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.

8 Responses

  1. Craig Z

    Does the 13th spot go to Stevenson?

  2. 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

  3. TurboBuckeye

    Agree…no way should we be in on Kimbrel.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.