Who is the Odd Man Out?
When the Cincinnati Reds signed Jonathan Broxton to a three-year, $21 million deal on Wednesday, it did a couple of things. It solidified the back end of the bullpen for 2013, the same ‘pen that finished 2012 as the best in baseball, and it opened the door in moving Aroldis Chapman to the starting rotation.
The opportunity to see what Chapman can do as a starter is very enticing, but due to his success in the bullpen the last couple of seasons, you have to wonder if this is the right decision. One could even mention the fact that the 2012 Cincinnati rotation did not miss a start and all five men are supposed to be back in 2013.
So, while some fans may question Chapman’s move to the rotation, you now have six starting pitchers, a gluttony in baseball, capable of pitching well above average…if healthy. What do you do now?
Johnny Cueto is the ace. 28-14 with a 2.58 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP since the start of 2011, with his peripheral stats showing positive tendencies. In 2012, Cueto finally reached 200 innings in a season, and while there were some bumps in the road toward the end of the season, he posted a 1.35 ERA over his final three starts of the season. He is the anchor of this rotation and is signed through 2015.
Mat Latos was the huge acquisition prior to the start of 2012. It cost the Reds a pretty penny as far as their future, but Latos showed his worth, finishing 14-4 with a 3.48 ERA and 1.16 WHIP. He proved that he could pitch anywhere, even after moving from San Diego’s spacious Petco Park to Great American Ballpark. Latos is arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter and his 41 wins prior to the age of 25 will surely drive up his price. Luckily, he is under team-control through 2015, giving the Reds an Ace A and Ace B option for the next three seasons.
Bronson Arroyo is the crafty veteran of the group. In Arroyo’s three best seasons in Cincinnati, he is 43-31 with a 3.62 ERA and in his three worst seasons, he is 34-38 with a 4.68 ERA. Considering he has been around for seven seasons, which pitcher is he? Arroyo thrives on being able to mix his offspeed arsenal in with his fastball, changing speeds and leaving batters guessing. With power pitchers surrounding him in the rotation, it is possible that Arroyo will be able to capitalize on his stuff, dropping in his loopy curve and average fastball to one more successful season in Cincinnati. He turns 36 years old in February and reaches free agency after the 2013 season.
Homer Bailey has been driving Cincinnati fans crazy since 2007, never capitalizing on his stuff and potential…until 2012. Bailey finally put it all together and went 13-10 with a 3.68 ERA, tossing a career high in innings with 208. His masterful seven inning, ten strikeout start against the San Francisco Giants in the NLDS was one for the ages, and he will probably receive a huge amount of support the first time that he toes the rubber at GABP in 2013. Bailey turns 27 next May and he is team-controlled through arbitration until reaching free agency in 2015.
Mike Leake is just 25 years old and he doesn’t reach free agency until 2016. Leake is a rare breed, a player who is in the majors without ever having played in the minors, a pretty short list of players can say that. He has a career 28-22 record and a 4.23 ERA over 83 games and 485 career innings. Leake wasn’t very impressive in 2012, posting a 4.58 ERA and a 1.35 WHIP. His stuff is very similar to Bronson Arroyo‘s, in that he thrives on location and changing speeds. He could very well become the crafty, mid-rotation starter that Arroyo is upon Arroyo’s eventual departure.
However, are any of these pitchers worth booting from the rotation? How would Bailey do as a setup man, being able to throw his fastball at increased velocity for short outings? Should Arroyo or Leake be removed from the rotation to step in as a long-man, possibly shadowing Aroldis Chapman every fifth day to limit his innings throughout the season? Or, are one of these pitchers trade bait now? Could the team upgrade in centerfield or find a leadoff man by including Leake in a deal for someone like Denard Span?
The Cincinnati Reds have a good problem right now, but if they started the season tomorrow, they probably won’t be using a six-man rotation. How do you see this, realistically shaping up?