Cincinnati Reds: Is free agency, not trades, the clear path to improving pitching?

OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 04: J.A. Happ #34 of the New York Yankees pitches against the Oakland Athletics in the bottom of the first inning at Oakland Alameda Coliseum on September 4, 2018 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 04: J.A. Happ #34 of the New York Yankees pitches against the Oakland Athletics in the bottom of the first inning at Oakland Alameda Coliseum on September 4, 2018 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /

As the free agency and trade rumors run rampant, is free agency the better path to improving starting pitching for the Cincinnati Reds?

Following various articles that our staff wrote over the weekend regarding several starting pitchers that the Cincinnati Reds could acquire via a trade, it is very obvious that we as a fanbase are even more divided about our “favorite pastime” as it pertains to our Reds than we are politically; I really did not think that was possible.

No matter if it is trading for Corey Kluber, Marcus Stroman, or Sonny Gray, there are current Reds, including a few of my favorites, that would, unfortunately, be key bargaining chips to bring this caliber of starting pitching to the Queen City. Is it becoming evident that the clearer path to improving this staff will be via free agency acquisition?

As I think back to the Cincinnati Reds of 2010 through 2013, for the first time since the early-to-mid-1990s this organization possessed Major League quality pitching. From a rotation of Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake, Homer Bailey, Mat Latos, and Bronson Arroyo with the likes of Sam LeCure, Sean Marshall, Aroldis Chapman, and mid-season acquisition of Jonathan Broxton, our Cincinnati Reds had the arms (and the bats) to make a deep playoff run.

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We all know how that story ended with the Reds losing Games 3-5 at home in the NLDS to the eventual World Champion San Francisco Giants. Of those nine pitchers mentioned, five of those came up through the Reds organization, with Latos, Arroyo, Marshall, and Broxton coming through trades.

As productive as the trades for the above-mentioned pitchers were, not all trades work out as planned. I am sure that the Cincinnati Reds front office would have been grateful if any of the three starters in the Johnny Cueto deal had panned out. What if Brandon Finnegan had been on par with a J.A. Happ or Cody Reed had been a Corey Kluber?

Or what if they had had a crystal ball to see the misfortunes of Homer Bailey’s career fall apart due to repeated injuries? Obviously, that hefty contract would have been invested elsewhere. Sigh…As the old saying goes, “it is what it is”, so we now must optimistically look towards the immediate future to see how things could potentially come together this offseason in order for the Cincinnati Reds to play winning baseball once again.

Let’s discuss the immediate future. Alas, here we are in late 2018, with a number of available free agents on the market and the Cincinnati Reds stating that they are prepared to spend money on acquiring at least two pitchers this offseason.

In John Fay’s recent article in the Cincinnati Enquirer, Reds president of baseball operations, Dick Williams talked about acquiring pitching:

"“I said, two pitchers. They could both be starters, they don’t have to be. There’s a good chance we’ll target two starters, and I think we have to be prepared to pursue both avenues.”"

It is easy to get wrapped up in the moment of that statement. After all, Williams grew up a fan of the Cincinnati Reds and wants so badly for this organization to compete and to compete right now. There is also a growing optimism, at least with me, that the recent coaching overhaul could potentially change the club into a culture of winning. There are things to feel good about; at least in November.

The two things I am big on are history and culture. History is a strong indicator of repetitive behavior. In other words, we are who we are. Winning is contagious and so is losing. There is so much rich history in Cincinnati as it pertains to baseball, and that history suggests that a winning team can be on the field at Great American Ball Park.

The desire is certainly there, but we all recognize that even with a commitment to spend more money in this offseason, that history suggests that the Cincinnati Reds are going to play it safe too. There have only been a handful of times in my life when the Reds really “went for it”. Ironically most of it centered around bringing home-grown-talent home in the form of Dave Parker and Pete Rose in 1984, and then the Ken Griffey, Jr. trade in 2000.

To the Reds credit, they did acquire David Wells at the trade deadline in 1995. The Mat Latos trade in December 2011 seemed nice at the time, but the Reds did give up some youth in Yonder Alonso and Yasmani Grandal along with starting pitcher Edinson Volquez.

Will the Reds play it safe with ho-hum moves? Will they trade away some of our fan favorites that leave us with even more mixed emotions about the direction of the organization? Or will the Cincinnati Reds actually turn over this new leaf of spending money for a top-notch starting pitcher from the free agency market?

We have thrown out a plethora of names of potential acquisitions, either via trade or free agency. Either way, we know either path will come at a price. My question to our readers at this point, what is a more prudent move for starting pitching; trade or free agency?

Next. What would it take to land Kluber?

This particular Reds fan is completely torn as to which is the better way and more importantly who would the Reds have to give up in a trade? What is the magic dollar amount to bring quality starting pitching to Cincinnati? What move would make you the most thankful during this Thanksgiving Week?