A Look at the Cincinnati Reds Bullpen


It’s no secret that one of the areas in which the Cincinnati Reds must improve for the 2015 season is in the bullpen. I think the bullpen can be one of the easiest areas to improve a team, especially if the team already has proven players at the back end.

As it stands right now, Logan Ondrusek and Curtis Partch will not return (Ondrusek is in Japan, Partch with the San Francisco Giants). The players who will be locks for 2015 are; Aroldis Chapman, Sam LeCure, Manny Parra, J.J. Hoover (yes, Reds fans, Hoover will be back), and Sean Marshall. Jumbo Diaz will most likely start the season in Cincinnati as well. This leaves one or two spots still open. The Reds could look to fill those spots internally. Pedro Villarreal, Ryan Dennick, Nick Christiani and Carlos Contreras all have pitched at the major league level.

It’s safe to assume Dennick will start the season in the minors. He was a September call-up last year and didn’t pitch his best–same goes for Christiani. Villarreal is one of those guys who either can make a spot start or pitch from the bullpen, but he’s proven he’s not very reliable in a small sample size. Contreras showed the most potential and I think he will be the one who fights for the last spot or two in spring training. But with the way most of those players performed in September, the Reds might be better served looking externally to fill at least one of those spots.

A trade for someone may not be necessary. They can improve the bullpen by signing a free agent. But don’t look for the Reds to sign a high-profile reliever such as Rafael Soriano, Joba Chamberlain, or Andrew Bailey because, 1) They can’t afford it, and 2) They don’t truly need a high-profile reliever. What they need is a reliable middle inning guy. Looking at a list of free agent relief pitchers, I found some potential options the Reds could consider.

Burke Badenhop: He is the best option for the Reds, in my opinion. A seven year veteran, he’s a middle relief righty who had a career season with the Red Sox in 2014. He would be relatively cheap for a year or two at $2 or $3 million and would be an upgrade from Logan Ondrusek.

Mike Adams: Another veteran righty, he made his name pitching for the San Diego Padres and Texas Rangers. He’s 36, coming off an injury with the Philadelphia Phillies and is probably one of the more expensive options, so he would be a risky acquisition. If healthy, he could be a decent seventh or eighth inning pitcher.

Jared Burton: This would be one of those low risk, high reward moves. Once a Red, Burton has appeared in more than 60 games each of the last three seasons with the Minnesota Twins. 2014 was by far his worst season since 2009, his last full season with the Reds. He had some injuries while in Cincinnati, but he seems to have turned around his career in Minnesota. What’s the harm in signing him to a one-year deal at a low rate?

Neal Cotts: He’s a lefty. This could be a plus as you don’t know what Marshall will bring from year to year. He had a horrible season with the Texas Rangers last year, giving up 32 runs in 66 innings pitched, but was dominant in 2013 with a 1.11 ERA and 65 strikeouts in 57 innings.

Most fans forget the Reds had a very good bullpen in 2013. Part of the problem last season was that some players had a career-worst year after being great the year prior.

In my mind, Hoover will be better in 2015. A pitcher who had a 24.2 inning scoreless streak in 2013 has the stuff to be solid. Fans know what they’re going to get from Chapman and LeCure. Parra and Marshall are the middle relief lefties. And Diaz showed last year that he can be a power righty. This Reds bullpen can be a strong suit again. They already have a solid base. They just need to add one or two more pieces to get back to what it was in 2013.