The Reds declined to tender Sampson a contract Friday, making him a free agent, Mark Sheldon of MLB.com reports. He was bumped from the 40-man roster Monday and Sampson is now officially free to explore his other options. Sampson's days are a starter may be over regardless of where he lands, although he did turn in a couple of decent starts for Cincinnati late in the year.
Sampson was designated for assignment by the Reds on Monday. The 25-year-old was forced into action at the major league level prematurely in 2015, but he wasn't able to right the ship during his second stint in Cincinnati, leading the Reds to hand his 40-man roster spot to a more worthy candidate. Sampson has shown some flashes of success, boasting an improved strikeout rate as a member of the Reds bullpen last season, although he'll likely spend 2017 as an organizational depth piece until he can show more command of his pitches.
Sampson is not the scheduled starter for Tuesday's game against the Cubs. Sampson was originally thought to be in line to enter the rotation for a turn against the Cubs, but it seems the Reds changed their minds and will instead have Josh Smith take the hill against their division rivals. It's unclear if or when Sampson will get a chance to start again this season, but that could become clearer as the rest of the month plays out.
Manager Bryan Price said Saturday that Sampson will likely start a game against the Cubs early next week, C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Sampson pitched in relief in Game 1 of Saturday's doubleheader, but he was only needed for 1.2 innings (54 pitches), and it sounds like he will get the call to fill a starting role with Homer Bailey (biceps) still working his way back. Tuesday would seem the most likely day for Sampson to start, as Tim Adleman can go Monday on normal rest.
Sampson appears to be the favorite to start Sunday's game against the Pirates, MLB.com's Mark Sheldon reports. The Reds are leaning toward pushing Dan Straily's next start from Sunday to Monday after he went eight innings in Tuesday's outing. Sampson figured to get a start at some point either this weekend or early next week due to Saturday's doubleheader, and it sounds like it will be Sunday. The 25-year-old righty has a 5.82 ERA in 60.1 career innings as a starter in the big leagues.