2. The Reds could package Christian Encarnacion-Strand for a frontline starter
The Cincinnati Reds are one big free agent signing or blockbuster trade away from being the undisputed frontrunner in the National League Central heading into the 2024 season.
The Reds rotation would currently include Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo, Graham Ashcraft, Andrew Abbott, and perhaps some mix of Nick Martinez, Brandon Williamson, and Connor Phillips as the fifth starter.
This is where the idea of trading for Dylan Cease, or another ace, comes in. While last season saw the right-hander drop off from his standing as one of the top pitchers in the American League, the talent is still there.
Many Reds fans will look at his 4.58 ERA and be incredibly dismissive. However, dig just little deeper and you'll see that Cease's 3.72 FIP suggests his defense didn't do him any favors.
Cease also recorded 33 starts in 2023, making that three straight years that the 27-year-old has eclipsed 32 starts in a season. Cease also logged 165 or more innings pitched in those three seasons.
While Tyler Glasnow and Shane Bieber are on the Reds' wishlist this winter as well, neither provides the durabilty of Cease. Glasnow hasn't gone over 150 innings pitched in a single season throughout his major league career, and Bieber struggled with elbow issues in 2023.
There's also the contract situation. Cease is under team control for two more seasons, while both Glasnow and Bieber will be free agents after 2024. Glasnow is also owed $25 million next season.
Whether it's Dylan Cease, Tyler Glasnow, or Shane Bieber, the Cincinnati Reds need to a top-of-the-rotation starter. Cease seems like the perfect fit for the Reds, but a player like Christian Encarnacion-Strand could be part of the return.