Tony Cingrani is Next Up if Starter is Traded

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At the Winter Meetings yesterday, manager Bryan Price said that Tony Cingrani–who started 11 games for the Reds last season–would be next in line to grab a spot in the rotation if a starting pitcher is traded, according to C. Trent Rosecrans, of the Cincinnati Enquirer.

There has been heavy speculation from many that the Reds may look to trade one of their four starting pitchers entering the final year of their contract. Yesterday, GM Walt Jocketty said it’s unlikely that the Reds can keep all their starters and that he’d be open to trading for an outfielder with one year left on his contract, which has led to more trade talks, mainly centered around acquiring Yoenis Cespedes from the Red Sox.

If Mat Latos, Mike Leake, or even Johnny Cueto are traded, you can expect to see southpaw Cingrani get another chance to start.

Last season, Cingrani had a bit of a sophomore slump after a great rookie season in 2013. In 13 games, Cingrani went 2-8 with a 4.55 ERA, 5.37 FIP, -0.2 WAR, and 61 strikeouts in 63.1 innings pitched. His strikeout rate dropped–from 10.3 Ks per nine innings to 8.7–while his walk rate increased to 5.0 walks per nine from 3.7 the year before.

After two relief appearances for the Reds in June, Cingrani was demoted to Triple-A Louisville, placed on the DL, and did not pitch again the rest of the season.

It’s reasonable to think that Cingrani can bounce back in 2015, after injuries derailed his second big league season. Cingrani has been notorious for not reporting injuries to the Reds, so for all we know, he could’ve been pitching injured the entire season.

Regardless, it’s no secret that Cingrani needs to develop pitches outside of his fastball, which he throws the vast majority of the time. He did throw more off-speed pitches last year (12.5% sliders, 13.1% changeups, according to Fangraphs), though that didn’t really translate to better success on the mound. With another offseason to work on his secondary pitches, you would think he’d be able to develop a quality second pitch.

Cingrani will also need to improve against right handers, who he really struggled against last season:

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Up until last year, though, Cingrani didn’t have many problems against right handers, even in the minor leagues, so his struggles could be tied to the increase in his secondary pitches, which were not fully developed.

I think the potential he showed in his rookie season earns him another shot to show the Reds what he can do as their fifth starter. If he can return to his 2013 form, where he went 7-4 with a 2.92 ERA, 3.78 FIP, 2.2 WAR, and 120 Ks in 104.2 IP, the Reds would barely even notice a starter from last season was gone (unless it’s Cueto, as he’d be impossible to replace).

However, if Cingrani should struggle again as a starter in 2015, it wouldn’t be a shock to see him sent to the bullpen, where his lack of secondary pitches wouldn’t hurt him as much. Should that happen, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Robert Stephenson or Michael Lorenzen get the call up to replace him.