Reds news: Jeff Hoffman will challenge for spot in starting rotation

Reds GM Nick Krall says that Jeff Hoffman could be a starter.

The Cincinnati Reds and Colorado Rockies pulled off a two-for-two swap yesterday. Cincinnati sent former first-round pick Robert Stephenson and outfield prospect Jameson Hannah to Colorado in exchange for right-hander Jeff Hoffman and 2020 fourth-round selection Case Williams. Hoffman will be given a chance to join the Reds starting rotation.

With so many holes to fill, it should not come as a shock that Reds General Manager Nick Krall sees Hoffman as a potential starting pitcher for Cincinnati next season, After all, the Reds are likely to lose both Trevor Bauer and Anthony DeSclafani to free agency. There were also rumors this past week that Sonny Gray may be traded.

Heading into next season, the only two players who look to be locked into the starting rotation are Luis Castillo and Tyler Mahle. Castillo was an All-Star in 2019 and Mahle certainly asserted himself as a middle-of-the-rotation starter last season. If Gray is not dealt this winter, he’ll be part of the rotation as well.

That leaves two open spots, and one of them is likely to be filled by left-handed pitcher Wade Miley. The southpaw signed a two-year/$15M contract last season, and it stands to reason that Miley will be given a chance to reestablish himself as a starting pitcher after finishing the season in the Cincinnati bullpen.

So who’ll be the Reds fifth starter? Michael Lorenzen looks to have the inside track as we enter the offseason. The right-hander has spent the past five seasons in the Reds bullpen, seeing five starts in two of the last three seasons.

One would assume that Tejay Antone would also get a long look this spring after bursting onto the scene as a rookie in 2020. The 26-year-old Texas native showed good movement on his fastball, locating it all over the strike zone. Antone made13 appearances last season including four starts.

Tony Santillan and Nick Lodolo, two of Cincinnati’s top pitching prospects will likely be given a shot to make the Opening Day roster as well. Santillan was added to the 40-man roster last season and Lodolo, the team’s 2019 first-round pick, was thought to an advanced arm that could rocket through the Reds minor league system rather quickly.

According to Nick Krall, via MLB.com, if Jeff Hoffman reaches his full potential, he could be a solid big league starter. Here’s a quote from Krall, courtesy of Mark Sheldon at MLB.com:

“We feel he can give us multiple innings in a relief role or potentially a fifth-starter’s spot. He’s versatile with what he does, and he’s got pretty good stuff… We’re excited to get him and see what we can do to work with him and see him make progressions.”

Jeff Hoffman has started 38 games during his time in the big leagues, which is more than Lorenzen, Antone, Santillan, and Lodolo combined (30). He’s also had much better success as a starting pitcher (5.80 ERA) than he has a reliever (9.30 ERA). However, Hoffman have to step up his game during spring training if he hopes to earn a spot in the starting rotation.

At the very least, Hoffman will be a player who can give the Cincinnati Reds multiple innings in relief. Hoffman’s history is very similar to that of the player he’ll be replacing, Robert Stephenson. The 27-year-old has yet to reach the lofty potential that comes with being a first-round pick, however, a change in scenery might help Hoffman attain a better measure of success.

The right-hander is under team-control through the 2024 season, but he is out of minor-league options. That means the Reds will have to keep him as part of the active roster during the 2021 season. Here’s hoping Robert Stephenson reaches his full potential in Colorado and that Jeff Hoffman finds success in Cincinnati.