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Cincinnati Reds acquire LHP Cionel Perez from Houston Astros

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The lefty brings limited big league experience to the bullpen.

Houston Astros v Los Angeles Angels Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

The purge of the Cincinnati Reds roster at the outset of the offseason trimmed their 40-man roster in a thorough fashion, and there was always a wonder how they’d end up using those roster spots as the season neared.

As it turns out, they’re using that flexibility to pluck fringe roster players off other clubs, clubs who are dipping into the free agent market despite fully 40-man allotments. We saw that on display on Friday when the Reds plucked RHP Hector Perez from the Toronto Blue Jays, a player in jeopardy of losing his roster spot to pave the way for new signee George Springer, and on Saturday the Reds picked up LHP Cionel Perez from the Houston Astros for similar reasons.

The Reds announced the move themselves on Twitter.

Perez was on the Houston roster bubble after their reunion with Michael Brantley.

In this Perez, the Reds are getting a talented lefty with the ability to seriously miss bats, as evidenced by his career 9.3 K/9 in 222 career MiLB innings and 9.1 K/9 mark in his limited big league time. With a versatile role in the minors since his signing out of Cuba (40 or 58 career games came as a starter), he brings a mid-90s fastball and a complementary slider to the table, with an occasional changeup adding-in to his mix.

Of course, he’s had a hard time finding the plate at times despite that talent, and that’s what put him firmly on Houston’s fringe. While his career 3.3 BB/9 mark in the minors is far from a complete red flag, that’s jumped to 5.1 in his 26.2 big league frames, including 6 in his 6.1 IP with the Astros in 2020. That’s something that fits the mold with many of Cincinnati’s acquisitions so far this winter, with Hector Perez, Edgar Diaz, and Jeff Hoffman all fitting similar molds.

With that flaw, though, comes the all-present allure of ‘upside,’ too. Perez is still just 24 years old, has a minor-league option remaining, and - stop me if you’ve heard this before - is cheap as can be, making just league minimum in 2021 with team control through 2025, if so desired. He’s yet another lottery-ticket arm for Kyle Boddy, the Driveline team, and Derek Johnson’s pitching coaches to work with, this time a lefty who’ll provide some insurance to a bullpen that might just move Amir Garrett to the closer’s role.

It’s a low-cost, low-risk move with upside, something that’s hard to blame any team out there for making at any juncture. The cost to acquire Perez was catching prospect Luke Berryhill, a 13th round pick by the Reds out of the University of South Carolina back in 2019 who has not played higher than rookie ball, to date.

That’s a sound enough strategy at the fringes of every roster, and one the Reds have every right to continue to pursue, but if the entire offseason strategy becomes entirely composed of just a bulk of those moves in hopes that one or two pans out, then there’s a distinct problem amidst. The Reds still have space to make some more flashy, proven additions - their 40-man roster sits with just 37 players at the moment, as the Reds noted - but the clock is now ticking both on the season’s start and on the roster flexibility they began the winter with in the first place.