Dec. 1: The Reds have now formally announced the signing of Pagan.
Nov. 29: The Reds are reportedly in agreement with free agent reliever Emilio Pagan on a two-year, $16MM guarantee. The deal consists of matching $8MM salaries and allows Pagan, a client of the Ballengee Group, to opt out after next season. It’s a strong deal for the righty, as the contract contains incentives to boost the total further and could allow him to seek a larger contract next winter if he enjoys a good first year in Cincinnati. The agreement is still pending a physical.
Cincinnati relievers combined for a 4.11 ERA that ranked 15th in the Majors and a 4.48 FIP that ranked 23rd in 2023. In general, it’s a thin and unproven group. Closer Alexis Diaz gives the Reds one high-end arm, and lefty Sam Moll proved to be a quietly strong deadline pickup.
Beyond that, the Reds lacked established, healthy arms. Righty Tejay Antone has been one of the game’s top-performing bullpen arms when healthy, but he missed the entire 2022 season following Tommy John surgery and lasted just 5 2/3 innings in 2023 before departing a September game due to elbow discomfort that proved to be season-ending. Lucas Sims posted a stout 3.10 ERA with a strong strikeout rate in 2023 but also walked more than 15% of his opponents. Waiver pickup Ian Gibaut had a nice season (3.33 ERA), but that was the 30-year-old’s first extended run of MLB success.
Adding some stability makes sense, though the 32-year-old Pagan (33 in May) has something of a rollercoaster track record. In seven big league seasons, Pagan has pitched for five teams. At times, he’s looked the part of a bona fide late-inning force, such as his 2019 season when he saved 20 games for the Rays while logging a 2.31 ERA, 36% strikeout rate and 4.9% walk rate. At other times, Pagan has been far too hittable and displayed below-average command. From 2020-22 with the Padres and Twins, he logged a combined 4.61 ERA with a walk rate nearly double that of his excellent ’19 campaign.
Most recently, Pagan gave the 2023 Twins 69 1/3 innings of 2.99 ERA ball, fanning a solid 23.8% of his opponents against a better-than-average 7.7% walk rate. He averaged nearly 96 mph on his heater and continued career-long trends of inducing both swinging strikes and chases on pitches off the plate at above-average clips. However, Pagan’s rocky 2022 showing in Minnesota pushed him down the bullpen hierarchy; after struggling as a closer and setup man in ’22, he…