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.
Bell says he hasn’t decided on 12 or 13 pitchers out of camp because of the schedule. But thinks they’ll go with 13 most of the year. #reds
— John Fay (@johnfayman) February 15, 2019
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.