Ranking the best free agent relief pitcher targets for the Reds

The Reds have some money to spend this offseason and the club needs to find some relief for the bullpen.

New York Yankees pitcher Keynan Middleton
New York Yankees pitcher Keynan Middleton / Adam Hunger/GettyImages
5 of 5

It's safe to say that the 2023 Cincinnati Reds' bullpen overachieved. Hats off to Alexis Diaz, Lucas Sims, Ian Gibaut, and others, but Reds fans know that reinforcements are necessary heading into the 2024 season.

The Reds bullpen was absolutely gassed down the stretch. You can't squeeze blood from a turnip, but Reds manager David Bell definitely tried his best on multiple occasions last season.

The Reds front office will now focus its attention toward free agency, and possibly the trade market, in order to shore up the relief corps. Cincinanti could definitely use one, if not two additional relievers this offseason.

Let's look at the best relief pitcher targets for the Cincinnati Reds in free agency. Keep in mind, this is the Reds we're talking about, so get those thoughts of Josh Hader wearing a wishbone "C" out of your mind. But these pitchers would all help bolster the Reds bullpen and be affordable.

15. Buck Farmer, Right-handed reliever

Buck Farmer is the lone Cincinnati Reds free agent on this list. Farmer went 4-5 with a respectable 4.20 ERA in 71 appearances out of the Cincinnati bullpen. Farmer was used most often as a middle reliever.

There's merit to brining back Farmer at the right price, as the right-hander showed grit and durabliity last season. But if the Reds are truly looking to upgrade the bullpen heading into the offseason, there are better options available.

14. Will Smith, Left-handed reliever

Will Smith is the first of a lot of left-handed relievers who'll appear on this list. Smith spent last season with the Texas Rangers and posted a strikeout-rate of 24.3-percent. But Smith's ground ball-rate (30.5-percent) could be a problem at Great American Ball Park.

The Reds currently have left-handers Sam Moll and Alex Young on the 40-man roster. Reiver Sanmartin is likely to be retained as well, but he'll be rehabbing from Tommy John surgery next season. Smith is a solid option, but there are better southpaws available for the Reds.

13. Kirby Yates, Right-handed reliever

Kirby Yates made 61 appearances for the Atlanta Braves in 2023 and struck out an impressive 80 batters while posting a WHIP of 1.19. Yates was striking out better than 30-percent of the batters he faced last season.

Yates, however, also walked a ton of hitters. The 36-year-old allowed 37 walks in 60.1 innings of work. With Yates, you get two extremes; a lot of strikeouts and a lot of walks. Prior to this season, Yates had only appeared 15 games since 2020.

12. Chris Stratton, Right-handed reliever

Another Texas Rangers reliever makes the list, and with good reason. Chris Stratton, who began his 2023 campaign with the St. Louis Cardinals, went 2-1 with a sub-4.00 ERA in 2023. If the Reds are looking for a pitcher who can give them multiple innings of relief, Stratton could be that guy.

The right-hander made 64 appearances, but covered over 80 innings. Stratton kept the base paths relatively clear with a walk-rate below 7.5-percent. The 33-year-old wasn't exactly a strikeout machine though, punching out less than one batter per inning pitched.

11. Aroldis Chapman, Left-handed reliever

Aroldis Chapman signed a one-year contract with the Kansas City Royals this past offseason and was traded to the Texas Rangers midway through the 2023 season. Chapman can still light up the radar gun, consistently hurling his fastball toward the plate at 99-plus mph.

Adding some gas to the Reds bullpen should be on the agenda for president of baseball operations Nick Krall, but Chapman's walk-rate (14.5-percent) pushes him higher on this list. A reunion with the Cuban Missile could be in the cards for 2024.

10. Pierce Johnson, Right-handed reliever

Pierce Johnson, another Atlanta Braves reliever, gets a lot of strikeouts. The right-hander punched out 90 opposing batters in 60.2 innings pitched last season. Johnson was 2-6 with a 4.02 ERA and 1.48 WHIP.

Like several others on this list, Johnson got a lot of punchies in 2023, but also walked a lot of batters. A 10.8-percent walk-rate isn't ideal, but when you can offset it with a strikeout-rate better than 30-percent, there's reason to believe that Johnson could pique the Reds interest this offseason.

9. Robert Stephenson, Right-handed reliever

Another former Cincinnati Reds reliever appears on the list, and with good reason. Bob Steve had a solid season in 2023 with 77 strikeouts in 66 appearances while working out of the Pittsburgh Pirates and Tampa Bay Rays bullpen.

The most impressive stat, however, when it comes to Robert Stephenson is the WHIP. Stephenson ended the year with a 0.88 WHIP. During his time in Tampa, Stephenson walked just eight of the 140 batters he faced. The biggest problem with Bob Steve is inconsistency; something Reds fans saw during his time in Cincinnati.

8. Andrew Chafin, Left-handed reliever

Andrew Chafin just looks like a major league pitcher, doesn't he? The southpaw has been all over the league the past few years, so it's high time he makes a stop in Cincinnati. Chafin went 3-4 last season with a 4.73 ERA.

The previous two seasons, however, the left-hander put up terrific numbers. Chafin is going to get plenty of punch outs, and the lefty is oftentimes looking for weak contact. According to Baseball Savant, Chafin allowed an average exit velocity in the 88th percentile (86.8 mph).

7. Reynaldo Lopez, Right-handed reliever

Reynaldo Lopez is another hard-throwing right-hander who could excel in the backend of the Cincinnati Reds bullpen. The Reds have a solid 1-2 punch with Alexis Diaz and Lucas Sims, but could use an additional hurler to help work the eighth and ninth innings.

Lopez struck out nearly 30-percent of the batters he faced in 2023, but his walk-rate was greater than 12-percent. Lopez would give Reds manager David Bell an alternative option to Sims late in games when he needs to get batters out.

6. Joe Jiménez, Right-handed reliever

Joe Jiménez, a longtime member of the Detroit Tigers bullpen, pitched for the Atlanta Braves in 2023. The right-hander brings a mix of high strikeout-rate and low walk-rate; something nearly every major league ball club is looking for in a reliever.

After a disasterous 2021 campaign, Jiménez has put together two very good back-to-back seasons. Jiménez should be on the Reds shortlist this winter, but the 28-year-old's biggest flaw is that he does a poor job of keeping the ball on the ground.

5. Brent Suter, Left-handed reliever

Brent Suter is an intruiging option, and it's mildly surprising he's yet to don a Cincinnati Reds jersey. Suter played high school ball at Archbishop Moeller in Cincinnati and has the pitching profile that would work very well in Great American Ball Park.

Suter pitches to contact, and according to Baseball Savant ranks among the best in average exit velocitty. The left-hander also has a ground ball-rate near 50-percent, which would work very well in GABP. Suter is sneaky option to land in the Queen City this offseason.

4. Matt Moore, Left-handed reliever

Matt Moore corrected one of his biggest bugaboos from 2022; he reduced his walk-rate by a lot. Moore walked 12.5 percent of the batters he faced in 2022, but that number was nearly cut in half this past season.

Moore has an outstanding chageup that gets very weak contact, but he's not going to blow you away with his heater. Moore is a name to watch as the offseason unfolds, and the fact that he's a left-hander can't hurt either.

3. Keynan Middleton, Right-handed reliever

Now we're getting into the pitchers who may not only be the best fits for the Cincinnati Reds, but also profile to pitch very well at Great American Ball Park. Kaynan Middleton is near the top of that list. The right-hander has good velocity and struck out over 30-percent of the batters he faced in 2023.

But it's that ground ball-rate (56.5-percent) that's very intriguing. This is going to sound like a broken record, but the Reds need pitchers who can keep the ball on the ground. Middleton can do that and is just 30 years old. The former New York Yankees reliever should be on the Cincinnati Reds' radar.

2. Wandy Peralta, Left-handed reliever

The numbers speak for themselves. Wandy Peralta, according to Baseball Savant, ranks in the 94th percentile in ground ball-rate (57.1-percent). Peralta went 4-2 for the Yankees in 2023 with a 2.83 ERA. This was the second season in a row in which the lefty posted a sub-3.00 ERA.

Is Peralta one of those pitchers the Reds wish they'd have held on to? You better believe it. The southpaw has turned himself into quite the reliever after spending his first three-plus seasons with Cincinnati. Peralta posted a 5.00 ERA in 177 games with the Reds. Since 2020, Peralta owns a 3.01 ERA in 200 appearances.

1. Jordan Hicks, Right-handed reliever

If Jordan Hicks is focused on being a closer, then this a pipedream. Alexis Diaz will be the Cincinnati Reds' closer for the foreseeable future. But, Hicks could be a dominant setup man and give the Reds that 1-2 punch that the Milwaukee Brewers enjoyed a few years ago with Josh Hader and Devin Williams.

Hicks throws gas. According to Baseball Savant, the right-hander ranks in the 100th percentile in fastball velocity. Hicks also has an outstanding ground ball-rate of nearly 60-percent. The biggest flaw in Hicks' game is command, but the rest of his repertoire is outstanding.

The Reds have to upgrade the bullpen this winter. Adding one or two free agents is one option. The Reds could always look to trade for a reliever as well.

But with only Hunter Greene and Luke Maile under contract for 2024, Cincinnati should have plenty of payroll flexibility without having to sacrifice prospects in order to improve the roster.