As things stand today, most projections for the 2023 Cincinnati Reds starting rotation include Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo, Graham Ashcraft, Justin Dunn, Luis Cessa, and Connor Overton in some form or fashion.
Is there talent in that rotation? There is!
Is there a plethora of experience in that rotation? There is not!
The 133.2 IP compiled as a starter by Justin Dunn since the start of the 2019 season is the most among that group, with Greene (125.1), Ashcraft (105.0), and Lodolo (103.1) close behind him - with each of that trio’s experience coming during injury-plagued 2022 seasons. Overton, who missed almost all of 2022 with a back injury, has just 48.1 big league IP under his belt across two seasons, with only 31.1 of that coming as a starter. Then, there’s Cessa, who has ample experience as a big league reliever but moved to the rotation out of necessity late last year and made 10 starts there - his first starts as a big leaguer since the beginning of the 2018 season.
So, the Reds need some pitching depth. Not the kind of pitching depth that a club who’s aiming to actually win games in 2023 would pursue, of course, since that would require actual money to be spent, but rather the kind that can simply eat enough IP over the course of six months to keep unnecessary workloads off the pitchers who look like they should be a big part of whenever the Reds decide to try to win games again in the future.
For most pitchers - especially veterans - the idea of pitching for a team that’s already chalked up losing versus a club that has a chance to make a playoff run falls flat. So, when we’re this late in the free-agent window, odds are every vet out there is holding out hope of landing one of the precious few spots on a contender before even considering the alternative. It’s through that lens that we tie a bow on this article, as The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal mentioned a trio of teams with varying levels of interest in free agent starter Johnny Cueto - with the Reds being one.
Padres, Marlins vying for free-agent right-hander Johnny Cueto, sources tell @TheAthletic. Reds also interested.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) January 4, 2023
San Diego is spending money left and right to put together a roster capable of winning a World Series. If I’m Johnny Cueto, age 37 in a month and trying to win one more title, that’s the club that I’m calling my agent about on the regular to get a deal done.
If I’m Johnny Cueto, age 37 in a month and trying to pitch for many more years, I’m calling my agent and asking him to get a deal done with the Miami Marlins to pitch half a season in their cavernous home ballpark, the kind of opportunity to put up numbers that would warrant another good deal this time in a year.
If I’m Johnny Cueto, age 37 in a month with a twinkle of nostalgia in my eye and the knowledge that I’ve already banked over $162 million in my big league career, I’d allow my agent to keep answering calls from the Reds if all else failed. That doesn’t mean the Reds can’t or won’t or shouldn’t keep calling Cueto’s agent, but I’d have to think that’s where these talks are headed, overall.
There’s a need in Cincinnati, even if there’s not a commitment behind it. It sure would be cool to see the shimmy back on the bump in GABP, too. I admire the Cincinnati front office’s public willingness, at least, even if it’s more procedural than genuine. I’m just not about to get my hopes up about it, even if the news is worthy of relaying.