Start Trek: Reds could add vet to rotation

Experienced starter would add insurance, healthy competition

Start Trek: Reds could add vet to rotation

CINCINNATI -- The Reds' Hot Stove season is entering its final month before pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training on Feb. 13. There are still numerous areas the club would like to bolster before it gets to camp.

One prediction: The Reds will land a veteran starting pitcher from the free-agent market to compete for the lone vacancy in the rotation.

Looking for bargains, Reds general manager Dick Williams has more than a few things going in his favor regarding the remaining free-agent starters. In what was already a lukewarm market in terms of quality, there is a large supply of arms and not a ton of demand.

Hot Stove Tracker

Jake Peavy, Jered Weaver and Doug Fister are all available and fit the Reds' needs, but guys like Colby Lewis, Bud Norris or Lucas Harrell are perhaps better options for the club's budget. Former Giants ace Tim Lincecum is trying to make a comeback and could be a good fit, as well.

Peavy's dominant road start

The Reds already have four starters expected to lock down rotaion spots before camp: Anthony DeSclafani, Homer Bailey, Dan Straily and Brandon Finnegan. Several of their prized young pitchers are also in the running for the fifth spot, including Cody Reed, Amir Garrett -- Cincinnati's No. 2 prospect, per MLBPipeline.com -- and Robert Stephenson (No. 4). Tim Adleman isn't a prospect, but he impressed at the end of last season, earning a shot.

So why pay to add a veteran? It's simple: insurance and a chance to push the competition. The last thing the Reds can afford is a repeat of the second half of 2015 and first half of '16, when they didn't have enough quality arms.

Lewis flirts with no-no

Manager Bryan Price liked what his projected rotation looked like heading into camp last year. Then one disaster struck after another as DeSclafani, Michael Lorenzen and Jon Moscot went down with injuries and Homer Bailey wasn't ready to return from Tommy John surgery. Raisel Iglesias was also injured early on. Price had to use 15 different starters to get through the year, revealing that many of younger guys weren't quite ready.

Straily, a waiver claim just before Opening Day, proved to be a steal, however, with 14 wins and 191 1/3 innings.

The Reds were less fortunate after they tried to hedge their bets with free agent Alfredo Simon, who was brought back on a one-year, $2 million deal in mid-March with hopes that he could eat innings and provide stability. Instead, Simon went 2-7 with a 9.36 ERA and 2.045 WHIP over 58 2/3 innings in 15 games (11 starts) and missed much of the season with shoulder issues.

DeSclafani's first MLB shutout

Whoever the Reds get may receive a nice opportunity, but they also must enter with their eyes wide open. Any veteran, especially on a likely one-year deal, must be prepared to pitch in a relief role should they not win the job against one of the kids or if they falter during the season.

But if the prices are reasonable enough to keep the risk low, the Reds have little to lose by giving a job-seeking veteran a shot.

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.