed to pitch 383.1 innings over the last two years. The start of his 2014 was rather unbelievable given his lack of starting success - he went 12-3 with a 2.70 ERA to earn that All Star nod - but he's since fallen well back to earth as a starter. He stumbled to a 4.52 ERA in his final 79.2 innings with the Reds in 2014 and chipped in with a -0.7 bWAR season with the Tigers in 2015 thanks to a 5.05 ERA and 1.44 WHIP in 187.0 innings.
But again, this story isn't about Alfredo Simon, really. It's about the Reds having a durable arm to pitch 6 innings of any sort of quality every 5 games in order to ensure that game didn't have to be started by a pitcher who isn't ready for the big leagues yet. This deal, if you want to think about it this way, was made purely to ensure Robert Stephenson, Cody Reed, or Amir Garrett didn't have to take these starts in 2016 (which, in turn, will allow them to maybe still be around in 2022). In that regard, in a season where winning doesn't matter, it makes a bit of sense.
Still, I'm now somewhat miffed that we can't use the phrase "Blake Wood, the only player the Reds signed to a big league contract this offseason" anymore.