Eager to start, veteran righty Weaver joins Reds

January 14th, 2023

CINCINNATI -- The Reds added experience to their rotation competition on Friday by signing right-hander to a one-year, $2 million contract.

“It’s more about adding innings to the club," Reds general manager Nick Krall said. "We wanted to make sure we had a guy who has a chance to have quality innings for us. But it adds some pitching depth and starting depth and more competition in Spring Training.”

Weaver, 29, is a veteran of seven Major League seasons with the Cardinals, D-backs and Royals. Over 115 games (81 starts), he has a 24-36 record with a 4.79 ERA.

A starter most of his career, Weaver worked almost exclusively out of the bullpen last season for Arizona and Kansas City. In 26 games (one start) for both clubs, he went 1-1 with a 6.56 ERA. He missed over two months on the injured list with elbow inflammation.

Despite the injury, Statcast showed that Weaver's velocity ticked upward in a relief role. His four-seam fastball went from 93.6 mph in 2021 to 94.9 mph and his sinker jumped from 91.1 mph to 94.7 mph. 

"That’s always a great thing. Everybody is throwing so stinking hard these days," Weaver said. "I’ve always felt like I’ve had the velocity. I just never really pushed it over a threshold because I had been a starter for so long and wanted to be able to manage that. There is just a different mindset now."

The D-backs traded Weaver to the Royals on Aug. 1, and he was claimed off waivers by the Mariners after the season. Seattle non-tendered him in November, making him a free agent. Getting a chance to start again was a leading reason he signed with Cincinnati. 

"I'm in a new position of my career where some things in the past got me to this situation and I'm just looking for an opportunity to go back out there and make an impact for a ballclub and the Cincinnati Reds and create a strong value for myself with what I know I can do on the baseball field," Weaver said. "I think, just naturally, with the confidence that I have coming into this year, more than anything, I hope it impacts the ballclub and we do some great things in that way."

While Weaver didn't have sterling numbers, Krall noted that Weaver also had a 2.69 FIP (fielding independent pitching). It's a statistic that focuses solely on the events a pitcher has the most control over -- strikeouts, walks, hit-by-pitches and home runs. It removes results on balls hit into the field of play.

"There’s obviously luck in there," Krall said. "Sometimes guys do get hit more than they should, but I think overall he’s got a chance to turn over a lineup. And I think that we just need one to take a shot on, especially with how good his peripherals were last year."

"When you have an ERA like that, nothing feels great," Weaver said. "I think at the end of the day, I felt what I was going out there and doing was strong. I wasn’t really getting the recognition in which a player would want through his numbers, but with all the underlying statistics, algorithms, hoopla, I think there are some silver linings there. That’s really how I felt."

Following his first three seasons in the big leagues, he and two other players were traded from St. Louis to Arizona for All-Star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt in December 2018.

The Reds already expect , and to form the top three of their rotation. Weaver will compete for one of the final two spots with , , and prospects and . If Weaver doesn't crack the rotation, he would be used as a bullpen asset.

"We’ll see if he can make some adjustments and get him back on the right track," Krall said of Weaver. "I think he can start, he can relieve. It just adds another guy that gives you some innings and competition starting in Spring Training. If he gets back to where he was, he’s a solid back-end starter.”

Utility player Matt Reynolds was designated for assignment to make room for Weaver on Cincinnati's 40-man roster.

Reynolds manned seven defensive positions (including two outings as a pitcher) and also served as a designated hitter across 92 games in 2022, batting .246 with a .652 OPS and three home runs. If he clears waivers, Krall said he would like to bring Reynolds back as a Spring Training non-roster invitee.