3 mid-tier starters the Reds should target during free agency and 1 they should avoid

If the Reds don't want to spend top-dollar, which free agent starters could be good fits in Cincinnati?

San Diego Padres starting pitcher Michael Wacha
San Diego Padres starting pitcher Michael Wacha / Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
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The Cincinnati Reds are not known to be big spenders. Very rarely will you see Bob Castellini and the Reds ownership group open up their wallet to land high-dollar free agents.

After watching Mike Moustakas bleed the club dry for $64-million worth of below-average play, you can understand why the Reds might shy away from offering up big-money deals to free agents.

However, some mid-tier free agents are much more up Cincinnati's alley. There are several of those types of players who are set to be free agents this offseason. With a need for starters heading into 2024, which mid-tier free agent pitchers should the Reds target, and which one should they avoid?

Reds should target Padres starter Michael Wacha in free agency

While Blake Snell is the likely NL Cy Young Award-winner this year, there was another San Diego Padres pitcher who put up solid numbers in 2023 as well. Michael Wacha put forth a solid season and should be on the Cincinnati Reds radar this winter.

Yes, that same Micahel Wacha who played for the St. Louis Cardinals for all those years. Formerly a division rival of the Reds, the right-hander posted a 14-4 record in 2023 with 3.22 ERA in 24 starts for the Friars.

Wacha did land on the injured list for several weeks last season with a shoulder injury, but prior to his IL stint, the 32-year-old owned a sparkling 2.84 ERA. That said, Wacha hasn't eclipsed 135 innings pitched the past three seasons, so durability could be a concern.

Nothing about Wacha is going to blow you away, but he gets weak contact and limits the free passes. Wacha will mix five different pitches including a very good changeup.

There are others who could be a better fit for the Cincinnati Reds, but don't be shocked to hear Michael Wacha's name once free agency begins.

Reds should target Orioles starter Kyle Gibson in free agency

Kyle Gibson is an intriguing name to watch this winter. Gibson started 33 games for the Baltimore Orioles this past season while posting 4.73 ERA over 192 innings of work. If you're looking for a workhorse, Gibson has averaged over 180 innings pitched the past three seasons.

Gibson, much like Michael Wacha, is not going to blow you away with his stuff. The right-hander averages just 92 mph on his heater. With an average exit velocity in the 30th percentile, according to Baseball Savant, don't look to Gibson for soft contact.

But, one thing Gibson does offer is a high ground ball-rate. The 36-year-old kept the ball on the ground almost 50-percent of the time. Every Reds fan knows that Great American Ball Park is not friendly to fly ball pitchers, so having a hurler who keeps the ball on the ground is a plus.

Kyle Gibson also does a very good job of keeping free runners off the bases. Last season, Gibson owned a walk-rate of less than 7-percent. Last season, Reds pitching allowed the most walks (613) in the National League, so having a pitcher who avoids clogging the base paths with free runners could certainly help.

Again, Gibson isn't going to wow anyone with his peripherals or velocity. The veteran, however, has an extenisve pitch repertoire and could be a solid back-of-the-rotation piece for the Cincinnati Reds in 2024.

The Reds should target Giants starter Alex Cobb during free agency

There is a cavaet when it comes to San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Alex Cobb. According to Spotrac, Cobb has a $10-million club-option for the 2024 season. It's not yet known if the Giants will exercise this option, but if they decline, the Cincinnati Reds should pounce at the opportunity.

There are some who'll scoff at this idea because of Cobb's age. The right-hander is 36 years old and was drafted all the way back in 2006. But lately, we've seen pitchers like Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, and Adam Wainwright pitch into their late-30s and early-40s.

Cobb does one thing very, very well, and it would be a great asset for any pitcher who takes the moung in Cincinnati. Cobb has a 57.8-percent ground ball-rate, which ranks in the 95th percentile according to Baseball Savant.

Cobb is not going to collect a lot of punch outs. Last season, Cobb posted a 20.3-percent strikeout-rate with 131 strikeouts in 151.1 innings of work. But, Cobb owned a measly walk-rate of just 5.7-percent.

With so many young pitchers the Cincinnati Reds staff, adding a grizzled veteran like Alex Cobb could be an achor in the rotation. Cobb was an All-Star in 2023 and has posted a 3.79 ERA the past three seasons.

Reds should avoid Dodgers starter Lance Lynn in free agency

It would have been one thing if the Cincinnati Reds were looking for pitching depth at the trade deadline last season and made a play for Lance Lynn. The same could have been said for Jack Flaherty or Lucas Giolito.

But after seeing the disasterous way that Lynn exited the field during his final appearance of the 2023 season, it's hard to see the right-hander being part of the solution in Cincinnati. Lynn gave up four home runs in one inning during Game 3 of the NLDS against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Sheesh!

Lynn led all of Major League Baseball in home runs allowed last season. Lookin back at his career, it's easy to say that his 2023 performance could be an outlier. However, do the Reds really want to take that risk with a 36-year-old pitcher?

Lynn could be seen as a backend starter, and after a poor showing in 2023, one has to assume that the righty will be looking for a one-year "prove it" deal. The right-hander can still get swings and misses, but last season's perforamnce is hard to ignore.

Would it be the worst decision in the world for the Cincinnati Reds to sign Lance Lynn to a contract during free agency this offseason? No, but with so many mid-tier pitchers available this winter, some of which that will be even less expensive, it's not wise to pursue a pitcher like Lynn who's on the backside of his career.