Reds seek veteran arms for rotation, 'pen

Front office targets experienced hurlers to complement young prospects

Reds seek veteran arms for rotation, 'pen

CINCINNATI -- The Reds rarely go big when it comes to landing free agents. Despite having some holes to fill heading into the 2018 season, don't expect that to change.

That doesn't mean that Reds general manager Dick Williams won't be talking or negotiating with available players, however.

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In his first offseason of running the baseball operations side for Cincinnati, Williams added a veteran starter in Scott Feldman and an experienced reliever in Drew Storen. Both pitchers made decent contributions before injuries ended their seasons prematurely.

Following a 94-loss campaign in 2017, the Reds find themselves back in a similar position, in need of a veteran starter and at least one experienced reliever.

Free agents: SS Zack Cozart, RHP Feldman, RHP Storen, RHP Bronson Arroyo and RHP Asher Wojciechowski

Arbitration-eligible players: 2B Scooter Gennett (second year), OF Billy Hamilton (second year), RHP Anthony DeSclafani (first year), RHP Michael Lorenzen (first year), 3B Eugenio Suarez (first year). RHP Raisel Iglesias would be eligible for the first time if he chose to opt out of his contract, but that seems unlikely.

Biggest potential free-agent loss: Cozart put together a career season in his walk year, batting .297/.385/.548 with 24 homers and 63 RBIs while also playing strong defense, earning him a debut All-Star nod. Beyond the numbers, the 32-year-old was a clubhouse leader who had a positive effect on the younger players.

Cozart's two-run smash

It seems unlikely that the Reds will give Cozart the one-year qualifying offer of $17.4 million in an effort to try to get a compensation Draft pick if he signs elsewhere. The club is also prepared to use Jose Peraza at shortstop and shortly could have an option in top prospect Nick Senzel.

But if Cozart explores the market and doesn't find what he likes, the Reds seem open to bringing him back on a shorter-term deal at the right price. This could be a storyline to follow for much of the offseason.

Possible free-agent targets: The top pitchers on the market -- think Yu Darvish, Jake Arrieta, even Lance Lynn -- will be out of the price range Cincinnati normally spends. But with veteran starters DeSclafani and Homer Bailey and young lefty Brandon Finnegan dogged by injuries, they cannot be counted on for 200 innings next season. It's also unlikely they would push 2017 rookies Luis Castillo, Sal Romano or Robert Stephenson that hard, that soon.

Stephenson's eight-K outing

The second tier of free agents, including Andrew Cashner, Doug Fister, Alex Cobb, Derek Holland or Jaime Garcia, has more names the Reds could potentially sign for the rotation. For his part, Feldman also expressed interest in coming back after he fully recovers from knee surgery. For the bullpen, possible fits might be Sergio Romo, Jason Motte, Pat Neshek or Tyler Clippard.

Wild-card scenario: If the Reds don't like what they see on the open market, they have depth to make trades to get what they need. With Jesse Winker ready to play every day, a corner outfielder like Adam Duvall or Scott Schebler -- or even Hamilton -- could be part of a package that entices another team to make a deal. Savings from avoiding the free-agent market could be used toward trying to retain Cozart, if the team decides it needs him back.

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.