This surprise Reds player could be sent down when Emilio Pagán activated from IL

The Reds may need to shake things up.
Cincinnati Reds pitcher Emilio Pagan
Cincinnati Reds pitcher Emilio Pagan / Ben Jackson/GettyImages

The Cincinnati Reds are expected to activate Emilio Pagán from the 15-day IL on Thursday. Pagán had been sidelined with right triceps soreness since exiting a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers last month.

But Pagán's return to the Reds bullpen will result in a corresponding move that will send a member of the Reds' pitching staff to the minor leagues — or possibly result in a DFA.

Conventional wisdom suggests that Sam Moll could be optioned back to Triple-A, as he's one of the few relievers on Cincinnati's roster with minor-leage options remaining. Buck Farmer or Justin Wilson could be designated for assignment, but that seems unlikely. However, there is an unconventional transaction the Reds might make prior to Thursday's game against the Chicago Cubs.

Will the Reds option Graham Ashcraft in order to activate Emilio Pagán from the IL?

Graham Ashcraft, fresh off his shortest start of the 2024 season, could be optioned to Triple-A Louisville in order to activate Pagán from the 15-day IL. Teams are limited to carrying just 13 pitchers, regardless of whether they're considered a starter or reliever.

Ashcraft has not fared well of late, and there's been a lot of discussion about his mechanics. Ashcraft has also struggled when facing the opposing batting order for a third time, which could signal an eventual switch from starter to reliever.

Ashcraft battled during Wednesday's game against the Colorado Rockies, but was lifted after just 3.2 innings. Ashcraft threw 73 pitches, struck out just two and allowed four runs on six hits. Those four runs came in the first inning, so Ashcraft deserves some credit for bouncing back and not completely collpasing over the next three innings he was on the mound.

Could Brandon Williamson replace Graham Ashcraft in the Reds starting rotation?

Ashcraft's struggles coincide with Brandon Williamson's success down at Triple-A. The left-hander began the year on the 60-day IL and is currently on a rehab assignment with the Louisville Bats. Williamson has been stellar this season with a 0.66 ERA in four rehab starts. Williamson has a 0.73 WHIP and 11 strikeouts in 13.2 innings pitched.

The Reds could activate Pagán and option Ashcraft which would give the Reds' nine relievers for the upcoming series against the Cubs. With Monday's off-day, Cincinnati could operate with a four-man rotation until the upcoming road trip to Milwaukee. The Reds could then activate Williamson from the IL to fill the role as the team's fifth starter.

Going to a four-man rotation would allow Ashcraft to get some time to work on his mechanics down at Triple-A while also giving Williamson another start to build up his pitch count — the southpaw has yet to go past 50 pitches in any of his outings this season.

This would be unconventional, but it would certainly work. Cincinnati would have a well-rested bullpen with players like Nick Martinez and Brent Suter to go multiple innings in relief. Ashcraft's eventual role may be that of a reliever, but if he is sent down to Triple-A, Cincinnati should keep sending him out as a starter to help maintain quality depth. Connor Phillips, Lyon Richardson, and Christian Roa have struggled this season.

More Cincinnati Reds News and Rumors