It was an inevitable deal. In the midst of a rebuilding project that is likely to last at least two more seasons, the Cincinnati Reds had no choice but to trade ace Johnny Cueto, or lose him via free agency. At last July’s deadline, the veteran right-hander was shipped to Kansas City for three promising left-handers in Brandon Finnegan, John Lamb and Cody Reed.
Cueto posted a 4.76 ERA in 13 unremarkable regular season starts for the Royals, but he delivered in October. The now 30-year-old Dominican Republic native limited Houston to two runs and two hits over eight innings in the deciding fifth game of the American League Divisional Series. He also logged a complete game two-hitter in Game Two of the World Series against the New York Mets.
The transaction produced immediate benefits for the Royals, as Cueto helped the club when its first World Series since 1985. He inked a lucrative deal with the San Francisco Giants in the offseason. Long term, the Reds are likely to yield favorable results from the trade.
All three acquisitions have a chance to see Major League time this year. Finnegan, the 22 year old who was selected 17th overall in out of Texas Christian University in the 2014 draft, is the most familiar name among the trio. He ascended to the Royals in September of that season, recording a 1.29 ERA in seven relief appearances. Finnegan also saw action in seven post-season games and was part of the Royals first American League pennant since 1985.
Considered a potential reliever or starter, Finnegan is battling for the No. 5 rotation spot. He could open the campaign at Triple-A Louisville, or he could find himself in the bullpen considering that manager Bryan Price is having issues finding arms that consistently get outs this spring. Boasting three quality pitches, Finnegan could emerge as a middle of the rotation starter long term.
The 25-year-old Lamb, who is rebounding from off-season back surgery, was a fifth round pick out of high school by the Royals in 2008. Once ranked as the No. 11 overall prospect on Baseball America’s Top 100 list before the 2011 season, Lamb posted a 3.59 ERA in 50 Triple-A appearances, including 49 starts. He was roughed up in 10 starts with the Reds after last July’s trade, posting a 5.80 ERA and a 1.55 WHIP, but he provides the club with a viable back of the rotation arm moving forward.
Many scouts believe that the 22-year-old Reed has the highest ceiling of the trio. He was impressive in four spring training outings, but the Reds preferred he get more minor league experience since he has pitched in just 13 games at Double-A (2.64 ERA, 1.14 WHIP).
Homer Bailey is returning from surgery, and the Reds rotation also features the recently signed Alfredo Simon, Anthony Desclafani and Raisel Iglesias. Starting opportunities could arise for Lamb and/or Finnegan this year. Finnegan and/or Reed could also see time in the bullpen, which lose closer Aroldis Chapman and has multiple vacancies as Opening Day draws near.