If you feel like you may be in a bit of a time warp, let me reassure you that you probably are not. Ben Lively has signed with the Cincinnati Reds on a minor league deal, which you may have heard before, but this is the second time he’s done so. This time around he gets an invitation to big league spring training.
Way back in 2013 the Reds drafted Ben Lively in the 4th round and he signed rather quickly. The right-hander’s stay was short with the organization, though. He was out to a great start on the farm, making 13 starts following the draft and posting a 0.88 ERA between Billings (RIP) and Dayton. The next year he went out and made 26 starts between then Advanced-A Bakersfield (RIP) and Double-A Pensacola and posted a 3.04 ERA. But on the final day of 2014 the Cincinnati Reds traded Lively to the Philadelphia Phillies for Marlon Byrd and a pile of cash.
After spending a few years in the Phillies farm system, Lively made his big league debut in 2017 when he made 15 starts and posted a 4.26 ERA. He’d threw 31.1 innings over the next two seasons with Philadelphia and Kansas City before taking the opportunity to go pitch in Korea for part of the 2019 season and both the 2020 and 2021 seasons.
With the Samsung Lions he made 36 starts in those three seasons and posted a 4.14 ERA in 202.1 innings while walking 65 batters and striking out 191. Lively, who will turn 30-years-old in March, could provide some starting pitching depth or perhaps become an option in the bullpen if needed. The righty has limited action as a reliever, but has pitched out of the bullpen 19 times in the minors and another six times in the big leagues – all with the Kansas City Royals between 2018 and 2019.
As a starting pitcher option he faces a long list of options behind the three guys who seem like absolute locks (if they are still around, of course) in Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray, and Tyler Mahle. Vladimir Gutierrez, Jeff Hoffman, Tony Santillan, and Reiver Sanmartin all made starts for the Reds last season and are coming back. Prospects Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo, Graham Ashcraft, and Riley O’Brien were all pitching in Double-A or Triple-A last season and should be expected to at least be in the conversation heading into spring training.