Cincinnati Reds: Outrighting Joel Kuhnel may open door for Riley O’Brien

CINCINNATI, OH - MAY 14: A close up view of a hat and baseball glove in the dugout with the New Era logo before a game between the Cincinnati Reds and the Chicago Cubs. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***
CINCINNATI, OH - MAY 14: A close up view of a hat and baseball glove in the dugout with the New Era logo before a game between the Cincinnati Reds and the Chicago Cubs. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** /
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Riley O’Brien arrived to the Reds this season as part of a trade with the Rays.

This past week, both Joel Kuhnel and Robel García were removed from the Cincinnati Reds 40-man roster. García joined the New York Mets and Kuhnel was outrighted to the Louisville Bats. The Reds roster is now sitting at 35 and with the likely departure of at least two free agents, Cincinnati should have more than enough space to add Riley O’Brien to the roster.

With the World Series now complete, every one of the 30 Major League Baseball teams will begin to lay out their offseason roadmap. While the Reds free agent courtship of Trevor Bauer and others may be at or near the top of the list, Cincinnati’s front office also needs to assign a few young prospects to the 40-man roster. Riley O’Brien should be one of the first players added.

Most Reds fans may not know a lot about the 25-year-old right-hander, as O’Brien has only been part of the organization since this past summer. O’Brien was traded to Cincinnati from Tampa Bay in a move that landed the Rays former left-hander Cody Reed.

O’Brien has had an exceedingly successful minor league campaign during his professional career. With a career-ERA of 2.83, O’Brien has shown that he has what it takes in terms of stuff. MLB Pipeline notes that during his breakout season in 2019, Riley O’Brien’s velocity jumped up to the mid-90’s and was sitting comfortably at about 97-MPH.

While it seems unlikely for O’Brien to see the major league field in 2021, he’ll likely be added to the 40-man roster in order to protect the right-hander from the Rule 5 Draft. All minor league players in O’Brien’s shoes must be assigned to the team’s 40-man roster before December 10th in order to guarantee they’ll remain with their current ball club.

Riley O’Brien has a four-pitch repertoire with a fastball, curveball, slider and changeup. His slider is his most devastating out-pitch, but both his control and command are below-average. O’Brien sounds like the perfect candidate to be thrust into the Reds minor league system, a department that’s seen a lot of improvements over the past few years.

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The offseason is underway, and while most of Reds Country will be fixated on trades, free agent signings and potential blockbuster deals, don’t forget about the smaller transitions that could make a bigger impact down the road. Adding O’Brien to the roster is one of those transactions.