Like most seasons for baseball's oldest franchise, opening the year with several question marks regarding the roster is not uncommon.
Unfortunately, the 2021 season was no exception, as the Cincinnati Reds began their campaign without a proven shortstop and endless uncertainty regarding the bullpen.
Raisel Iglesias should be the Reds No. 1 free agent target.
As we turn the page to 2022, Reds Country can feel comfortable knowing that between Jose Barrero and Kyle Farmer, the shortstop position will not be nearly the nightmare it was to open last season.
Unfortunately, the bullpen continues to be an area with grave concerns, despite General Manager Nick Krall adding Luis Cessa and Justin Wilson to the roster in late July. Both hurlers would appear to be locks for the bullpen in 2022.
The other experienced bullpen arm added in July, Mychal Givens, is a free agent who, despite saving eight games for the Redlegs after arriving in the Queen City, has never been a full-time closer throughout his seven-year career.
So even though I would love to see Givens back in Cincinnati next season, he doesn't solve the Reds' biggest bullpen issue.
A reliever with extensive closing experience and who knows the Cincinnati organization intimately should be the club's biggest free-agent target this winter.
Reds GM Nick Krall can undo his biggest mistake.
It's time for Nick Krall to correct one of the biggest blunders in his rookie campaign constructing the Reds' roster. It's time to bring Raisel Iglesias back to the Queen City.
In what was clearly a salary dump move on the Reds part last offseason, they sent Iggy to the Los Angeles Angels on December 7th in exchange for right-handed reliever Noe Ramirez and minor league prospect Leonardo Rivas.
So what did Cincinnati get in return for slashing the Cuban's $9.125M salary from the books? Outside of a reduced payroll, absolutely nothing.
Despite having logged six major league seasons, Ramirez failed to make the team out of Spring Training after his release on March 27th. As for Rivas, he slashed .274/.382/.337 in 190 at-bats at Double-A Chattanooga last season.
However, the 24-year-old Venezuelan is primarily organizational depth and not ranked among the club's top 30 prospects.
On the other hand, Iglesias had an excellent season closing for the Angels. Finishing an American League-high 59 games, Iggy tied his career-best mark of 34 saves while tossing 70 innings for the Halos.
Iglesias also established numerous career-best marks across the board. His 13.2 K/9, 8.58 K/BB, and 1.5 BB/9 rates were the peak of his seven-year career. As a result, the soon-to-be 32-year-old will not come cheaply as he hits the open market.
Spotrac.com ranked the contract Iggy just completed as 18th among all relief pitchers. However, don't expect the right-hander to accept another undervalue deal as they estimate his market value to be worthy of a deal in the 3-year $45M range, which would place him among the top three compensated closers in the game.
The question for the Cincinnati Reds, as it always is, comes down to money? Can they afford it? Of course, they can.
Realistically, Nick Castellanos and Tucker Barnhart are not returning next season, removing $23M from the payroll. It's also safe to assume at least one member of the starting rotation won't be back as well.
If that starter is Sonny Gray or Wade Miley, another $10M is off the books, leaving the front office with $31M to play with just from those three players.
Granted, most of those dollars will go to arbitration-eligible players such as Luis Castillo and Tyler Mahle. Still, it should leave enough cash to make one significant free-agent addition.
Why is it so crucial for the Reds to bring Raisel Iglesias back? There's a good argument to be made; if Iggy was around in 2021, the Reds would have made their second consecutive playoff appearance.
Of course, the Reds must spend their money wisely this offseason, but adding an established effective closer such as Iglesias eliminates one of the most prominent question marks facing this club.