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Inbox: Could Reds reel in free-agent pitching?

Beat reporter Mark Sheldon answers questions from fans
MLB.com @m_sheldon

We all know the Reds need starting pitchers. What is the possibility of the Reds signing top-tier pitchers like Dallas Keuchel or Patrick Corbin, or even guys like Gio Gonzalez, Wade Miley and Hyun-Jin Ryu?
-- Josh K., Cincinnati

Since you sent this question, Ryu accepted the qualifying offer to remain with the Dodgers another year. With an increased payroll and a desire to get better sooner than later, the Reds should be more aggressive with free agents than in years past. However, it would seem overly optimistic to believe they can win a bidding war against teams like the Yankees or Red Sox for the likes of Keuchel or Corbin. I've been saying since the end of the season that Gonzalez and/or Miley would likely be good fits as pitchers and in price.

We all know the Reds need starting pitchers. What is the possibility of the Reds signing top-tier pitchers like Dallas Keuchel or Patrick Corbin, or even guys like Gio Gonzalez, Wade Miley and Hyun-Jin Ryu?
-- Josh K., Cincinnati

Since you sent this question, Ryu accepted the qualifying offer to remain with the Dodgers another year. With an increased payroll and a desire to get better sooner than later, the Reds should be more aggressive with free agents than in years past. However, it would seem overly optimistic to believe they can win a bidding war against teams like the Yankees or Red Sox for the likes of Keuchel or Corbin. I've been saying since the end of the season that Gonzalez and/or Miley would likely be good fits as pitchers and in price.

Hot Stove: Latest offseason rumors

Reds president of baseball operations Dick Williams didn't sound like someone planning to blow out the budget for the best two free-agent starting pitchers.

"We've always been hesitant to make the commitments at the very top end of the market because they have a lot more risk carried with them," Williams told me on Friday. "We'll chase down as many different options as we can. Historically, we've been careful about that top end of the market."

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It often perplexes me when I hear of a potential trade or speculation relative to a trade. The most recent is trading Eugenio Suarez for pitching. The problem with this is that the pitching had better be ready or near ready to pitch in MLB, not prospects; those days have passed, in my opinion. What are your thoughts on trading a future superstar by position for ready-to-wear starting pitching?
-- Neb N., Pasadena, Calif.

First, while appearing on the Reds Hot Stove radio show last week, Williams shot down the idea of trading Suarez by saying a rumor was unfounded. The San Diego Union-Tribune had reported that the Padres coveted Suarez in possible trade talks.

I wouldn't trade Suarez, especially with his club-friendly seven-year, $66 million contract with six years left. But if the Reds do move to acquire top-end pitching via a trade, they are going to part with very good players and/or prospects. I can imagine any team with a viable ace on the trade block would ask for the likes of Hunter Greene, Nick Senzel, Raisel Iglesias and others. The Reds dealt four quality players and top prospects to get Mat Latos from San Diego before the 2012 season.

Video: PIT@CIN: Suarez crushes a solo homer to center in 4th

I wish I could be more upbeat regarding either the signing of a free-agent pitcher or trading for one. With deals like the Cubs got into with Yu Darvish, that route seems risky. How are the Reds going to protect themselves from getting into situations like the Cubs did with Yu or like the Reds did with Ryan Madson a few years ago?
-- John J., Indianapolis

When Madson blew out his elbow during 2012 Spring Training, there were no known signs that he would break down like that. The good thing for Cincinnati was that Madson had a one-year contract. The bad news was the club paid $8 million without him throwing a single pitch in a game. The Cubs are probably a bit nervous about Darvish, who had a rough first season after signing a six-year, $126 million contract that runs through 2023. The Reds had no expectation that Homer Bailey would be somewhat injury-prone after he signed his six-year, $105 million deal in 2014.

Before clubs like the Reds make trades or sign free agents, they do all the due diligence possible -- physicals, examining past medical records and tests, background checks and more -- to protect themselves for a potential big investment. Sometimes, it just doesn't work out.

Weird how Adam Duvall was shipped off for a sack of taters, don't you think? Never heard of any of the guys that came back helping the club soon. Definitely missed his bat and defense in second half, and we got worse without him. Any insight?
-- @theAgent_Z on Twitter

Duvall wasn't really having a great third full season in Cincinnati after two years of robust power. Before he was dealt to Atlanta on July 30 for right-handed pitchers Lucas Sims and Matt Wisler and outfielder Preston Tucker, Duvall was batting .205/.286/.399 with 15 home runs and 61 RBIs. After the trade, he batted .132 in 33 games with zero homers and zero RBIs, so I'm not sure what you're seeing about missing his production. The Braves even moved to reacquire Tucker a month later. Yes, Duvall's defense was stellar again, but his poor offense made him a likely non-tender candidate as he headed into arbitration eligibility for the first time.

Will Michael Lorenzen get a legitimate look at possibly making the starting rotation in camp?
-- Shawn E., on Facebook

It's hard to say right now, since the Reds have yet to acquire anyone outside the organization. New manager David Bell also has yet to weigh in. Former interim manager Jim Riggleman was certainly willing to let Lorenzen compete for a rotation spot but also noted his value as a versatile reliever and pinch-hitter. Lorenzen definitely wants to start, and I imagine he will lobby Bell and new pitching coach Derek Johnson for the opportunity to prove himself.

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.

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