August 18: The Reds have officially released Weaver, the team announced on Friday. He is now a free agent.
August 16: The Reds have designated starting pitcher Luke Weaver for assignment, the team has announced. They have recalled Alan Busenitz from Triple-A Louisville to take his place on the 26-man roster.
The Cardinals selected Weaver in the first round of the 2014 draft, and he spent the first five years of his professional career in the Cardinals organization. Following the 2018 season, he was one of three players sent to the Diamondbacks in exchange for Paul Goldschmidt, famously one of the more lopsided trades in recent memory. In his first three seasons with Arizona, Weaver was an average starting pitcher (4.45 ERA, 4.19 SIERA), but he missed significant time with injuries in 2019 and 2021.
In 2022, the Diamondbacks moved him to the bullpen, where he posted a 3.55 ERA in 11 appearances. He was traded to the Royals at the deadline and continued to pitch out of the ’pen for Kansas City. The Royals non-tendered him after the season rather than paying him an estimated $3MM in arbitration.
As a free agent, Weaver signed a one-year, $2MM contract with the Reds. He missed the first three weeks of the 2023 season nursing a strained elbow flexor and struggled upon his return, posting a 6.87 ERA in 97 innings pitched. His underlying numbers are slightly better (4.78 SIERA, 5.75 xERA), but it’s impossible to deny that the 2023 season has gone poorly for the 29-year-old. He has failed to escape the fifth inning in 12 of his 21 starts, and his strikeout rate has fallen to a career-worst 19%.
The Reds will need to place Weaver on outright waivers within seven days. The right-hander has more than five years of MLB service time, which means that if he clears waivers, he will have the option to reject an outright assignment to the minor leagues without sacrificing any salary remaining on his contract.
Hunter Greene, who has been out since mid-June with hip soreness, is expected to make his return this weekend, when he can take what would have been Weaver’s next turn in the rotation. Still, the Reds will need one additional starting pitcher. They have gotten by with a four-man rotation since August 7, when Lyon Richardson was optioned to Triple-A. However, after an off-day on Thursday, they’ll play 20 games in the next 20 days. Brett Kennedy is expected to make a start in the coming days, according to Gordon Wittenmyer of the Cincinnati Enquirer. Ben Lively will also be a candidate to join the rotation when he finishes his rehab stint at Triple-A.
The Reds have had tough luck in the rotation this year. Greene and Nick Lodolo have spent significant time on the IL, as have Justin Dunn and Connor Overton, while veterans Weaver and Luis Cessa have struggled. Cincinnati’s starters have a 5.34 ERA on the season and a 6.35 ERA in August, which goes a long way toward explaining why the Reds have a negative run differential despite boasting an offense that has scored the fourth-most runs in the National League. If this team makes the playoffs, it will be thanks to their offense, not their pitching. Still, they’ll need more from their rotation to pull ahead in a tight NL race.