The New York Yankees gave righty Luis Cessa ample opportunity to show his stuff as a starting pitcher early in his career, eventually settling in on the idea that he was an effective reliever. He was, too, pitching to a 3.94 ERA and 112 ERA+ in 102.2 IP of exclusive relief across 2020-2021, even if he was never an elite strikeout machine.
That’s the pitcher the Cincinnati Reds acquired in 2021, and he rewarded them with a 2.05 ERA and 3.13 FIP in 26.1 IP in relief down the stretch in the last year they actually sort of, kind of tried to compete. Mid-year last season, though, the Reds turned back to Cessa to help fill out a starting rotation that had been decimated by trades of established starters, a role he was once again asked to fill at the start of 2023 as the frugal Reds continued to operate in the most austere of fashions.
Predictably, it didn’t work. Cessa was shelled early and often, and the entirety of the operation drew into question the offseason strategy of keeping him in the rotation mix despite him being a part of Team Mexico in the World Baseball Classic in a non-rotation role. The combination of need, opportunity, and timing eventually led to Cessa leaving Team Mexico early to cram prep into the final weeks of spring to be a part of the threadbare Reds rotation, all of that coming in what’s a contract year for him prior to reaching free agency for the first time.
That’s the backdrop for today’s news, which saw Cessa DFA’d entirely rather than sent to the bullpen to help the - again - threadbare pitching staff. It appears the Ben Lively will be the one to replace him as a starting option, with Kevin Herget also rejoining the active roster while Reiver Sanmartin hits the injured list.
I don’t know Luis Cessa. I don’t know if, at some point, he did something akin to demanding to be a starting option. I don’t know if he had merely been taking one for the team, or not. I do know, however, that the series of decisions regarding his role and the timing of it all sure makes a lot of decisions seem suspect, especially with the Reds relying on a trio of second-year pitchers with very few IP under their belt to anchor the 162 game season already.
Someone is going to have to pitch innings this year, and getting rid of one of the few arms that has any experience doing so (in any role) just seems odd on a number of levels to me.
I’ll be very interested to see which team gives him the chance to be a reliever for the remainder of the 2023 season.