Despite a winter of austerity and several large voids on their pitching staff, the Cincinnati Reds gave a guaranteed $2 million to former 1st round pick Luke Weaver to fit in somewhere within that discussion. Weaver, who will turn 30 years old in August, has pitched to just a 4.80 ERA and 1.35 WHIP since the start of the 2019 season, having moved through the Arizona Diamondbacks and Kansas City Royals in that time.
The guaranteed cash wasn’t so much an interesting question as was the role he would be tasked with filling. Those numbers since the start of the 2019 season came in just 217.2 total IP, yet the Reds staff was desperately in need of someone to eat innings behind their youthful trio of Graham Ashcraft, Hunter Greene, and Nick Lodolo. Staying healthy - and staying within a starting rotation - wasn’t exactly Weaver’s calling card.
With the forearm issue that sent him to the shelf on March 15th now in the rear-view mirror, it appears that Weaver will now get his shot to show he can fill that role going forward. Today the Cincinnati Reds activated him from the IL to start tonight against the Pittsburgh Pirates, with recently promoted Levi Stoudt optioned back to AAA Louisville to make room.
Way back in 2018 with the St. Louis Cardinals, Weaver did file away 136.1 IP across 30 games (25 starts), pitching to a 98 ERA+ in what effectively became a showcase for him to be one of the pieces of the deal that moved Paul Goldschmidt to the NL Central. So, there is at least some evidence that he can pitch repeatedly and often, even if that came a half-decade and three organizations ago.
It’s long been a source of bewilderment for me how this cobbled together staff would eat all the innings to get 27 outs 162 times this season, especially with the reality being that each of Greene, Ashcraft, and Lodolo will be limited in the innings they’re tasked with chomping come September. A solid outing from Weaver today would do a lot to allay those fears, and here’s to hoping the Pirates are worse off from it this evening.