You know the story by now.
The Cincinnati Reds got the itch to stop paying for baseball players a while back, and have thoroughly pursued that route across all facets of their roster so far this winter/spring since the MLB lockout ended. You may recall, though, that this payroll slashing began last winter, and it began squarely in the team’s bullpen.
The Reds gave away Raisel Iglesias and straight up non-tendered Archie Bradley prior to the 2021 season, and the team’s bullpen promptly imploded time and time again to start the year. Because the team actually had some potent bats and lethal starting pitching, they actually found themselves within a sniff of a playoff chase later in the year, at that point finally trying to address the relief corps with a few fringe additions.
This winter, though? There hasn’t been a single big-league deal signed involving the Reds and a reliever, as they’ve instead leaned on the minor league contract route in hopes that even fringier arms can solve the problem...until today, perhaps.
FanSided’s Robert Murray relayed Tuesday morning that the Reds were close to a deal with righty Hunter Strickland, with MLB Network’s Jon Heyman eventually confirming that the two sides have “a deal.” There have been no details released just yet, but I’m guessing we’ll hear in the coming hours that it’s akin to the $1.5 million guarantee signed by Sean Doolittle last year given how Strickland, 33, finished last year.
Strickland wrapped a three-team tour in 2021 with 36.1 IP of 1.73 ERA, 0.908 WHIP ball with Milwaukee after earlier stints with both the Angels and Rays, and is the owner of a career 132 ERA+. He’s pitched for 8 teams in his 8 years, has a history of beefs with Bryce Harper, and is originally from Georgia - a trait that’s become something of a defining characteristic of about half the players in the Cincinnati system these days.
Where he’ll slot into this bullpen mix, I do not know. Given that Luis Cessa is just about the lone combination of healthy, proven, and potentially plus down there, just about every role in relief is up for grabs. Strickland did log 14 saves back in the 2018 season with San Francisco and could, in theory, be in that role for the Reds, though it does seem they’ve gotten away from the traditional ‘closer’ role under David Bell (and don’t project to have too many leads with the state of their offense, anyway).
Welcome to the Reds, Hunter. They’ll probably trade you before your contract is up.