Strop On A Dime

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After missing the playoffs for six consecutive seasons, the Reds have injected new life into their lineup and pitching staff, locking up a plethora of reliable veterans via free agency this offseason. According to Hector Gomez of Z101 Digital in the Dominican Republic, the Reds have signed free agent right-hander Pedro Strop to a one-year, $1.825 million contract, which includes $1.5 million in performance-based bonuses. Not only does the addition of a proven, high-leverage specialist bolster their bullpen and provide a proven late-inning setup-man to bridge the gap to closer Raisel Iglesias, but it also represents the latest strategic maneuver from a front office eager to get the franchise back into the postseason picture as quickly as possible.

The 34-year-old righty recorded a lackluster 4.97 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, and 49/20 K/BB ratio over 41 2/3 innings (50 appearances) during an injury-plagued 2019 campaign, his final stint with the division-rival Cubs. However, he had clearly established himself as one of the premier late-inning bridge specialists in the entire game, posting a sparkling 2.61 ERA, 1.03 WHIP and 334/116 K/BB ratio across 296 1/3 innings (324 appearances) over a four-year period from 2014 to 2018. While his control took a slight step in the wrong direction (4.32 BB/9), he still missed plenty of bats (10.58 K/9) and advanced metrics reveal that his surface stats (from a run-prevention standpoint) fail to accurately describe his performance last season. According to Baseball Prospectus’ Deserved Run Average metric, which uses a collection of multilevel models to estimate the most likely contributions of pitchers to the run-scoring that occurs around them, Strop’s 3.66 DRA was more than a full run lower than his surface ERA last year. Simply put, Strop represents a low-cost, low-risk gamble for the Reds and a clear upgrade over their existing in-house options before handing the ball to Iglesias, who prefers to be utilized as a traditional stopper rather than a versatile fireman.

The Reds have been one of the most fascinating organizations to monitor this offseason, especially since their spending spree stands out even more when compared to the relative inactivity of their perennial intra-divisional powerhouse rivals. While the Reds have tacked on nearly $50 million in salary commitments this winter, the Cubs and Cardinals have spent less than $15 million combined on free agent acquisitions this offseason. Here’s a complete breakdown of Cincinnati’s offseason so far:

3B Mike Moustakas (four years, $64 million)

OF Nick Castellanos (four years, $64 million)

OF Shogo Akiyama (three years, $21 million)

SP Wade Miley (two years, $15 million)

RP Pedro Strop (one-year, $1.825 million)

Third baseman Eugenio Suarez -- who clobbered a whopping 49 round-trippers last season -- underwent shoulder surgery earlier this week, which has the potential to keep him sidelined at the onset of the 2020 campaign. Therefore, fantasy owners may have to wait a few weeks before witnessing the firepower of the Reds’ fully armed and operational battle station. Clearly, they’ve added a substantial amount of talent to their existing everyday lineup and also beefed up their pitching staff. It may not be enough to make them serious World Series contenders, but they’re almost certainly going to be in the hunt for the NL Central division crown in 2020.

Getting Dusty In Here

After a few hours of rampant speculation, the Astros officially agreed to a one-year deal, which includes a club option and a buyout for the 2021 season, with Dusty Baker to become their new manager on Wednesday. The 70-year-old veteran was let go by the Nationals at the conclusion of the 2017 campaign, despite winning 97 games that season. He's taken four different franchises to the playoffs and he guided the Giants to the World Series back in 2002. He'll replace A.J. Hinch, who was suspended and then fired by the organization earlier this month as a result of his involvement with the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal back in 2017. According to Brian McTaggart of MLB.com, Joe Espada, who has emerged as a candidate for several managerial jobs over the past few years -- including the Astros after the suspension and dismissal of Hinch -- will remain as the team’s bench coach under Baker.

Mookie On The Move?

According to a report by Andy McCullough of The Athletic, the Dodgers front office “remains engaged with Boston” concerning a potential trade for superstar outfielder Mookie Betts. McCullough also reported that the “dialogue with Boston has approached a resolution” in recent days. It's unclear what specific names are being discussed in a potential deal -- the Dodgers are known to be reluctant to part with either of their top prospects shortstop Gavin Lux and right-hander Dustin May -- but they boast one of the deepest farm systems in the entire game. In addition to sending a prospect package, they could also include an established major-league talent like outfielder Alex Verdugo to headline any potential deal. Perhaps most importantly, they possess the financial muscle to take on the entire $27 million owed to Betts in his final year of salary arbitration, while also absorbing the majority (if not all) of the $96 million remaining on the final three years of left-hander David Price’s contract. Based on the recent reports and persistent speculation over the last few days, it seems like only a matter of time before Betts is shipped out to the West Coast. The Dodgers appear to be the most logical trade partner, but given the depth of their minor-league system, the Padres can’t be ruled out either.

American League Quick Hits: Rangers signed INF Matt Duffy and RHP Derek Law to minor league contracts with invitations to spring training … Mariners signed RHP Yoshihisa Hirano to a one-year, $1.6 million contract, inked LHP Wei-Yin Chen to a minor league contract and also designated LHP Ricardo Sanchez for assignment … Orioles claimed INF Pat Valaika off waivers and designated RHP Branden Kline for assignment in a corresponding move … Tigers re-signed SS Jordy Mercer to a minor league contract with an invite to spring training … Royals sent RHP Heath Fillmyer outright to Triple-A Omaha.

National League Quick Hits: According to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, 3B/OF Kris Bryant has lost his service time grievance against the Cubs on Wednesday and will become a free agent at the conclusion of the 2021 campaign … Reds president of baseball operations Dick Williams told reporters on Wednesday that he doesn't expect the team to trade INF/OF Nick Senzel … Jon Heyman of MLB Network reported Thursday that the Giants have expressed interest in a reunion with free agent OF Hunter Pence … According to Jon Heyman of MLB Network, the Pirates are considering free agent outfielders Kevin Pillar, Billy Hamilton and Cameron Maybin for their center field void … Brewers finalized a one-year, $1.5 million contract with a $4.5 million club option for 2021 with RHP David Phelps and designated RHP Deolis Guerra for assignment in a corresponding move … Nationals acquired RHP Ryne Harper from the Twins in exchange for RHP Hunter McMahon … Giants re-signed 3B Pablo Sandoval to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training … Padres signed LHP Robbie Erlin and LHP Hector Hernandez to minor league contracts with invites to spring training … Diamondbacks signed C John Hicks to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.