Cincinnati Reds: Could Alex Wood return in 2020 on a team-friendly deal?

MIAMI, FLORIDA - AUGUST 29: Alex Wood #40 of the Cincinnati Reds delivers a pitch against the Miami Marlins during the first inning at Marlins Park on August 29, 2019 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FLORIDA - AUGUST 29: Alex Wood #40 of the Cincinnati Reds delivers a pitch against the Miami Marlins during the first inning at Marlins Park on August 29, 2019 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

The Cincinnati Reds acquired Alex Wood this past offseason in a trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Might he return to Cincinnati in 2020?

Alex Wood, earlier this spring, was thought to be the Cincinnati Reds ace. He had the lowest career-ERA (3.29) among the five starting pitchers entering Spring Training, played for a championship team the past three seasons and was one of the key pickups during a busy offseason for the Reds.

Can things change on a dime in Major League Baseball, or what? Since acquiring Wood from the Los Angeles Dodgers, he’s played fewer games in a Cincinnati Reds uniform than anyone acquired in that December trade. Matt Kemp, played in 20 games before his release earlier this season.

While the biggest aspect of last winter’s trade was to rid the Reds of Homer Bailey‘s contract and remove a malcontent from the clubhouse, the front office had to think they’d be getting some sort of production from the four players it obtained.

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Unfortunately, Kemp was a bust. The right-handed slugger coming off an All-Star season hit .200 with 19 strikeouts in 60 at-bats before his release. Yasiel Puig grabbed the attention of Reds Country, but was traded at the deadline. The loss of Puig doesn’t sting too bad, as Cincinnati picked up Trevor Bauer and now has seen the future of right field in Aristides Aquino.

Sadly, perhaps the best pickup from that deal was the addition of Kyle Farmer. The versatile infielder, who can also play catcher, looks to have solidified his role with the Cincinnati Reds moving forward. Farmer is a piece that can be plugged in almost anywhere and offers a solid right-handed bat off the bench.

Wood was scratched from his last start with a back injury and replaced by Lucas Sims. It doesn’t sound as though the left-hander will be up again anytime soon. Reds manager David Bell addressed the possibility of shutting down Wood for the season via

“Realistically, you have to consider that it could end up happening. We’re not close to making that decision to shut him down. We’re giving him every chance to heal and get back out there.”

While Bell may give the answer we’d all expect, in reality, Wood is done for 2019. The Reds are out of playoff contention and it makes much more sense for some of the younger pitchers to show what they can do rather than risk further injury to Wood who’ll be a free agent at season’s end.

That brings us back to this question, will the Cincinnati Reds attempt to re-sign Alex Wood this offseason? My gut says, no, move on. However, it’s not every day that a left-handed starter lands in your lap, and if the front office is creative, there’s a chance Wood could return on an incentive-laden deal that would be beneficial for both parties.

What does that look like? To be honest, I don’t know. Pitchers coming off an injury or with a history of injury don’t have the best track record entering free agency. Clay Buchholz, who’s had an injury-riddled career, earned a $3M contract with the Toronto Blue Jays. Nathan Eovaldi, who’s had his fair share of injuries throughout his career, landed a contract with an AAV of $16.9M.

Should the Reds decide to entertain the idea of bringing Wood back to the Queen City, there’s no reason for the front office to break the bank. With four of their five starting spots for 2020 all but locked up, the Reds have plenty of options to fill the role of a fifth starter.

Tyler Mahle and Lucas Sims are more than capable of picking up the slack in that department. Sims got the start in place of Wood during Tuesday’s game against Philadelphia and Mahle has started 21 games for the Reds this season.

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If Dick Williams and Nick Krall re-sign Wood to a one-year deal with incentives based on innings pitched, it could be a win for both sides. Wood would have the opportunity to reassert himself heading into the following offseason and, if he’s healthy, the Cincinnati Reds could have a southpaw on the mound every fifth day.