Cincinnati Reds to decide between elite bullpen and experienced rotation

(Photo by Corey Perrine/Getty Images)
(Photo by Corey Perrine/Getty Images) /

As the Cincinnati Reds get ready for spring training, the decision between a stacked bullpen and a solid rotation looms large.

The Cincinnati Reds had the worst starting pitching in the National League in 2017.  They had sixteen different pitchers start games and the worst ERA in the league.  They also showed that they have some prospects ready to contribute at the major league level.

Meanwhile, they have been adding to the bullpen this off-season.  They signed a pair of veteran set-up men in David Hernandez and Jared Hughes.  They both have experience picking up holds at the major league level.

The back end of the bullpen was already strong last season.  They had Raisel Iglesias closing games with Michael Lorenzen and Wandy Peralta setting him up.  Lorenzen and Peralta tied with 18 holds each in 2017.

Adding Hernandez and Hughes gives the Reds five pitchers that they can count on from the eighth inning on.  That begins the question, though.  The Reds plan on giving Lorenzen a chance to make the rotation.

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What if instead of giving Lorenzen a chance at the rotation, the Reds made their bullpen the best in the NL?  It would only take one other move.  In fact the move just has to do with another Reds pitcher.

The Cincinnati Reds could move Brandon Finnegan back into the bullpen where he began his MLB career.

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It’s quite brilliant, really.  Finnegan and Lorenzen have both proven that they can pitch in MLB bullpens.  Why not let them flourish?

With the other four pitchers there, they would have the arguably best bullpen in baseball.  Imagine adding a Cody Reed as the long man.  They could cover four innings most nights without putting a weak pitcher in the game.

The reason the Reds haven’t floated this idea publicly is because it relies on a big assumption.

It assumes that Homer Bailey and Anthony DeSclafani are both ready to go.  If either one of them isn’t, then this falls apart.

It also relies on Luis Castillo being backed by two from the list of Robert Stephenson, Tyler Mahle, Sal Romano or Amir Garrett.  Any two that pitch five quality innings will do.  That is all the Reds need.

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Hopefully the Reds will view Finnegan as flexible enough to do this.  He was the best pitcher on the worst staff in franchise history in 2016.  Now he can be the veteran lefty on the best bullpen since at least the Nasty Boys of the 1990s.