Teams have begun to use their best closers in a non-traditional role over the last few seasons. It used to be that the best reliever was the closer. That guy would almost exclusively pitch in the 9th inning of a game their team was leading. Recently we’ve seen the trend get away from that. Teams have figured out it’s more valuable to put that guy in the game when the game is actually on the line, rather than a clean inning that starts from scratch. Or that if the 7th or 8th inning has 2-3-4 due up, that’s the time to go to the best reliever. Not every team, however, has bought into that plan. The Reds last non-interim manager, Bryan Price, had that idea – but didn’t implement it all that often.

New Cincinnati Reds manager David Bell noted today with the media in Goodyear that the plan for 2019 is to use Raisel Iglesias in such a role at times.

I think a lot of times it’s going to be in that closing role, but I just don’t want to limit him,” Bell said of Iglesias. “He’s too important to our team, too important to our bullpen where we want him to have as much personal success and be as comfortable as he possibly can, but the priority is going to be to win games.

This seems to have been the plan for a while now. Earlier this offseason Raisel Iglesias signed a deal with the Reds for three years and $24.125M. That didn’t buy out any of his free agent years. But it did take away his arbitration years. And that’s important because closers with saves get paid more than relief pitchers with similar numbers but without saves.

This means that Raisel Iglesias is still going to get paid the same amount he likely would have if he racked up saves via arbitration. But it means that the Reds can go about using him in a different role without saves. A, perhaps, more valuable role. As noted by Steve Mancuso in the link about his new deal, it could also mean he’s used more as a multi-inning reliever. His background in Cuba and early Reds career suggests he could be capable of being a 100-inning pitcher.

As noted above, though, Bryan Price had similar ideas. Plenty of managers had good ideas ahead of their time. But then they tried it and it didn’t work immediately. And that led to them abandoning that idea rather quickly. David Bell and pitching coach Derek Johnson seem very analytical and thoughtful. Hopefully if and when they go about this, and it doesn’t work early in the season – it’s bound to not be 100% – they don’t revert back to “the book”.

The Reds are likely to have a 13-man pitching staff

John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer reported this morning that the Reds will likely have a 13-man pitching staff.

If they go with 13 pitchers, that leaves the Reds with a 4-man bench. You’re going to have a bench that will be whichever two outfielders aren’t starting, your backup catcher, and a backup infielder. This could mean a whole lot of things. First, it could mean that Nick Senzel may very well play a little bit of everywhere. His flexibility could provide the Reds the opportunity for a small bench. Being able to cover second, third, all three outfield spots, and shortstop in an absolute pinch, is huge. It may also mean that Michael Lorenzen could be getting plenty of pinch-hitting chances.

It also potentially puts Rule 5 draft pick Connor Joe in a tough spot. He’ll be working on being a catcher this spring training. But he’s never played there as a professional. He does have plenty of time in the corners, though. He’s played mostly first and third base, but has over 50 games in the outfield corners, too. With a short bench, it’s difficult to see where he fits in if an injury doesn’t open up a spot on the roster as it currently looks among the position players.

24 Responses

  1. WVRedlegs

    This opens the door to several possibilities. Plus the new experienced starters are expected to take away some bullpen innings from last year which lightens the bullpen load a little to boot.
    I see why the Reds are still interested in bringing in another reliever after Duke’s signing. Adam Warren could be in the mold of Hughes and Hernandez, but a little more expensive, 2 years / $8MM.
    There is an under-current of a rumor the Reds are looking at how adding Kimbrel to the bullpen could work out. A 3 year deal might get Kimbrel, if the AAV beats what Wade Davis got last year, $17.33MM. That would probably give the Reds the best shut down bullpen in the NL. It would allow for both Iglesias and Kimbrel to be used in save and non-save/highly critical situations. Co-closers. The Reds will need a second pitcher to close out games when Iglesias goes in early. The Reds rotation supplemented by a shutdown bullpen doesn’t need a front line starter for 2019 and could survive nicely with the two #2 pitchers and three #3/#4 starters they have.
    Iglesias>>Kimbrel>>Lorenzen>>Hughes>>Hernandez>>Garrett>>Romano>>Reed>>would look to be pretty formidable.

    • WVRedlegs

      That should read Iglesias>>Kimbrel>>Lorenzen>>Hughes>>Garrett>>Hernandez>>Duke>>Romano.

  2. Craig Z

    Does the 13th spot go to Stevenson?

  3. Steve Mancuso

    It doesn’t make sense that a team talking about using its best pitcher in the most important innings, like the Reds are, would sink a bunch of money into an established closer position, overpaying for “saves.” Can’t see Reds in on a player like Kimbrell.

    • Old-school

      Who says kimbrell and AAV is linked to “closer”. Kimbrell now is about money. The Reds have money money. Pay him elite AAV for 2 years and he helps win games when David Bell calls him. The Reds have the money to # getthepitching.

    • BK

      To me, Kimbrel is the best available FA that can upgrade the Reds pitching staff. By having him at the back of the bullpen, Iglesias can be used much earlier in the game, and comfortably for multiple innings. He would give the Reds more opportunities to gain advantageous matchups. Of course, it really comes down to the terms of the contract. The Reds need to carefully weigh whether Kimbrel would preclude them from acquiring a more valuable starter next year.

    • TurboBuckeye

      Agree…no way should we be in on Kimbrel.

    • WVRedlegs

      I can see both sides but the pros outweigh the cons. If you can sign him to 3 years OK. But I wouldn’t go further. One of the big cons would be bringing him in at twice the money they are paying Iglesias. Kimbrel had such a fantastic 2017. His 2018 was a step back compared to 2017, but still far from bad. If you can get 3 years of somewhere in between his 2018 and 2017, it could be money well spent. They viewed upgrading the Catcher spot, but it didn’t work out. Too expensive in prospect capital. The bullpen could use an arm like Kimbrel. It really does improve the bullpen 1 through 8 by adding to the top of it. And not in the middle or even bottom. It strengthens each spot. That is worth something too. And no prospect cost. It would be worth exploring. If like in the Realmuto situation, if the cost becomes too prohibitive then step back.

    • Mason Red

      I disagree. In today’s MLB relievers, including closers,are becoming more valuable than starters. In a few years the labels “starters” and “relievers” will be gone. There will just be pitchers.

      • Doug Gray

        Relievers, as individuals, will never be more valuable than starters. The bullpen as a whole is becoming more and more valuable. But the sheer number of innings simply matters too much. Is an elite, dominant reliever more valuable than a #5 starter? Yeah, probably. Maybe even a #4 guy. But a dominant reliever is in no way going to be more valuable than a fairly strong starter that gives you 180 innings.

    • ToBeDetermined

      Why doesn’t it make sense ?
      It makes sense to me.

      In my mind there are two ways to look at this. One is to go about it like I believe you are suggesting which is to simply use your best reliever in the most important situations. OK, that could be fine, maybe it works out and maybe it doesn’t.

      Another way is to do it similar to how the Indians handled their pen in 2016. When they used A. Miller in the most important situations and occasionally in multiple innings. And their closer was Cody Allen. There’s a proven track record with this approach.

      • Steve Mancuso

        I’m not saying signing another good reliever doesn’t make sense (although I remain skeptical of relievers as a class). I’m saying that paying $17 million a year for a guy to do that is too expensive. Kimbrell’s salary request is inflated because there are still teams left willing to pay a premium for guys who have an established record of getting Saves. My point was that the Reds seem unlikely to fall into that category. Any team smart enough to say will use their best reliever in the toughest spots isn’t going to do that.

      • ToBeDetermined


        Thanks for the clarification. I’m sure Cody Allen wasn’t costing nearly as much as Andrew Miller in my example above.

      • BK

        Steve, I totally agree with you on this. I just wonder at what point does Kimbral realize his value has changed on the FA market and decide to sign for an amount the Reds would be comfortable with. My guess is the delta between where he believes he should be valued and where the Reds would value him is pretty large.

  4. Broseph

    I like the direction, but is Iglesias still as dominant as he was in 2016 / 2017? He’s hands down the Reds’ best bullpen arm, but didn’t he have a drop in productivity last year. I remember in June he struggled a little, I think he gave up a grand slam in LA.

    Just wonder with closer type money, and the cheaper talent pool we have for the bullpen that’s more than adequate, if he isnt better served in a trade package for a front line starter

  5. Sliotar

    overpaying for “saves?”

    Getting the last out is still a major consideration for teams.

    Houston had no problem trading for closer Osuna while in their contention window, despite the reliever’s recent prosecution for domestic violence.

    Other LCS teams … Dodgers (Jansen), Boston (Kimbrel), Milwaukee (Knebel, Jeffress)

    Knebel was 2017 All-Star, Jeffress 2018 All-Star. Combined for 31 saves last season. Both had higher K/9 in 2018 than Iglesias.

    The “Hader role” worked because Milwaukee had 2 quality closers still left in bullpen.

    Hughes and Hernandez were fine in holding roles, but if Iglesias is used in the 6th, it feels a risk to have them finish all season long in the 9th vs. Bryant/Rizzo/Yelich, etc.

    No, the Reds are probably not in on Kimbrel. That does not mean they shouldn’t be, especially with most teams having filled their bullpen roles already and Reds stating they have money still to spend.

    • Steve Mancuso

      All I was saying was that I didn’t think the Reds would be in on Kimbrel, something you agree with at the bottom line. I didn’t say he wouldn’t help the Reds.

      • Sliotar

        LOL. What?

        You don’t see value in “sinking a bunch of money into a closer role.”

        OK. No worries.

        I do. Helps Iglesias as Hader when there aren’t true in-house solutions like Milwaukee had.

        And, especially, when, for once the Reds have money and Kimbrel might come on a 3 year deal out of desperation.

        But, the Reds appear content. I think it’s a missed opportunity to take advantage of a bad situation for Kimbrel.

        (Jason Linden would call me cruel)

      • scotly50

        I am not sure the Reds have a “Kimbrel type” with the personal they already employ.

        I only watched him in the playoffs last year, but he did not appear to be the lock-down closer he was with the Braves.

  6. TurboBuckeye

    Love to hear this. Finally a Reds manager that isn’t obsessed with using the Proven Closer (TM) only leading in the 9th inning. I think there is a growing body of evidence that astute bullpen usage can allow teams to outperform their Pythagorean record.

  7. Sliotar

    Doug wrote:

    “His background in Cuba and early Reds career suggests he could be capable of being a 100-inning pitcher.”

    In 2018, only 3 relievers had a K/9 higher than Iglesias and got past 80 innings

    Noe Ramirez, Angels 82.1 IP
    Josh Hader, Brewers 81.1 IP
    Blake Treinen, A’s 80.1 IP

    The 3 relievers to throw more than 90 innings all had less than 9 K/9.,d

    By all means, the Reds should use him as a workhorse, being cost-controlled and in his prime.

    100 innings? Let’s hope his keeps the ball down in 2019, improves the GB% and reduces the HRs allowed…or he could end up over-exposed, even if his arm holds out.

  8. Jreis

    This is one reason I think Hunter Greene needs to get at bats and reps at short stop in the minors. You could potentially have 2/5 starters that can be used as bench players on their off days with him and Lorenzen. This could allow us potentially to carry 14 pitchers.

  9. Hotto4Votto

    I’m not the biggest fan of a 13 man pitching staff. I get going to it for specified periods of time, and beginning the year is one of those times as pitchers build up to mid-season stamina. Other times may be during a stretch when the bullpen has been worked a lot due to a string of starters going out of the game early or a few extra innings games.
    But beyond that I think it really hamstrings the bench. Since most teams don’t typically use their 2nd catcher in case of emergency, that really limits the bench to 3 guys as usable options most nights. That limits the amount of pinch hitters you have, the amount of times you can do a double switch, the amount of times you can make a defensive replacement. If a position player has a nagging injury that needs 3-5 days of rest as opposed to a full DL stint then you’ve limited your options even more.
    I’d much prefer they do the Louisville-Cincinnati shuttle for the last bullpen spot to keep guys fresh (at the risk of moral outrage by messing with guy’s service time) than keep an 8 man pen. I mean, what’s the point of having relievers that can go multiple innings more often than not, if it’s not to shorten the amount of relievers that you will need on any given day while also keeping the other guys fresher?