Reds: Top free agency priorities for Nick Krall after 2021 season

CINCINNATI, OHIO - SEPTEMBER 01: Nick Castellanos #2 of the Cincinnati Reds walks across the field. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OHIO - SEPTEMBER 01: Nick Castellanos #2 of the Cincinnati Reds walks across the field. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
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MIAMI, FLORIDA – AUGUST 29: Nick Castellanos #2 of the Cincinnati Reds looks on. Can Nick Krall and Reds front office hang on to Castellanos? (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FLORIDA – AUGUST 29: Nick Castellanos #2 of the Cincinnati Reds looks on. Can Nick Krall and Reds front office hang on to Castellanos? (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

No, we have yet to complete the 2021 season, but it never hurts to look ahead. The Cincinnati Reds have several players approaching free agency, and there are a plethora of talented players from other teams who’ll enter the free agent market this winter. Which free agents should Reds GM Nick Krall attempt to sign this offseason?

The Reds were aggressive in the free agent market two years ago, bringing in Mike Moustakas, Nick Castellanos, Shogo Akiyama, and Wade Miley. However, last winter, Cincinnati moved on from Archie Bradley, Raisel Iglesias, and Curt Casali while only making one big league signing; left-handed reliever San Doolittle.

What direction might Nick Krall and the Reds front office go this offseason? Coming off what fans hope is a trip to the postseason, will they spend big once again? Or, might we witness a return to the thrifty Redlegs we’re used to seeing? Let’s take a peek at some of the top free agents the Reds should prioritize signing this offseason.

1. Nick Krall and the Reds should ink Nick Castellanos to a multi-year extension.

How the Cincinnati Reds handle Nick Castellanos’ impending free agency will tell fans a lot about how Nick Krall and front office plan to approach the entire offseason. Castellanos signed a four-year contract prior to the 2020 season, but has the ability to opt out of the final two-years of the deal. In doing so, Castellanos will leave $34M on the table.

While Castellanos hasn’t yet committed to staying in Cincinnati or testing the market, I can almost assure you that Castellanos will opt out of his contract and see what offers he could potentially secure on the open market. In fact, he’d be foolish not to.

Nick Castellanos is in the midst of a career-year and should be considered one of the Top 5 NL MVP candidates. The right-handed slugger is second in the league in batting average and doubles, third in slugging percentage, and ranks in the Top 20 of the National League in home runs, RBIs, and on-base percentage.

It’s a virtual guarantee that Cincinnati will extend a qualifying offer to Castellanos which he will likely reject. This will give the Reds some measure of compensation in the event that Castellanos leaves this winter.

Nick Castellanos should be Cincinnati’s first, second, and third option on the free agent market, and until he signs (either with the Reds or elsewhere), Nick Krall needn’t pursue any other free agents. The Reds have the means to retain Castellanos, though it may require some creative trades to free up enough payroll to get a deal done.

MIAMI, FLORIDA – AUGUST 29: Wade Miley #22 of the Cincinnati Reds looks on. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FLORIDA – AUGUST 29: Wade Miley #22 of the Cincinnati Reds looks on. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

2. Nick Krall and the Reds should exercise Wade Miley’s team-option.

This one should be much easier for Cincinnati Reds General Manager Nick Krall. Where Nick Castellanos has the opt out after the season, the Redlegs have the opportunity to welcome Wade Miley back with open arms. The Reds can exercise a $10M team-option and keep Miley in the Queen City for the 2022 season.

That price is a bargain for what Miley brings to the table. Miley has been Cincinnati’s best starting pitcher this season, and frankly, it’s not even close. Miley is seventh in the league in ERA (2.89) and owns a no-hitter on the season.

Believe it or not, Wade Miley has the fourth-highest WAR (6.4) among all major league players this season. Only Los Angeles Angels’ pitcher and likely AL MVP, Shohei Ohtani (7.9), Toronto Blue Jays’ hurler and likely AL Cy Young Award-winner Robbie Ray (6.7), and Philadelphia Phillies pitcher and likely NL Cy Young Award-winner Zack Wheeler (6.7) have a higher WAR than Miley this season.

Ray signed a one-year/$8M deal last offseason and the average annual value on Wheeler’s contract is $23.6M. I think Nick Krall the Cincinnati Reds would do well to retain Miley’s services for the $10M price tag.

Wade Miley will be entering his age-35 season in 2022, so by no means should the Reds invest in the left-hander long-term. But securing Miley for next season as a solid veteran who could also mentor top prospects Hunter Greene and Nick Lodolo would be a wise move on the part of Krall and the Cincinnati brass.

HOUSTON, TEXAS – SEPTEMBER 07: Yimi Garcia #93 of the Houston Astros pitches. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TEXAS – SEPTEMBER 07: Yimi Garcia #93 of the Houston Astros pitches. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) /

3. Nick Krall and the Reds should sign reliever Yimi Garcia this offseason.

The Cincinnati Reds bullpen has been a disaster this season, and while the additions of Mychal Givens, Luis Cessa, and Justin Wilson have been a nice boost prior to the month of August, Cincinnati’s relief corps needs an overhaul.

The Reds are likely to lose Michael Lorenzen to free agency this winter. While team front office could attempt to re-sign Lorenzen, the right-hander may still have aspirations of being a starter in the league and he’s unlikely to get that chance in Cincinnati.

The Redlegs should also move on from Amir Garrett this offseason. AG has gone from potential closer to a last resort out of the bullpen. Garrett will enter his second round of arbitration this winter, but the Reds would do well to just non-tender AG and move on. Garrett owns a 6.18 ERA, 1.678 WHIP, and -0.5 WAR this season.

Yimi Garcia has enjoyed a great deal of success over the last three seasons. Splitting time between the Los Angeles Dodgers, Miami Marlins, and Houston Astros, Garcia has posted a 3.36 ERA over 132 games with 135 punch outs, a 1.000 WHIP, and a 126 ERA+.

Garcia has 15 saves on the season, though the Astros have yet to use Garcia in a save situation since acquiring the right-hander from the Marlins. The relief market will be ripe with quality arms this winter, and Nick Krall and the Reds front office will need to pounce early.

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA – AUGUST 29: Andrew Chafin #39 of the Oakland Athletics pitches. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA – AUGUST 29: Andrew Chafin #39 of the Oakland Athletics pitches. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) /

4. Nick Krall and the Reds need to sign left-handed reliever Andrew Chafin.

While the Cincinnati Reds upgraded their bullpen at the trade deadline, I was hopeful that Nick Krall and front office would have made more move. Andrew Chafin was available at the deadline and was eventually dealt to the Oakland Athletics. Chafin does have a $5.25M mutual option that he could exercise this offseason.

As I’ve already discussed, Amir Garrett should not return to the Queen City in 2022. But who do the Reds turn to late in games when they need a southpaw on the hill? Chafin has been one of the best left-handed relievers in the majors this season.

Chafin is 1-2 with a 1.67 ERA. The 32-year-old was brilliant with the Chicago Cubs earlier this season, posting a 2.06 ERA and 0.839 WHIP over 39.1 innings. But, the Ohio native has produced even better numbers since being shipped to the Bay Area.

Andrew Chafin owns a 0.90 ERA in 18 appearances out of the A’s pen. Chafin is 2-for-3 in save chances and has 20 strikeouts in 20 innings pitched. The southpaw has only two walks in those 20 innings as well. Chafin is an efficient pitcher; something this Cincinnati Reds bullpen desperately needs heading into 2022.

Next. Farmer should be a serious Gold Glove contender

The Reds do have a few of their own entering free agency this winter; namely Michael Lorenzen and Mychal Givens. Tucker Barnhart has a $7.5M team-option as well. Nick Krall will have an interesting task ahead as he attempts to keep the Redlegs in contention for the playoffs this season and into the future.

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