The Reds announced they have declined their end of a mutual option on left-hander Mike Minor, making him a free agent. He’ll receive a $1MM buyout instead of a $13MM salary for next year.
Prior to the 2021 season, Minor signed with the Royals on a two-year contract with a club option for 2023. In the event Minor was traded, that club option would become a mutual option, which indeed came to pass when the Royals flipped him to the Reds for Amir Garrett going into 2022.
In the first year of that deal, Minor made 28 starts for the Royals and tossed 158 2/3 innings. His 5.05 ERA certainly didn’t elicit much excitement, though there were reasons to think he could have deserved better. His 22.3% strikeout rate was just a shade under league average among starting pitchers that year, though his 6.1% walk rate was almost two ticks below the 7.8% par. His 66.4% strand rate was also much worse than the 72.5% median, leading advanced metrics to come in better than his ERA, such as a 4.38 xERA, 4.29 FIP, 4.32 xFIP and 4.20 SIERA.
Going into 2022, the Reds did some roster clearing, mostly for financial reasons. Wade Miley was put on waivers and claimed by the Cubs, while Sonny Gray was traded to the Twins. They held onto Luis Castillo and Tyler Mahle, but it was still expected that those guys would likely be moved later, which did indeed come to pass at the trade deadline. Taking all that into consideration, they needed a veteran to maintain a steady presence in the rotation and acquired Minor to be that guy.
There was some logic to this, as Minor had made at least 28 starts in the previous three full seasons as well as 11 in the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign. Unfortunately, that durability didn’t carry over into 2022, with Minor making multiple trips to the IL due to shoulder issues. He did end up taking the ball 19 times in 2022, though he was not able to be very effective when he did. He posted a 6.06 ERA on the year, with a diminished strikeout rate of 16.7%. Based on that disappointing season, it’s no surprise that the Reds have turned down their end of the bargain. Minor turns 35 years old in December and has also mulled retirement.
Despite losing Minor and the aforementioned traded pitchers, the rotation is one of the more interesting parts of the roster for the rebuilding Reds. Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo and Graham Ashcraft all made their debuts in 2022 and each showed varying levels of promise. That could give the club a strong nucleus of starters to build around as they look to move towards their next competitive window.