The Reds were unable to match their record from the previous two seasons, making it seem like the rebuild is going in the wrong direction. It is reasonable to think that. The front office did not take an initiative to improve the team, making one small move dealing Adam Duvall. They claimed the positive momentum was the reasoning, yet still finished worse than past years.
The Reds can still prove the rebuild is going in the right direction if they make a splash in free agency this offseason. The Reds had the sixth worst starting pitcher ERA at 5.02. They still have three pitchers on their roster they believe can contribute to the rotation in 2019.
The Current Status
Luis Castillo had a fantastic 2017 and had one of the best Septembers of any pitcher in baseball in 2018. But the Reds cannot wait until the end of the season for Castillo to show his ace stuff. Pitchers at his age will usually get better with the time and the Reds are hoping he can be the ace he has shown he can be from the beginning of April.
Anthony DeSclafani struggled in his first season back from injury after missing all of 2017. There is no reason the Reds should not give him another chance. Before his injury, he was a dominant starter and it is unknown if he will regain that form, but he deserves another shot. Tyler Mahle was gaining momentum in 2018 before an injury cut his season short. He seems like he will be the perfect fit to round out the end of the rotation.
The Reds will try to land a top free agent pitcher in the offseason. This is not just something they should want, this is something they absolutely need. The Reds finished in the middle of the pack offensively, and that should only improve next season with Nick Senzel more than likely joining the club. That means the Reds main target will be a pitcher.
With a large free agent class, who should the Reds try to sign? Clayton Kershaw will be excluded from this list because even if he does opt out of his contract, the Reds will have zero chance of signing him.
Corbin has had an up and down career in his six years with the Arizona Diamondbacks, but when he is on, he is a top pitcher. He finished 2018 with a 3.15 ERA in 200 innings pitched with 246 strikeouts. The two-time All-star seems to only be getting better and will be the best pitcher at a somewhat affordable price.
If the Reds can manage to land Corbin, they will have found their ace for 2019 and at just 28-years old, possibly years to come. Corbin’s ground ball ratio is just under 50%, a key stat that the Reds need to look at considering the hitter’s park they play in. Corbin should be the Reds number one target this season if they cannot land the next guy on the list, which they most likely will not.
The former Cy Young winner hits the market this offseason. He would be a perfect fit to lead the Reds rotation to the postseason again. Unfortunately, many teams are thinking the same. Keuchel has been one of the top pitchers in the American League since 2014, and although he had a down season, by his standards, he still is an ace that every team would be more than happy to have.
The problem with Keuchel will be the price tag. The Reds could possibly sign him, but that would more than likely be the only player they could afford to sign, and the Reds are not one player away from the playoffs. If they did somehow have a chance to sign him at a price that could allow them to sign another pitcher, then, by all means, do it, but Corbin should still be the first target, as he is the more affordable one that could help the Reds improve other parts of their roster.
Hyun-Jin Ryu and Gio Gonzalez
Ryu and Gonzalez are two quality lefties that will be free agents in 2019. Gonzalez has had some Cy Young potential seasons, as well as some forgettable seasons. He is durable, which is something the Reds could definitely use. His biggest issue for the Reds are over half the balls in play are in the air, a stat that does not bode well in Cincinnati. He could still provide a quality middle of the rotation talent though.
Although Ryu threw just 82 1/3 innings in the 2018 regular season, he had just a 1.97 ERA with 89 strikeouts and just 15 walks. Moving from pitcher-friendly Dodger Stadium to Great American Ballpark would probably inflate his stats a little. Ryu would be expensive, close to the Corbin range in money, but they might be able to sign him as well as a middle-tier starter.
Not to mention Ryu threw seven dominant scoreless innings in Game 1 of the NLDS Thursday night against the Atlanta Braves.
Could the Reds possibly extend the Harvey era? When they did not trade him at the deadline it meant one of two things. Either the Reds intended to sign him during free agency, or that his value was not too high. If it is the latter, that would increase the Reds chances of signing him. The Reds enjoyed having Harvey in the clubhouse, and if he comes at an affordable price they may roll the dice.
Harvey is still a shell of his former self, but the change of scenery did provide a bit of a spark for him. While a 4.50 ERA in 128 innings with the Reds is not exactly a dazzling number, Harvey could be a cheap four or five option for the Reds. Perhaps an entire offseason with the new attitude Harvey will better prep him for the 2019 season then the toxic relationship that was building in New York.
So What Will It Be?
The Reds have many options to sign, whether its one big arm or two above average arms. It will be exciting to see how the offseason plays out. With only two spots essentially locked up and one on the fringe, expect the 2019 opening day rotation to look much different and much more exciting.