The Reds should find a way to give up Tyler Mahle, not Sonny Gray.
While teams are making moves in the news and on their rosters, (looking at you, Padres), the Cincinnati Reds are under the expected annual microscope to make moves this offseason. This slide however brings with it the pressure and expectations to improve following an early playoff exit in a compressed 2020 season.
While pitching continues to be a main focus, the talk of this rotation’s two-headed monster in Luis Castillo and Sonny Gray possibly departing is not settling the nerves with Reds fans. With figuring out how to maintain both contracts, there are other supporting cast members like Tyler Mahle, with an improved 2020 season, who can help put those rumors to rest.
To put it plainly, Mahle’s performance this past season was a pleasant improvement from his previous tumultuous first few years with the club. Over his first 62 games played, his win-loss total consistently stayed loss heavy, highlighted by a 3-12 2019 season in which his ERA settled at 5.14 over 25 total starts.
Rally behind Tyler Mahle?
While the most recent season was just a taste of a full 162 game season, Tyler Mahle made the most of it, ending 2-2 with a 3.59 ERA over nine games started. Where he impressed the most was K/9, with a modest 2.38 increase to 11.33 while still covering up a displeasing increased BB/9 that teetered with 4.00 (ending at 3.97).
With Mahle still under team control for the next three years, his increase in performance with limited action could hit the pause button on any idea of an extension before free agency, as it could have been too good to be true.
However, with the haul the Tampa Bay Rays received for ace Blake Snell, teams would jump on the ability to take a chance on someone like Mahle, without releasing too many valuable prospects that a pitcher like Sonny Gray would command.
With his velocity and strikeout increase, if a team did pull the trigger, he could easily be in the starting rotation if not a No. 2 on a rebuilding team or a contender. After spending the last seven years with the Reds, it wasn’t until pitching coach Derek Johnson came around has Mahle looked nothing like his former self. Putting him in the right situation could be what he needs to build off of 2020, while also having the team control Gray wouldn’t provide.
Gray certainly has heard his name floated around plenty, with destinations slowly dwindling as teams go all in to get friendly deals. After all, he was the first major move this organization made in their attempt to turn over a new leaf, and that career change from the New York Yankees left a lasting mark on fans hoping he stays. With uncertainty following where Bauer will land, losing both would prove disastrous in a division that is already up for the taking.
Having Gray stay put in the rotation, flexible replacements from the bullpen, and Mahle’s history of inconsistency, letting the California native go now can allow space for developing prospects such as Nick Lodolo and Hunter Greene the avenue needed to be called up and develop.
Having touted pitching prospects like these two gives the optimism that the gain could be greater than the loss of Tyler Mahle. As more teams snatch up pitching in the coming weeks, it wouldn’t be surprising if the teams who missed out may inquire on the back half of the Cincinnati Reds starting rotation.