Brandon Finnegan was designated for assignment by the Cincinnati Reds yesterday, which means the Reds have seven days to trade, waive or release the lefthanded pitcher. With the Texas Rangers in rebuilding mode, and a bullpen that has only just been finalized (and has a couple of pitchers with tenuous holds on roster spots), it leads one to wonder whether the Rangers might have interest in either claiming Finnegan on waivers or working out a deal for him.
Finnegan is fairly well-known to many Metroplex baseball fans, as he is a Fort Worth native who attended Southwest High School and then pitched for TCU. Finnegan was the #17 overall pick of the Kansas City Royals in the 2014 draft, and had a meteoric rise as a professional that saw him make seven regular season relief appearances for the Royals that year, followed by seven playoff appearances, including two World Series outings.
Alas, the ride has not been so smooth for Finnegan since he went from pitching in the College World Series and in the real World Series in a four month span in 2014. Cincinnati acquired him as the headliner in a trade deadline deal that sent Johnny Cueto to the Royals for the 2015 stretch drive. After a solid 2016 season in the Reds rotation, Finnegan has been bedeviled by injuries and ineffectiveness — he had just 25 innings total in 2017, between AA, AAA and the minors, and 2018 featured just 5 major league starts in 2018, with a 7.40 ERA and a 7.13 FIP in 20.2 innings pitched, along with a 7.05 ERA in 67.2 innings in AAA.
Finnegan, who turns 26 in April, has gone from expected rotation piece to off the 40 man roster for the Reds in a short period, and his shoulder issues and struggles have apparently prompted the Reds to move on from him, as they could have simply optioned him to AAA (he has at least one option remaining) rather than drop him from the 40 man roster. Finnegan may, at this point, no longer be seen as a viable major league pitcher going forward.
That said, if the Rangers think he is salvageable, he could be worth making a play for. The team’s AAA rotation depth is basically Adrian Sampson and Ariel Jurado at this point (Taylor Hearn is in AAA, but the Rangers likely want him to get a few months under his belt there before calling him up). Finnegan could be stashed in Nashville while the team evaluates him and sees what he has left. Alternatively, he could be put in the major league pen as a long man, with either second bullpen lefty Kyle Bird being optioned, or Rule 5 pick Kyle Dowdy put on waivers. Yohander Mendez could be moved to the 60 day injured list to create a 40 man roster spot, so a 40 man crunch isn’t an issue.
I have no idea what Finnegan’s stuff is like at this point, though the Reds cutting bait with him isn’t a good sign. That said, for a team in the Rangers’ position, putting in a claim, or looking to trade a fringe prospect or organizational depth guy to acquire him, could make sense. Keep an eye out on this over the next few days, and we can see if the Rangers end up bringing the hometown boy back home.