When a team gets the chance to sign a reliever with a career ERA+ of 135, odds are it’s a chance that’s worth jumping at, especially if it comes with the incredibly low risk of being a minor league deal. That’s precisely what happened last night with the Cincinnati Reds and veteran righty Nate Jones, as the two came to just such an agreement, as The Athletic’s C. Trent Rosecrans relayed.
#Reds have signed NKU alum and former WBC champ Nate Jones to a minor-league deal with an invite to big-league camp— C. トレント・ローズクランズ (@ctrent) January 15, 2020
Of course, in order to land a pitcher of that ilk on a contract that cheap, something must also be afoot. In Jones’ case, that’s certainly true, as his injury history has been pretty much the only thing standing between him and much more notoriety in his otherwise rock solid career.
He’s the owner of a career 3.12 ERA in 284 career games pitched, though only twice in the last six seasons has he managed to be healthy enough to throw more than 19 innings in a single season. When he’s on, though, he’s been brilliant, his healthiest year being 2016 when he fire 70.2 innings of 2.29 ERA, 2.93 FIP ball, with an even more impressive 5.33 K/BB, too.
Since then, he’s totaled just 52.2 IP across three seasons, though he has logged a 2.94 ERA in that time. All of that work came with the team that originally drafted him, the Chicago White Sox, though that doesn’t mention that he was dealt to the Texas Rangers at last July’s trade deadline, only to never take the mound for them at the big league level. Forearm surgeries have a way of making that a bit difficult, y’know.
Jones will be 34 at the outset of the 2020 season, but the Butler, KY native and Northern Kentucky University product hopefully still has enough in the tank to give this baseball thing another go. He joins Tyler Thornburg as recent bullpen options picked up by the Reds on minor league deals, both of whom are veterans who’ve proven they can dominate on the big state when healthy, and both deals certainly look like good low-risk investments that just might pay off for the Reds. Given the volatility of bullpen arms in general, that’s not a bad place to look for bounce-back guys, honestly.