Ranking the 3 best options to upgrade the Reds rotation without breaking the bank

Whether through a trade or free agency, the Reds still have opportunities to bolster the starting rotation.

Cleveland Guardians pitcher Lucas Giolito
Cleveland Guardians pitcher Lucas Giolito / Ron Schwane/GettyImages
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A lot has been made of the $700-million contract that Shohei Ohtani signed this past week. The Los Angeles Dodgers then doubled-down on their spending spree by trading for Tyler Glasnow and inking the right-hander to a massive contract extension.

The Cincinnati Reds, unlike the Dodgers, are not in a position to just flush money down the toilet. Instead, president of baseball operations Nick Krall usually attempts to operate within the margins.

Don't look fo Cincinnati to enter the Yoshinobu Yamamoto sweepstakes, nor should Reds fans assume that Blake Snell is on the team's radar. However, there are a few ways the Reds could look to bolster the starting rotation without breaking the bank.

3. The Reds could sign Lucas Giolito to a one-year deal without breaking the bank

There are other starting pitchers on the open market, but few have the pedigree of Lucas Giolito. If you're one of the many fans throughout Reds Country would want to see Cincinnati sign a durable starter, then Lucas Giolito is your man.

Giolito has started at least 30 games in each of the past three seasons. Wipe out the pandemic-shortened 2020 season and Giolito has surpassed 160 innings pitched every year since 2018. Giolito is the type of pitcher that you know is going to give you his best every fifth day.

There is, of course, the horrific close to his 2023 campagin that is fresh in the minds of most baseball fans. After being traded from the Chicago White Sox, Giolito looked like a shell of his former self.

The former All-Star gave up an inordinate amount of home runs while his ERA hovered around 7.00 during his time with the Los Angeles Angels and Cleveland Guardians.

But Lucas Giolito has what it takes to be a frontline starter in the majors and will likely accept a one-year prove-it deal. Jack Flaherty just signed a one-year deal for about $14 million with the Detroit Tigers, and it's a good bet that Giolito will be looking for something similar.

2. The Reds could trade for Shane Bieber without breaking the bank

Not everything is about the money. Trading for Shane Bieber might cost the Cincinnati Reds a few prospects instead. But with such a deep farm system, would it really be the end of the world if the club gave up a player like Carlos Jorge in order to swing a deal for a former Cy Young Award-winner?

After seeing Tyler Glasnow traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers, Bieber may be the next top-of-the-rotation starter to change addresses. Strangely enough, no club has been linked to Bieber more than the Reds. Perhaps these MLB Insiders know something we don't.

It's not as if Cleveland and Cincinnati haven't made trades in the past. Brandon Phillips, Trevor Bauer, and Will Benson all came to the Reds organization by way of a deal with the Guardians.

Bieber is estimated by MLB Trade Rumors to take home about $12.2 million. As was the case with Glasnow, trading for Bieber does not come without risk. The right-hander experienced elbow inflammation a year ago that shut Bieber down for the better part of two months.

If healthy, Shane Bieber is a much better pitcher than Tyler Glasnow. But after watching a decrease in his velocity last season, there are serious questions about Bieber's long-term health. Bieber has also been said to be willing to enter into contract extension talks. That, however, might break the bank.

1. The Reds could trade for Dylan Cease without breaking the bank

To be clear, the Cincinnati Reds would be giving up a bunch in prospect capital in order to pull off the deal. While the Reds may be able to land Shane Bieber by including one of their Top 10 prospects as part of a trade package, it'll take at least two, if not three top prospects to pry Dylan Cease away from the Chicago White Sox.

And with good reason. Cease, unlike Bieber, is under team control through the 2025 season. That extra year will cost a lot in terms of prospects. Reds fans would have to be okay with the organization parting ways with players like Chase Petty, Rhett Lowder, Sal Stewart, and others.

But that's the cost of doing business on the prospect-side of things. In terms of money, Cease wouldn't cost much at all. The right-hander is estimated to take home $8.8 million per MLB Trade Rumors. That's just a touch more than Cincinnati paid to bring Emilio Pagán into the fold this winter.

Cease is arguably the least accomplished of all three pitchers mentioned, but has perhaps the highest ceiling. Much like Lucas Giolito, Dylan Cease is a very durable starting pitcher. That's a tough factor to ignore after watching Nick Lodolo and Graham Ashcraft end the season on the 60-day IL.

The White Sox are said to be waiting out the chase for Yoshinobu Yamamoto. Once the star pitcher from Japan is off the market, teams who missed out may come begging for Cease's services.

Outside of maybe the Baltimore Orioles and Los Angeles Dodgers, no team has the prospect capital like the Reds to get a deal done. Cease wouldn't break the bank, but it would still be a costly transaction.