The Cincinnati Reds have traded closer Raisel Iglesias (and cash) to the Los Angeles Angels for right-handed pitcher Noé Ramirez and a player to be named later.
There’s a lot to unravel in this deal, but let’s start with Noé Ramirez. He’ll be a 31-year-old reliever next season who is coming off of the best season of his career. In the 2020 campaign he posted a 3.00 ERA in 21 games for the Angels that spanned 21.0 innings where he allowed two home runs, walked nine batters (two intentionally), and he struck out 14 hitters. His low strikeout rate was easily the worst of his career – he had struck out 174 batters in the previous two seasons that covered 151.0 innings (4.29 ERA – roughly league average).
From a stuff standpoint, Ramirez doesn’t exactly stick out. At no point in his career has his fastball averaged more than 91 MPH, and in 2020 it was a career low 89 MPH. He also brings a change up and a slider to the table. In 2020 he threw each pitch about as often as the other – 36%, 31%, and 33% of the time. Despite the lower end velocity, his fastball plays quite well according to Fangraphs pitch value metrics. The secondary stuff, though, which has played well in the past, was below-average during this past season. Perhaps Cincinnati believes they can get the secondary stuff back to being above-average, giving him three above-average offerings to work with.
Baseball Reference has Noé Ramirez being under team control for the next three seasons and won’t become a free agent until after 2023. He will be arbitration eligible for the first time in 2021 and MLB Trade Rumors projects he’ll make somewhere between $1-1.2M next season.
We can’t talk much about the player to be named later since we don’t have the slightest idea of who it will be. We can, however, talk about the cash the Reds sent even though we don’t know how much it was. This, at least right now, feels like a salary dump. Perhaps there’s a premium prospect coming back in the deal, which will essentially change it to a situation where the Reds sort of “bought the contract” of a minor leaguer with this cash infusion to the deal – but we’ll have to wait a little bit to see that one.
As for sending Raisel Iglesias to the Angels, the Reds bullpen continues to weaken. After the team non-tendered Archie Bradley, Cincinnati is also losing Iglesias. While Noé Ramirez is a solid reliever, he’s not comparable to Iglesias. The Reds will be saving about $8M before we know how much cash they sent with this set of transactions, so it’s possible they spend it to make another addition or two to the bullpen. But as it all sits right now, the bullpen has taken a pretty big step backwards from where it was in 2020.
Cincinnati picks up a few years of control of a reliever. Raisel Iglesias was set to be a free agent following the 2021 season, Noé Ramirez will be around, assuming he’s not non-tendered at a later date, for at least three more seasons. But this deal leaves a lot of questions about where the franchise is heading in 2021 and what the plan seems to be. They are cutting quality players, and moving salary, and there are at least rumors that they are trying to trade away the best pitcher left on their staff. Unfortunately, we are left with many questions and very few answers as things sit on the first day of the winter meetings.