Reds: Tony Santillan’s debut prompts trade speculation among starters

Feb 15, 2020; Goodyear, AZ, USA; Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Wade Miley (22) and Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Sonny Gray (54) talk in the bullpen. Mandatory Credit: Kareem Elgazzar/Cincinnati Enquirer via USA TODAY NETWORK
Feb 15, 2020; Goodyear, AZ, USA; Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Wade Miley (22) and Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Sonny Gray (54) talk in the bullpen. Mandatory Credit: Kareem Elgazzar/Cincinnati Enquirer via USA TODAY NETWORK /

Call it a hunch, but provided Tony Santillan‘s MLB debut goes well on Sunday, trade speculation surrounding other Cincinnati Reds starting pitchers will begin to grow. We’ve already seen Vladimir Gutierrez excel in his first three starts. If Santillan has similar success, the Reds will have an abundance of starting pitchers, and more high-level pitching prospects on the way.

Jeff Hoffman is currently on the 10-day IL with a shoulder injury, but when he returns, his spot in the rotation will not be there. Gutierrez has proven that he has what it takes to compete at the major league level, and Hoffman will likely head to the Cincinnati bullpen or be designated for assignment. But, what if Santillan has similar success?

Tony Santillan has long since been a top prospect in the Reds organization.

Tony Santillan will get his shot on Sunday. The former second-round pick is 1-3 at Triple-A Louisville this season and owns a 2.51 ERA and 1.08 WHIP. Santillan punched out 13 batters in his most recent start, and Reds fans should expect the hulking right-hander to pound the strike zone and light up the radar gun.

While Santillan will be starting in place of Sonny Gray, Sunday’s debut may be actually be an audition to replace the Vanderbilt alum in the Cincinnati rotation. Don’t take this the wrong way; I love watching Gray pitch, but the reality is that he’s under contract through next season and has a team-option for the 2023 season.

Gray’s deal pays the right-hander $10M this season and $10.2M in 2022. The team can then decide if they want to pick up his $12M option following the 2022 season. Gray was rumored to be on the trade block this offseason, and Cincinnati’s front office has shown a desire to move away from some of the team’s larger contracts.

Considering that Tony Santillan would be making the league minimum for the next several seasons, the Reds could save a great deal of money if they found a trade partner and dealt Gray prior to the July 30th deadline.

The same could be said for Wade Miley. The left-hander has shown what he’s capable of this season, and is under contract through the end of 2021 with a $10M team option for 2022. Much like Gray, Miley could have several teams interested in his services.

One more name to look at would be Luis Castillo. Given how poorly Castillo has performed thus far, a contingent of Reds fans wish that Cincinnati’s front office would have listened more carefully to the trade offers that were rumored to have been on thee table this past winter.

Castillo seems to be turning a corner, and all things considered, the right-hander may garner the largest return on the trade market. However, the Reds would be making a deal while Castillo’s value is arguably as low as it’ll ever be.

The more prudent move would be to wait to the offseason and deal Castillo over the winter. La Piedra will still have plenty of suitors and has two years of team control remaining after the 2021 season.

Tony Santillan isn’t the only Reds prospect excelling this season.

Tony Santillan will be given every chance to succeed. The worst case scenario would be that the right-hander proves himself incapable of being a starting pitcher and then the Reds would shift him into a relief role. We’ve seen that with several players in recent years including Raisel Iglesias, Amir Garrett, and Sal Romano.

But, if Santillan’s performance isn’t enough to warrant replacing one of Cincinnati’s veteran starters, the duo of Hunter Greene and Nick Lodolo will be. The Reds top two prospects are dealing at Double-A Chattanooga and it’s not out of the realm of possibilities that one or both fin their way to big leagues this season.

Cincinnati’s front office also has high hopes for right-hander Lyon Richardson, who’s a Top 10 prospect according to MLB Pipeline. Reiver Sanmartin and Riley O’Brien have pitched well at Triple-A Louisville this season.

Greene focusing on off-speed pitches, not fastball. Next

Outside of Tyler Mahle, the Cincinnati Reds should entertain offers for any one of their veteran starting pitchers. There’s still the likelihood that Tejay Antone could join the starting rotation in the future, and who knows what may happen with Michael Lorenzen this offseason.