Latest injury should halt any talk of a Reds-Nick Lodolo contract extension

Nick Lodolo's latest injury should put any contract extension talks to rest for the foreseeable future.
Cincinnati Reds pitcher Nick Lodolo (40) walk off the mound in the first inning
Cincinnati Reds pitcher Nick Lodolo (40) walk off the mound in the first inning / Albert Cesare/The Enquirer / USA TODAY

Just when it looked like Nick Lodolo was finally hitting his stride, the Cincinnati Reds announced that the young lefty was heading back to the IL — this time with a groin strain. It's the second IL trip of the year for Lodolo, who missed the first two weeks of the season with a lingering issue from the leg injury he sustained in 2023.

Lodolo had been exceptional in 6 starts this year. He'd pitched to a 3.34 ERA in 35 innings, going 3-2 with a 43:9 strikeout to walk ratio. Lodolo's 2.88 FIP is by far the best mark of his career and he'd been looking like the kind of guy you'd want heading your rotation in the future. Unfortunately, that idea went right down the drain with this latest injury.

Lodolo told reporters that he doesn't expect to miss significant time, but given his injury history, it's getting difficult for Reds fans to not assume the worst. The lefty was limited to just 34.1 innings in 2023, having spent the majority of last year on the IL due to a stress fracture in his leg.

Now is not the time for the Reds to sign Nick Lodolo to an extension

Lodolo also spent 71 days on the IL in 2022 with a back strain. The left-hander was called up for his major league debut in April but thanks to the injury, threw just over 100 innings in his first major league season. At this point, Reds fans are left to wonder how long it will be before we get a fully healthy season from him.

With the way he'd been pitching this year, some fans had started thinking about what it would look like if the team were to lock up Lodolo with a long-term contract extension. The team signed fellow starter Hunter Greene to a six-year, $53 million deal back in April of 2023, showing a willingness to commit to this group over the long-term.

While that deal looks pretty good right now, there were many who were questioning it when he was struggling and missing time last year. The current situation with Lodolo isn't entirely different. He's still young and has a small track record of success, but has missed way too much time to feel comfortable locking him up on a long-term deal. Plus, Lodolo is not eligible for arbitration until next year, and won't hit free agency until 2028 so there's no rush to get a deal done.

Another major difference between Greene's extension and a potential Lodolo one is that the Reds have a couple high-profile prospects closing in on making their major league debuts. Right-hander Rhett Lowder obliterated High-A and has already earned a promotion to Double-A in his first professional season. There's also Chase Petty, who posted a 1.95 ERA in 60 innings at High-A in 2023, looks like a legit big league arm.

With those guys on the way, along with lingering questions about Lodolo's health, it's fair to table any discussion about an extension for Lodolo. If he comes back healthy and keeps up this level of play for the rest of the season, then maybe we can re-open the conversation. But for now, it's best to just let him pitch and try to focus on staying healthy.

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