3 wily veterans who could be short-term solutions at the backend of the Reds rotation

Rather than a frontline starter, will the Reds look to add depth to the backend of the rotation?

Boston Red Sox pitcher Corey Kluber
Boston Red Sox pitcher Corey Kluber / David Berding/GettyImages
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The St. Louis Cardinals kind of turned the free agent market on its head this week after signing Lance Lynn and Kyle Gibson to one-year contracts. Combined, the duo will coct $22 million and both players have a team-option included in their contract for the 2025 season.

This is a bit unusual, as aging starters and mid-tier pitchers typically take a backseat during the early-going of the free agent period while the high-dollar, frontline starters get signed first. But perhaps the Cardinals are on to something here.

With the Cincinnati Reds having so many young, talented starting pitchers within the organization, should president of baseball operations Nick Krall look to secure the services of a wily veteran to stablize the backend of the rotation? If so, who should the Reds target?

1. The Reds could sign veteran RHP Johnny Cueto

Now, come on, who wouldn't want to see this, right? All kidding aside, while Johnny Cueto is nowhere near the caliber pitcher he was during his tenure with the Cincinnati Reds all those years ago, the right-hander can still spin it.

Cueto, fresh off a tremendous showing with the Chicago White Sox in 2022, signed a free agent deal with the Miami Marlins last offseason. It seemed like wise investment on the part of the Marlins' front office. The year prior, Cueto posted a 3.35 ERA and covered 158 innings.

But 2023 was not Cueto's year. The right-hander started just 10 games, and appeared in a relief capacity three other times during his time in South Beach. Unfortunately, Cueto won just one game and posted a 6.02 ERA.

Does a reunion with the Cincinnati Reds make sense? Possibly. The veteran would take on the role of the team's No. 5 starter, provide some mentorship to the young hurlers, and still does a great job of keeping free runners off the base paths.

There are several free agent pitchers who'd be much worse than Johnny Cueto. Provided the numbers are doable and his role is defined, adding the former Reds hurler could be a net-positive for Cincinnati heading into 2024.

2. The Reds could sign veteran RHP Corey Kluber

The Cincinnati Reds fanbase is very familiar with Corey Kluber. For years, the right-hander would haunt the dreams of the Reds Country during the Ohio Cup. For a stretch, Kluber could stake the claim of being one of the best pitchers in the game.

But those days are long gone, and Kluber hardly has the presence of an ace. However, the right-hander isn't washed up. Kluber spent the past three seasons bouncing around the AL East with stints in New York, Tampa Bay, and Boston.

Kluber had a tremendous season for the Rays in 2022, but came back down to earth last season while pitching for the Red Sox. Kluber had a mix of starts and relief appearances and ended his 2023 campaign with a ghastly 7.04 ERA.

Kluber was shelved with a shoulder issue to end his 2023 season and the Red Sox declined Kluber's $11-million team-option for the 2024 season. A three-time All-Star and two-time Cy Young Award-winner, Kluber has the accolades, but most of those came years ago while pitching for Cleveland.

But, just like the aforementioned Johnny Cueto, Corey Kluber could provide great veteran leadership and a reliable arm at the backend of the Cincinnati Reds rotation. Kluber is still able to get those swings and misses depsite his fastball now sitting in the high-80s.

3. The Reds could sign veteran LHP Wade Miley

Wade Miley's name has already emerged in recent rumors, so one could be led to believe that a reunion with the southpaw could be in the works this offseason. Miley was unceremoniously waived after the 2021 season and picked up by the Chicago Cubs.

Last season, Miley pitched for the Milwaukee Brewers. After appearing in just nine games for the Cubbies the year prior, Miley pitched in 23 contests for the Brew Crew in 2023. As most Reds fans know, Miley relies heavily on weak contact.

The left-hander was among the best in the league in that department last season according to Baseball Savant. Miley's hard-hit rate was in the 93rd-percentile and his average exit velocity was in the 83rd percentile. When hitters got the bat on the ball it left at an average of just over 87 mph.

Miley is a ground ball pitcher, which works very, very well in Great American Ball Park. Last season, Miley kept the ball on the ground nearly 50-percent of the time. If Miley can stay healthy, which is always a question mark, he can be an effective pitcher at the back of any rotation.

Wade Miley offers more upside than the other two pitchers listed and had the most success of the trio last season. Miley is no spring chicken at 37 years old, but the left-hander is one of the most reliable starting pitchers in the game. If healthy, with Miley, you know what you're going to get.