Cincinnati Reds sign Oliver Perez to minor league deal

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

The Cincinnati Reds sign a veteran lefty to fight for specialist role.

Last season the Cincinnati Reds had no left-handed specialist pitchers.  They used Tony Cingrani in that role when he was healthy. Then they traded him to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Now the Reds are hoping to find a true lefty specialist.  The internal options were starting pitchers Amir Garrett and potentially Brandon Finnegan.  Now the Reds have someone who has done the job before.

Oliver Perez has had two careers in one. From 2002-2010 Perez made 195 MLB starts.  In 2008 he led MLB with 34 starts for the New York Mets.

As a starter, Perez averaged just above five innings per start.  He has three career complete games. In 2008 he led the National League with 105 walks.

His career as a starter got off to a great start.  In his first full year as a starter for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2004, he struckout 239 batters.  He also had an impressive ERA of 2.98.

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As a reliever he has over 350 relief appearances.  As a lefty specialist he averages less than an inning per appearance.  Despite the higher number of relief appearances, he only has 65 career holds.

As a reliever, Perez limits home runs.  He hasn’t surrendered more than six since he left the rotation.  Unfortunately, he only has three career saves in eleven attempts.

The Cincinnati Reds don’t have many other options for a lefty specialist.

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The top three options to join Wandy Peralta in the bullpen as the second left-handed reliever are all pitchers that started at least one game for the Reds last season.  They are Garrett, Cody Reed, and Finnegan. None of them are true lefty specialists.

Last season, Finnegan only faced left-handed batters six times.  Their batting average and slugging percentage were lower than against right handers.  He also struck them out half of the time.

Garrett, by comparison, had nearly the same numbers against both right-handed and left-handed batters.  

He struck out lefties at a higher rate than he did righties. Lefties actually got on base at a higher rate than lefties.

Reed, on the other hand, had nice splits.  Lefties only batted .111 against him with an OBP of .273.  He struckout lefties nearly half of the time in 2017.

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Perez is really battling himself after signing a minor league deal.  The Reds need to see that he is healthy and productive.  If that is the case, the rest of the left-handed relief options beyond Peralta will remain starters, whether in Cincinnati or Louisville.