It’s easy to latch on to semi-recent, overwhelmingly positive memories. That’s especially true for Cincinnati Reds fans, as their favorite franchise has seen great success over their storied history, albeit great success often surrounded by many lean years.
That’s certainly the case of late. I catch myself looking back at the 2010, 2012, and 2013 seasons on a near daily basis, and do so as if they happened just a danged minute ago. The reality is, however, that what happened in those years isn’t just old news, but that a lot of what the players who are still active from those years provided is old news, too. For this specific post, that statement is centered on reliever Tony Cingrani, who has returned from his early season oblique injury to solid success in the Cincinnati bullpen.
Cingrani, of course, got a September cameo in 2012 after breezing his way all the way through AA after having only been drafted out of Rice University in the 3rd round of the 2011 draft. Largely a reliever in college, he’d been converted to starting, and his overall electric 2012 season shot him all the way into being a consensus Top 100 prospect prior to the 2013 season.
(In hindsight, what if he’d manage to crack the 2012 postseason roster and been the guy the Reds turned to when Johnny Cueto got hurt against San Francisco? I digress.)
For most, though, those semi-recent, overwhelmingly positive Cingrani memories were forged in his rookie year, a 2013 season in which he led all of the National League in K/9 (min 100 IP), ranking second only to Yu Darvish among all major league pitchers in that category. Using fastball, fastball, and more fastball, he allowed fewer than 5 hits in a record breaking number of consecutive starts, and if you ignored many of his peripherals, it looked as if he’d be the latest great pitcher to rise through the ranks from the Reds’ farm.
The peripherals caught up with Cingrani, though. Relying solely on his fastball and lacking an effective secondary pitch made even his deception predictable. He began to nibble, which led to more walks. Those walks led to increasingly high pitch counts, the inability to get deep enough into games to warrant a spot in the rotation anymore. By mid-June of 2014, his days of starting were over, save for a spot-start in mid 2015 in which he was shelled for 5 ER in 2.2 IP against the Chicago Cubs.
Leaning on his great 2013 as his upside potential still gets kicked around in our comments. The reality is, however, that in 175.1 IP since the start of 2014 - that’s 4 seasons - Cingrani owns a 4.41 ERA, 91 ERA+, 8.4 K/9, an ugly 5.1 BB/9, an uglier 1.48 WHIP, and a handful of injuries that have dogged his ability to be counted on consistently. And since he’s been around that long, he’s making some $1.83 million this season, an arb-1 salary that’s only going to increase the next two seasons, his final under team control.
I mentioned earlier that he’d been solid in 2017, however, and that’s certainly the case. He’s found his control again, having walked just 3 batters in his 15.2 IP. His 2.70 is nice and shiny, as is his career-best 94.5 mph average fastball velocity. In all, it’s been good enough for MLB Trade Rumors to take notice, as just this morning they listed him among the top names on the lefty relief trade market. And honestly, that’s a move the Reds’ front office should certainly be considering.
Cingrani’s results have been good, yes, but his peripherals still remain what they mostly always have been. He’s still throwing his fastball almost exclusively, throwing it on 92.1% of his pitches thrown (a career high). His season BABIP sits at just .211, a far cry from his .271 career mark, which screams that a regression is coming at some point. Pair that with his persistent injuries, a salary that could push $3 million in 2018, and the emergence of lefty Wandy Peralta in the bullpen, and it may well be the proper time to shop Cingrani while the going is good.
In other news, the folks at Cincinnati Magazine explored a similar conundrum facing the Reds’ brass: what to do with veteran pitcher Scott Feldman, who is having a solid year in 2017 despite most every metric suggesting he’s the same guy he’s always been. In a vacuum, I think it’s a no-brainer to trade Feldman for the best offer they can get this summer, but removing him from the already tattered rotation would mean rolling the dice 5 days out of 5 that the bullpen might need to get 18 (or more) outs per game. That’s a lot to ask of the relief corps, as it’s realistic to actually think you could squeeze another 100 innings onto Feldman’s workhorse shoulder between now and the end of the year.
Over at The Enquirer, Zach Buchanan spoke with Joey Votto after the Cincinnati 1B notched his 1500th career hit. It features typically introspective Votto, which is always good for a nice quote, and it also features Zach using ‘bifurcated’ in a column, which deserves a shout-out in its own right.
Finally, MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon hears that the Reds could have Hunter Greene, the #2 overall selection in last month’s MLB Draft, signed as early as today, if his source is correct. Greene remains the only Top 10 pick who hasn’t inked a deal yet, and the deadline to get him signed is Friday. If all goes as projected, he’ll sign for some $7.1 million, which is a pretty decent enticement to join the professional ranks in lieu of attneding UCLA for three years.