The Cincinnati Reds have improved their pitching staff by leaps and bounds this offseason. Does Brandon Finnegan have any chance to make the roster?
The Cincinnati Reds added Alex Wood, Tanner Roark, and Sonny Gray to the team this offseason. All three are expected to be part of the starting rotation. Those additions are going to make it very difficult for several pitchers, who’ve been on the roster for a few years, to make it on this year’s team. Does Brandon Finnegan have any chance to make the roster?
Brandon Finnegan, who was a first round pick by the Kansas City Royals in 2014, was traded to the Reds, along with Cody Reed, John Lamb, and cash for Johnny Cueto. Lamb is no longer with the team, Reed appears to be carving out a niche with the Reds, and Finnegan, well, he might be hanging on by a thread.
Finnegan was the key piece of that return for the Cincinnati Reds when they shipped their ace to KC, but he has not reached his full potential since coming to the Queen City. In 2016, Brandon Finnegan showed promise, going 10-11 with 3.98 ERA in 31 starts.
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However, a shoulder injury in early 2017 landed Finnegan on the disabled list. He retuned to the club midway through the season, but re-injured the same shoulder in his first game back. In just 4 starts during the 2017 season, Finnegan went 1-1 with a 4.15 ERA. The lefty only threw 13 innings.
Last year was one that Finnegan, and Reds fans, would like to forget. After the Cincinnati Reds acquired Matt Harvey last May, Brandon Finnegan lost his spot in the rotation and was demoted to Triple-A Louisville. Finnegan did not take the demotion very well. The following quote is from the Cincinnati Enquirer:
"“I felt like I had two pretty good starts up in Cincinnati. You can’t do anything about getting taken out of the game after 70 pitches. (Reds interim manager Jim) Riggleman loves using the bullpen; that’s his thing. That part was out of my hands. Besides that, two of my five starts I had, I thought were pretty good. I was attacking guys.”"
I think every player can sympathize with Finnegan’s frustrations, as no one wants to be demoted, especially after playing the majority of your career in the majors. However, there’s a right and a wrong way to handle adversity, and it appears that Finnegan handled the situation the wrong way.
It reflected in his play, as Finnegan got only 9 starts in the minor leagues before being moved to the bullpen. Brandon Finnegan did not get a September call-up and finished his 2018 season with the Louisville Bats. He went 2-10 with a 7.05 ERA in 25 games played. His WHIP was 1.92 and he struck out 57 batters while walking 40.
Given the Cincinnati Reds current roster, it would appear that any chance Finnegan has to make the ball club is going to be in the bullpen. Wood, Roark, Gray, and Luis Castillo appear to have 4 of the 5 starting spots locked up.
While it’d be unfair to say that Finnegan doesn’t have shot, he’s obviously sitting behind Sal Romano, Cody Reed, Michael Lorenzen, Anthony DeSclafani, and maybe even Robert Stephenson. Finnegan’s best chance to play for the Reds next season may be out of the pen.
There’s no doubt that Finnegan has the talent to be successful at the big league level, but that’s not everything. With his injury history and last year’s demotion, Finnegan must show that he’s able to overcome adversity. Even then, it may not be enough to find him a spot on the roster, as the bullpen in loaded with talented pitchers too.
When pitchers and catchers report in just a few days, Brandon Finnegan will be given an opportunity. However, his margin for error is very slim. I’d love to see Finnegan show the Cincinnati Reds that he has what it takes to compete at the highest level, but the deck appears to be heavily stacked against him.
Here’s hoping the new pitching coach Derek Johnson is able to find a way to motivate Finnegan and get the absolute best out of him during Spring Training. This year’s Cincinnati Reds roster has the most pitching talent that we’ve seen in 5 years. If Brandon Finnegan wants to be a part of this year’s club, he’s going to have to go out and earn it.