The Cincinnati Reds are making moves today. Of course, so is everyone else. The 8PM deadline to protect players from the upcoming Rule 5 draft is now past us and every team except Seattle added some prospects to their 40-man roster. The Reds added four players – and you can read more about them all here. That left the roster at 39 players, and the Reds 11th rated prospect, TJ Friedl, wasn’t added. We now know why. The Reds were working on a trade, acquiring José De León from the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for cash and a player to be named later.

Right-handed pitching Jose De Leon has spent parts of three seasons in the Major Leagues. But he’s also only thrown a grand total of 23.2 innings in the big leagues from 2016-2019. He did not pitch in the the 2018 season – missing the entire season after having Tommy John surgery in spring training.

This past season he spent most of the year in the minor leagues. He began a short rehab assignment in the Advanced-A Florida State League where he made two appearances with the Charlotte Stone Crabs in early May. He then moved up to Triple-A, joining Durham. The Rays used him as a starting pitcher in all but two of his appearances of the next three months, but limited his pitch count in a big way. He only topped 60 pitches six times, and only topped 75 pitches once. He joined the Rays for one outing in mid-August, pitching out of the bullpen for 2.0 innings, before returning to Triple-A. De Leon wouldn’t be back there for long, making two Triple-A appearances before returning to the Majors. That again, though, was a 1-game appearances before heading back to Triple-A. On September 1st he made his last minor league appearance of the year. In September he joined Tampa Bay, but only pitched in one game – on the final day of the year against Toronto.

In Triple-A he posted a 3.51 ERA in 17 games that spanned 51.1 innings pitched. He allowed just 41 hits, walked 27 batters, and he struck out 73. In his 4.0 innings with the Rays he allowed one earned run, walked three (one intentionally), and he struck out seven.

Prior to his Tommy John surgery he was among the best prospects in baseball – rating out in the top 30 and 40 prospects in the game the two seasons prior. But he hasn’t quite returned to form. Now 27-years-old (he turned 27 in August) doesn’t throw as hard as he used to – but he is throwing harder than he was before his injury with the Rays in 2018.

The Rays needed to clear a spot on their 40-man roster. The Reds decided to take a flyer on a former top prospect who at one time had two plus pitches to work with. Their hope seems to be that they can get his stuff back to where it was and turn a buy-low pitcher into a strong contributor. Whether that’s going to be out of the bullpen, or perhaps giving him a shot at the #5 spot next spring is still unknown.


Over at there’s a full background history and scouting report on Jose De Leon after spending a few hours watching video of him pitch last year.

Scouting new Cincinnati Reds pitcher Jose De Leon

25 Responses

  1. Hotto4Votto

    This is a big upside move. I like it. Especially at the acquisition price.

    • Optimist

      Hope the PTBNL either turns into cash, or low enough in MiLB that we’re not giving them someone at the 40-man level.

  2. Dawson

    Speaking of player to be named later…have the Reds received their’s from the Scooter Gennett trade?

    • Tom Mitsoff

      I’ve seen it stated by C. Trent Rosecrans that it turned into cash.

  3. MK

    Probably waiting until after Rule V draft so he does not need to be protected.

  4. MK

    That extra year after TJ should be great for his performance. Although most play after 12 months, most really regain all their stuff after 18 months.

    • Jefferson Green

      Agreed. And control is often one of the last things to come around, so his high AAA walk rate may drop without hurting his excellent SO rate. That would make him valuable.

  5. CFD3000

    I like this move. High upside, low cost. And I’m astounded to say this after so many years of little or no ability to develop pitchers, but the Reds are better positioned to get the most from De Leon than at any time in recent memory.

  6. MBS

    Earning that 5th spot is going to be competitive. If the Reds have no plans to retain Gausman, Peraza or others, wouldn’t they have released them to protect some of their young prospects.

    Mahle, Gausman, De Leon, Santillan, Sims, and Gutierrez

    That’s 6 guys with legit stuff, and enough innings under their belts to try to claim 1 spot.

    • CFD3000

      I wouldn’t leave Cody Reed off that list. Maybe he’s a reliever for good now but he’s quietly figuring out how to consistently pitch to his potential and I for one don’t want him ruled out of starting. Either way I expect Reed to contribute in Cincinnati in 2020.

      • MBS

        I think if Reed is healthy he is nearly a lock in the pen. I think he was on his way to solidifying that last year. Like you said either way I think he’ll be on the 2020 ball club. Also this may be a long shot, but Naughton mite be a dark horse bullpen arm. I don’t know if the Reds view him as a future starter or bullpen arm, but the Reds are lacking Lefties out of the pen, and he put up pretty good AA numbers.

    • Tom Mitsoff

      Gausman and Peraza both have minor league options remaining, so they can be “stashed” at Louisville if that is what the front office wants to do. Their likely arbitration salary awards make that unlikely, though. Sims has no minor league options. Neither do Cody Reed nor Sal Romano. So some big decisions will be made on their futures with the team before next season begins.

  7. Tom Mitsoff

    Do we know how many minor league options De Leon has? At his age, I am presuming none, but I haven’t been able to find the official data.

    • Tom Mitsoff

      Presuming that is correct, that is some real gold right there. If he’s not ready to pitch effectively at the major league level, he can go to Louisville and then be ready when needed either in 2020 or 2021.

    • Optimist

      Will be interesting to compare and contrast progress between De Leon and Finnegan. IIRC, Finnegan’s injuries are more severe, but also interesting that the Reds have not yet given up on him. Will be impressive if either or both remain projects intended for 2021 and beyond.

      This would be refreshing change from the policy of several years ago of stocking AAA with end-of-career aces, hoping for one last blast of production.

    • Tom Mitsoff

      Finnegan is the kind of guy you might see taken in the Rule 5 draft. A rebuilding team could sit on him for a year and see if he has regained any of his former stuff. It also wouldn’t be shocking to see him be the player to be named later in this trade. He still has an option and four years of team control remaining.

  8. jbonireland

    Just my opinion but great, 73 million will neever be earned. The back two years he will be 34 and 35 years old. Not many catchers having career years at that age. And while he hits home runs and can blcok the plate, I just can see justifying that contract for a .249 hitter. I’m ready to roll with our present catchers until Tyler Stephenson gets up here.
    However good for Yasmani that he got that contract just not from the Reds.

  9. Hotto4Votto

    Wonder if anyone else on the FA market would even be an upgrade over Barnhart and Casali? Maybe Chirinos, but he’s going to be 36 in June, which seems prohibitive to me.

  10. Tom Mitsoff

    At Grandal’s age, four years and $73 million is a bad investment for a catcher, IMO. The Reds have to turn their attention to other impact bats, such as Castellanos, Ozuna and possibly Moustakas.