Cincinnati Reds: Be wary of starting pitchers in free agency

PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 22: Patrick Corbin #46 of the Arizona Diamondbacks delivers a pitch in the third inning during the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on June 22, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 22: Patrick Corbin #46 of the Arizona Diamondbacks delivers a pitch in the third inning during the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on June 22, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images) /
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The Cincinnati Reds need to fix their starting rotation, we all know that. But, the front office and fans alike should be wary of trying to solve their problems through free agency.

Do the Cincinnati Reds need to address their starting pitching during the offseason? Absolutely! However, the free agency route might not be the right way for the Reds to go. Several teams found that out the hard way last season.

Yu Darvish signed a 6-year, $126 million contract last offseason with the Chicago Cubs. From 2012-17, Darvish played at a high-level for the Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Dodgers. He averaged 26 starts per season with an ERA of 3.42.

This season was none too kind to the four-time All-Star. Darvish was a shell of himself in the 8 starts he made for the Cubs this season. Darvish with 1-3 with 4.95 ERA. His WHIP of 1.425 was the highest of his career and he landed on the DL with a stress reaction in his right elbow and a strained triceps.

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Jake Arrieta broke the bank this past offseason after signing a 3 year, $75 million contract with the Philadelphia Phillies. Arrieta was coming off four-plus year stint with the Cubs that saw him win the 2015 Cy Young Award and carry a 2.67 ERA.

Fast forward to last season with the Phillies, and while Arrieta’s performance was not horrendous, it’s wasn’t what the Phillies paid for. Arrieta went 10-11 in 31 starts with an ERA barely under 4.00. While his walks were down, he gave up more hits and runs than he did during his stretch in the Windy City and his strikeouts went down.

Alex Cobb left the Tampa Bay Rays and signed a big contract with the Baltimore Orioles. Cobb’s ERA went from 3.66 in 2017 to 4.90 in 2018. Tyler Chatwood signed a 3 year, $38 million contract and finished 2018 with a WHIP of 1.804.

Of course, there are some success stories as well. Jhoulys Chacin signed what appears like a steal with Milwaukee Brewers last offseason. Chacin saw an increase in wins, strikeouts, and innings pitched, while lowering his ERA, walks, hits, and WHIP.

All of this information about last season’s free agent signings is not to say that the Cincinnati Reds should not pursue that route to improve their starting pitching. However, if they do dive into free agency, they should proceed with caution. Not every free agent starter that’s signed to a big deal this offseason is going to be a slam dunk for the organization in the future.

Dallas Keuchel and Patrick Corbin are the big names available this offseason, but plenty of other pitchers could be had for much less money. Guys like Gio Gonzalez, Hyun-Jin Ryu, and Wade Miley would be more affordable and a much safer bet than going all in on a guy like Corbin or Keuchel.

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The Reds may be better off making a trade for a big name pitcher on a lesser deal. Homer Bailey‘s current deal should make everybody in the Cincinnati Reds front office wary of signing any pitcher to a hefty contract.