Reds Add Bullpen Help

Payroll constraints have limited Cincinnati’s ability to add players this offseason and the big moves they did make were ones that shed salaries. The picked up a bargain last week in veteran Burke Badenhop and former closer Kevin Gregg will begin his comeback from off-season elbow surgery with a minor league deal.

Coming into last season the Cincinnati bullpen was expected to once again be strong. Unfortunately that did not materialize as they posted the second highest ERA in the NL despite returning a cast that had enjoyed earlier success and another brilliant season from Aroldis Chapman. Salary-shedding moves this offseason left doubt on what kind of position they would be in to improve it, after all there are seven spots to fill and all the candidates were suspect except the closer.

This weekend they made a big stride with a surprise signing of veteran Burke Badenhop. What made it more surprising was the price at which they picked up the proven reliever, $1 million in 2015 with a mutual $4 million option for next season with a $1.5 million buyout. Perhaps with spring training nearing the 32 year-old right-hander felt more motivated to sign somewhere and was willing to come down on his price for Cincinnati..

Badenhop has worked in seven different MLB seasons, starting with four in Florida. Since then he’s bounced around from Tampa to Milwaukee to Boston. Though he might have been a nomad, it didn’t prevent him from being effective because he held his ERA under 3.50 at all three stops while appearing in at least 63 games each year. It’s a bit more surprising to think that he lasted on the free agent market this late because he’s coming off the best season of his career when he was a workhorse out of the Red Sox bullpen with 70 games over which he held his ernie down to 2.29.

He is a finesse pitcher that relies heavily on a sinker that has been effective at inducing ground balls. Perhaps he lasted on the market so long because some felt his ERA last season was a bit counterfeit because his rates went in undesirable directions compared to the previous season when it was over one run higher. His walks increased, strikeouts decreased and hits allowed remained about same, but he nearly eliminated the long-ball by allowing only one homer in seventy innings. Also, Cincinnati might have appeared like a good move to him because of less competition for action in high-leverage situations. Regardless, getting a pitcher with MLB experience like Badenhop should give the Reds better bullpen options come opening day.

Cincinnati wasn’t content to stop shopping with Badenhop because they also picked up his former Marlin teammate, 36 year-old right-hander Kevin Gregg, with a minor league contract. He’s pitched with five teams over twelve different seasons and is coming off a 2014 campaign at Miami that was limited to twelve appearances while he struggled with an elbow injury. Two years ago he turned in a better season with the Cubs, posting a mid-three ERA over 62 outings including 33 saves. He’s undergone a surgery this offseason and will be ready for spring training where he’ll try to show that he’s returned to his 2012 form and latch onto one of the other bullpen spots.

Gregg’s arsenal on the mound is not what one would expect with his 6’6”/245# frame. He uses a short, three-quarters delivery and relies on locating a low-90’s fastball. His lifetime walk rate over four per nine innings indicates that he’s been challenged with command, but his strikeout rate is over eight per nine. He has a four pitch arsenal including a sinker that looks like his fastball, but has late movement.

Space had to be made for Badenhop on the 40-man roster and that came at the expense of southpaw pitching prospect Ismael Guillon who was designated for assignment. He was actually signed twice by the Reds after an arm injury voided his first deal. That saved some money initially but his second contract status shortened the time available for development. He had some success at Dayton last year, but the soon-to-be 23 year-old finished the season going 1-6/6.79 ERA at Bakersfield and has never pitched above the single-A level.

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