It sounds like the owners and the Players Association are set to begin negotiations on core economic issues in the coming weeks. For our sakes, let's hope that means we'll see pitchers and catcher report on time.
Soon enough, the two sides will reach an agreement, the lockout will be lifted, and the transaction freeze will give way to multiple free agent signings. The Cincinnati Reds bullpen was the team's biggest weakness prior to the lockout, and it will be the biggest weakness once the lockout concludes.
The Reds have already lost Tejay Antone for the 2022 season. Michael Lorenzen signed a one-year deal with the Los Angeles Angels just before the MLB lockout went into effect. And Mychal Givens is not expected to return to Cincinnati next season. With the Reds aligning their payroll to their resources, who are some low-cost relievers that will fit nicely into the team's budget?
1. The Reds should sign RHP Steve Cishek.
Steve Cishek had a solid season for the Los Angeles Angels last year. The right-hander made 74 appearances out of the Halos' bullpen and posted a 3.42 ERA and 3.74 FIP. Over the past four seasons, while pitching for three different teams, Cishek has thrown in 222.2 innings and put up a 3.07 ERA.
At 35 years old, Cishek isn't likely to command a long-term contract, though he's unlikely to agree to a minor-league deal. That means the Reds will have to open their wallet just little bit. Perhaps a deal similar to what Sean Doolittle signed last offseason (one-year/$1.5M) would suffice.
Cishek relies heavily on a sinker/ slider combination and does a decent job of keeping the ball on the ground (49.7% ground ball rate in 2021). While I wouldn't consider the former fifth-round draft pick an elite reliever, Steve Cishek has the experience and skills to be a serviceable piece in the Cincinnati Reds bullpen.