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Wade Miley Waived, Nick Castellanos Opts Out

Wade Miley Waived, Nick Castellanos Opts Out
By Reds Content Plus • Issue #172 • View online
In today’s MORNING SPIN:
  • Wave Goodbye to Wade
  • Castellanos Opts Out, Gets QO
  • Wilson Exercises Player Option
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Miley Waived by Reds
On Friday afternoon, the Reds dropped a bit of surprising news by announcing that starting pitcher Wade Miley had been claimed off of waivers by the Cubs. Understandably, the move set off a firestorm on Twitter with loads of takes on the move. Here’s ours.
Miley was arguably the Reds’ best pitcher in 2021, at least until September. In 163 innings and 28 starts, he posted a 3.37 ERA and ranked in the 95th percentile in average exit velocity allowed. He threw a no-hitter in May, the Reds’ first since Homer Bailey in 2013. Miley’s peripheral numbers weren’t quite as shiny as his ERA (4.15 xERA, 3.97 FIP, 4.07 xFIP), but all were still above average. If it wasn’t the best year of his career, it was easily his best since 2012, his second MLB season.
The Reds’ Decision
The left-hander had a $10 million option for the 2022 season. Based on his 2021 season alone, that would seem to make the decision to pick up the option a no-brainer. But there’s nuance to the situation that complicates the decision. The elephant in the room is that Miley will soon turn 35 years old and isn’t likely to replicate his 2021 success. We’re not saying he’ll be terrible in 2022; he may even be as good as he was in 2021. The Reds would’ve had to make a $10 million bet on the latter, and that’s a risky proposition for a player of Miley’s age.
With all that said, the team had a few likely options:
  • Pick up his option for 2022
  • Pick up his option (a decision had to be made by today, Nov. 6) and try to trade him later in the offseason
  • Pay him $1 million to buy out his contract, making him a free agent
  • Trade him before the option decision deadline, as the Reds did with Tucker Barnhart
However, the team threw a Tejay Antone-esque curveball and waived Miley, knowing a team would claim him and they could at least save the $1 million buyout. The Cubs were the team to get him and will owe him $10 million next year. Reds general manager Nick Krall said the team attempted to trade Miley over the last month with no interested buyers (Nightengale).
In-house replacements for Miley include top prospects Hunter Greene and Nick Lodolo, who will compete for spots in the rotation in 2022.
Our Reaction
On one hand, it’s surprising the Reds couldn’t find a trade partner for Miley. Stunning, really. On the other hand, maybe that gives a sense of the collective judgment of the league on Miley at $10 million. The Cubs knew they would be early (5th) in the waiver order. So maybe they weren’t willing to give up a prospect with upside and decided to take their chances that no team in front of them would claim Miley first. Krall said the Cubs did not show interest in Miley in trade discussions (Nightengale).
One thing you can say about the Reds is that they have been unwilling to pick up options on players and then gamble on trading them or playing them for a couple months and then trying to trade. See: Raisel Iglesias. Why didn’t they bring him back in 2021 and see how the season went (financially, when fans would come back) and trade him at the deadline if it made sense? Teams always need closers at the deadline. But the Reds were risk averse about that and wanted to cut payroll first. It looks like they’ve done the same thing with Miley.
It’s too early to tell if the Reds are cutting payroll. The baseball decisions on Barnhart and Miley were close calls, for different reasons. Barnhart because of Tyler Stephenson. Miley because he’s 35 and fell apart again in September. Any team could have contacted the Reds in the last month and made an offer for him and apparently none did. The Barnhart trade proves the Reds would have taken a small return for Miley. That they didn’t get offered one, speaks volumes about how much value others see in Miley.
If another team wanted Miley, they would have made an offer, even if they were sure the Reds were going to decline his option. This would be especially true if the other team thought more than one team might be talking to the Reds. They might have made a lower offer, but they would have made some offer. But no one did. We’ve been critical of Krall and we aren’t here to defend him. However, even he would know to accept something for Miley if offered instead of nothing.
That means the market for Miley at $10 million probably wasn’t strong. Maybe it was right around $10 million. The Reds saw it as a way to spend $10 million elsewhere, and the Cubs were going to spend it on SP anyhow.
All that being said, if the Reds end up cutting payroll again and don’t make any significant additions during the winter, it’s absolutely fair to make the “Reds are cheap” criticism. As the roster currently stands, the Reds payroll would be around $110 million after projected arbitration increases.
But we don’t know yet if that’s where it ends up. As difficult as it is, patience may be the best route to take for now — for your sanity, if nothing else. We acknowledge, however, that the owners and front office haven’t earned the benefit of the doubt. And you can bet we’ll be among those leading the charge of criticism if the Reds go through another offseason absent of any movement aside from shedding payroll.
Castellanos Opts Out, Gets Qualifying Offer
We all knew it was coming. After an all-star season that should see him earn some down-ballot MVP votes, Nick Castellanos has opted out of the last two years of his contract with the Reds. He was owed $34 million over the next two seasons, and there’s a good chance he’ll beat that in free agency.
The Reds extended a qualifying offer worth $18.4 million to Castellanos. He’ll almost certainly reject that and hit free agency to lock up a longer-term deal, which will give the Reds draft pick compensation if he signs with another team.
Justin Wilson Opts In
Another non-surprise. Reliever Justin Wilson, who the Reds acquired along with Luis Cessa at the trade deadline, has exercised his $2.3 million player option for the 2022 season. Had he declined the option, the Reds would’ve had the choice to pick up a $7.15 million team option or buy out his contract for $1.15 million. Wilson knew the team almost certainly wasn’t going to pick up their option and decided to take the guaranteed $2.3 million.
Wilson pitched 21 games and 16 innings with the Reds following the trade, posting a 2.81 ERA and 3.54 FIP but a less flattering 4.50 xFIP. The left-hander’s fastball velocity took a dip from 94.9 mph in 2020 to 93.5 mph this year, which surely played a role in his strikeout rate dropping from 26.7% to 19.5%. His strikeout rate improved only marginally with the Reds.
With such a decrease in strikeouts, Wilson’s shaky control came back to bite him more than it had in the past. His 10.7% walk rate was right on par with his career average.
MORNING SPIN is a daily newsletter (Monday-Saturday) written by Matt Wilkes and Steve Mancuso. We are co-owners of and writers at Reds Content Plus.
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