The Cincinnati Reds just announced that they’ve signed right handed pitcher Vance Worley to a Minor League deal for the 2018 season. That also includes an invitation to big league spring training.

For the most part of his Major League career, Vance Worley had found plenty of success. Working between the rotation and bullpen, from 2010-2016 he posted a 3.75 ERA in 595.1 innings with 190 walks and 447 strikeouts. His ERA+ was slightly better than league average in that span. He showed a good walk rate, though his strikeout rate was a bit low.

Over the last two seasons, though, his walk rate jumped. From 2010-2015 he walked just 7.1% of the batters he faced. In 2016 and 2017 that number jumped up to 9.3%. While that rate isn’t bad, it is trending in the wrong direction and probably a tad below-average at this point.

That walk rate, along with an increase in home run rate helped lead to a disastrous 2017 season for Vance Worley. In 24 games with Miami he posted a 6.91 ERA in 71.2 innings. That included 12 starts where he averaged just 4.1 innings per start. His ERA was 7.39 as a starter.

As a reliever, granted it was limited action, things were a bit better. While his ERA was still ugly, 5.59, his strikeout and home run rates were significantly better. In 19.1 innings he only allowed one homer (though he did give up 30 hits), and had 19 strikeouts.

The 2017 season for Vance Worley saw his BABIP go off the charts kind of crazy. It was .381 for the season. Worley has always been a guy with a higher than normal BABIP. His career mark is .321 (roughly .300 is average). Still, .381 is to the point where you want to ask, why it happened rather than just brush it aside as “he was unlucky”.

In trying to figure out some answers, we should start by looking at his stuff. As noted earlier, his control started going backwards in 2016. That’s when he stopped throwing a slider and started throwing a cutter. The cutter comes in a little harder than his slider did. The difference between his two main pitches went from 5-6MPH to 2.5-3 MPH with that switch. There’s a chance that this means nothing, but it’s certainly worth noting.

Another interesting thing that’s happened with Vance Worley over the last two seasons, compared to the previous two, is that his fastball has more rise and less sink to it. On the 2-seam fastball we are only talking about half-an-inch difference, but on the 4-seam fastball he’s added nearly two inches of rise since 2014/15. In a what you don’t expect from that result, his ground ball rate the last two seasons are the 2nd and 3rd best of his career.

With what happened in 2017, a minors deal with an invite to spring training for Vance Worley isn’t unexpected. The projection systems seem to think he’ll be about replacement level. An ERA somewhere between 4.65-5.00 is projected depending on which system you are looking at.

Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer has some updates on the contract for Vance Worley:

If the Reds feel that they are going to get the Vance Worley of 2014-2015, then this could be a bargain signing. But if he’s closer to the 2016-2017 version with a poor walk rate and low strikeout rate, let’s just hope that he doesn’t make the roster. The upside isn’t enough to push out younger arms if he doesn’t look like a very different guy than he has the past two seasons.


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32 Responses

  1. Colorado Red

    This is a low risk.
    If he does not make the 25 man roster, he can opt out.
    No real risk.

  2. Kap

    This is a good minor league signing. Almost no risk with a medium reward. Compared to other guys they sign to minors deals, this may be one of the best

  3. The Duke

    Insurance against an avalanche of pitcher injuries happening again.

    • Norwood Nate

      Probably the best way to look at it. If the guys expected to come into camp healthy continue to do so, he’ll probably look for work elsewhere because we have some nice, but largely unproven pieces to slot into the bullpen. Nothing against Worley, but I hope we don’t see him in a Cincinnati uniform this season.

  4. Wes

    Not impressed. Quit nickel and dining away at free agent market. Stops others from considering reds.

    • Colorado Red

      Not really.
      If you are offering someone a Major League contract, all the minor league contracts do not matter.
      See all of them signed so far (
      Lots of teams doing this.

      • Wes

        Not the type of signing- the player signed. Can’t access pitcher list from my phone but I bet there’s 5 names i prefer to Worley. He’s past his prime. Also indicates reds aren’t going to sign a big name pitcher regardless. There’s some good fits for reds to fill a mid rotation spot like Lynn and cashner and Cobb. With market decline reds should be considering options like that

      • Doug Gray

        Did you honestly think the Reds were going to sign a big name pitcher? Because if you did, you haven’t been paying attention.

      • Wes

        Reds got room to add to their payroll and a need to add talent. Cobb turned down 3 years 17 per for cubs. That would have been a great bargain for cubs if he would have took that. If u can get Lynn for that price or cashner for close to what he signed for last year- how are you not kicking the tires? Better option than trading trammell

      • Doug Gray

        Well, if you’re the Reds you are probably looking at it as “wasting” $17M in 2018 because Alex Cobb isn’t getting you far enough to compete for the playoffs unless literally everything else breaks right for you, and in the scenario in which that does happen, you aren’t there because of Alex Cobbs – you’re there because Nick Senzel and Jesse Winker stabilized the offense, and you finally stayed healthy in the rotation and your young pitchers all stepped up.

        Spending real money in 2018 is almost assuredly going to be a waste. Love it or hate it, it is what it is: If the Reds are going to be good again it’s going to be because of the internal guys they’ve got now. Spending $17+M on one player isn’t going to get them where they need to be unless that’s the last move they make, not the first.

      • Colorado Red

        Per DW they intend to add payroll next year.
        This is not the year to do it.

      • Stock

        Well said Doug. But to that point doesn’t that make trading for Yelich a bad idea also? You are trading for 4 years of Yelich but getting only 2 or 3.

      • Doug Gray

        You get 5 years of Yelich, which puts you into your *likely* compete stage for at least 3 of those years, but maybe 4.

      • wes

        It’s not a waste if they don’t believe they can sign that player next year. There’s going to be a whole lot of losers with TONS of money to spend next season. If you can get the right player in the right deal you have to be considering it. Better to “waste” 17 million rather than holding 35 million next season. I also like Lynn and Cobb better than anyone in that same tier that’s available to sign as a free agent next year. I’ll throw Cashner in that group.

        Next year, as of now, I like Happ and Gio. But prefer the guys available this year.

        I prefer Garcia, Feldman, and Hellickson to Worley. They may have cost a little more, but a better risk to take.

    • Champ Summers

      Anyone able to find their way here should be well informed enough to know what this signing is and should not have expectations that the Reds will dipping. their toe into the market for difference making pieces this season.

  5. Krozley

    I’d take the 2016 version. 1.4 WAR, 122 ERA+ in 86 innings. That would be okay for a swingman. I actually was thinking last year at this time that he would be a good value addition. I’m glad I was wrong given his horrible season. No risk here to basically replace Adelman/Wojo. But as with those guys, if he makes more than an emergency start or two, the team will most likely be in trouble.

  6. Cguy

    Who cares? As long as Ariel Hernandez, Zach Weiss, Jimmy Herget, Austin Brice, Kevin Shackleford, Barrett Astin, perhaps Evan Mitchell & Keury Mella etc. all get their chance to make the bullpen. You gotta figure Iglesias (if not traded), Lorenzen, Peralta, & Hughes are probably already in. Lots of competition for just a few spots, & I like some of our in-house options.

    • MK

      If he can out pitch them great if not he probably walks away. Other than per diem he isn’t getting paid anything for spring training. Worth a shot at catching lightening in a bottle.

      • victor vollhardt

        MK comments (again) are right on the mark. No risk and if works out everybody wins. If his knee can pass muster and if he would sign a similar contract–They should consider Scott Feldman.

  7. Michael B. Green

    With injury histories, arbitration clock concerns, etc., in abundance, signing Worley makes perfect sense. If he generates some value for the Reds and himself, that’s great. Good signing, Dick!

  8. Hoyce

    Doug- correct me if I’m wrong. But doesn’t Worley have that “jump from the mound” kind of delivery that MLB was either going to or did make illegal. Because he’s not actually touching rubber anymore?
    Could be way off

    • Stock

      Carter Capps did/does but it was not deemed illegal. I do know Capps was working on an even more extreme jump last spring that may hae been deemed illegal

  9. Cguy

    Would someone. anyone, please advise me as to how not taking risks benefits the Reds? There are at least 2 dozen ML franchises that can better afford to “stand pat” than our Reds . Taking risks is the Reds only current option to eventually becoming competitive. And Williams is not taking those risks. Ten Worley type signings does not move the ball appreciatively towards being as good as the Cards or the Cubs, does it? No brainers are exactly that.

    • Bill

      To me, it’s the timing of taking risk in acquiring players. I think the Reds need to see which pitchers are healthy and productive. We have sufficient numbers in the organization. Unless we have another starting pitcher health meltdown, Worley won’t make the Reds roster.

      If we could find a long term trade match for CF or perhaps SS, that would be great this year. I think there is potential, particularly at CF, for an upgrade in the market, but other teams are equally inactive and it takes at least two to trade.

      Next winter, I’ll join the chorus if the Reds aren’t more aggressive filling obvious holes.

      • Champ Summers

        At the winter meetings on MLB network he said plainly that if all goes as planned next year you will see the team making meaningful additions to fill holes in order to contend. This should be the last year of figuring out who can hack it and who can’t. If roles aren’t defined by now then they probably need to move on from certain players. I am on board with process but I too will be critical if they don’t make needed moves like the CF and SS voids(if neither turn things around in 2018).

  10. Mark

    I believe that shackelford was really good in September and in my opinion he looked really good and should have an inside track for inning 7 or 8

    • Stock

      Agreed Mark.

      I just don’t see a fit for Worley. I’d like to see Reed in the bullpen. For that matter I wouldn’t mind seeing Finnegan in the bullpen. Better to have him in the bullpen than the DL.

    • Michael B. Green

      Shackelford had a bad Spring Training and was bad early in his debut. The rest of the time, he was very good. CIN also used him to finish (close) games in the minors the last few years so the team sees something in him.

      I think he will definitely start the year in the pen for CIN and could garner the 7th or 8th innings.

      I really think CIN is only a half year away from contending and that half year is only from determining roles. The talent is there. They will sprinkle in 1-2 winning/leadership guys to the team around the deadline (if they’re in the wild card hunt) or next winter. Us Reds fans will then need to figure out what we should compalin about. :)

  11. Piggly Wiggly

    Even for a minor league signing, this wasn’t necessarily a good one. With a need for LH relievers, a signing of Travis Wood might have been better. But I would assume Travis Wood is looking for a ML contract, and not a minor league contract w/ST invite. And the Reds won’t go there yet.
    INF Jose Rondon is still in DFA limbo, as a resolution needs to happen by tomorrow. SD would probably like to keep him as they still have 1 or 2 INF’s on the trade block.

    • Piggly Wiggly

      Jose Rondon going to the White Sox in a trade. So Reds waited for him to have to go through waivers and White Sox beat them to the punch with a trade instead.
      Cash considerations going to SD in return. Cash considerations. Reds didn’t want to give up even a marginal prospect for Rondon, played the waiting game (as usual), and still don’t have a back up SS.

      • HavaKlu

        I’m suggesting it again for the 3rd time—–the Reds should sign Daniel Castro, 25 year old shortstop who has some ML experience and is above average defensively.