In the National League, more specifically the NL Central, the playoff picture is looking particularly open, as far as the month of May normally states.
One month into the regular season, the Redlegs sit just a game out of first place in the division expected to be under strict occupation by the incumbent first place Cubs and the struggling Cardinals.
While the team is technically in a “rebuilding mode”, there’s no reason for fans to cheer for the team’s failure, so treating the team’s 15-14 start like an aberration is potentially irresponsible; the Reds were seemingly just short of a culture change away from Dusty Baker during the current Nats’ manager’s tenure with Cincinnati.
Holding the Reds’ back from any improbable run will be the starting pitching, a unit who’ finds themselves in dead-last with a 5.63 ERA across another league-low 139.0 innings tossed. This comes in tandem with the bullpen with the most innings thrown at 121 frames with the eighth-best ERA at 3.20 for the unit.
If the Reds plan to keep their bullpen supported, saving their elbows for more crucial moments, then the starters have to start giving them more by giving them less.
Largely, the innings are coming after poor-ish starts by a slew of young starting pitching, who still have a lot to learn about going deep into big league innings (except Amir Garrett, stay golden #50…).
Cody Reed, Sal Romano, Tim Adelman, etc., aren’t guys manager Bryan Price can expect to pitch 6-7 innings in a start, but the problems have come when these arms are giving the Reds 4 innings or less.
During the early months of 2017, the Reds found themselves in the mix for a number of small, short-term contracts in the MLB pitching market, winding up with the tandem of relief arm Drew Storen and starting innings-eater Scott Feldman. Additionally, the club signed an additional veteran right-hander in Bronson Arroyo to help give a wildly-young staff some guidance and innings.
Still left on the market is a starting pitcher with a 3.60 ERA and a career 77-76 record who averages a little better than 6 IP per contest; that man is 8-year veteran Doug Fister.
The case for and against Fister is pretty simple; he’s a veteran who can give you reliable starts, but perhaps not reliable stats. For the righty, his less-than-perfect numbers of late are indicative of his standing free agency.
In 2016, Fister went 12-13 with a 4.64 ERA over 180.1 IP for the Houston Astros, who had signed him to a one-year, $7 million deal in the offseason.
Considering the price tag on Fister, who had been somewhere between serviceable and All-Star quality at various points over his career, the Reds could probably write a one-year, $4 million deal and get a lot of potential value to a short-term investment.
With a relatively inexpensive, one-year tag on a veteran, you place yourself in a very safe market as a “rebuilding roster”.
Optimists would see the move as an early plug to spark a run at the Fall Classic. In 55.1 innings of October baseball, Fister is 4-2 with a 2.60 ERA and 40 Ks. With Fister toeing the rubber, the Reds immediately pick up an arm that can go deep into a postseason game and get outs.
On the other hand, you have the more-than-likely scenario where you start to feel a slip in potential for contention around the trade deadline and you move your asset to a team still sitting in contention in need of starting pitching. This option allows you to continue to feed a young rotation with innings, but potentially getting an additional prospect to progress your farm system.