There are few better stories in baseball right now than Hernan Iribarren. Last year, when he was with the Bats, I spent some time talking to him and wrote a profile that – conveniently – went up just as he was promoted to the majors for the first time in seven years. Just the other day, C. Trent Rosecrans wrote a story about his potential value as a teammate.

There are common threads in both stories. One is that, at one time, Iribarren was a well-regarded prospect. The other is that all of that changed when he was injured before the 2011 season. But I’m not going to re-hash those stories. Instead, I’ll encourage you to go read them if you haven’t already.

What I want to focus on today are Iribarren’s chances of making the roster.


There is a fair bit to recommend Iribarren. At the top of the list is that he can play anywhere. This has been talked about a lot, but I’ve seen it in person and he really is competent at any non-catching position in the field. And he likes it. One of the places he hadn’t played until last year was first base. But he thought it would be fun and so he asked to get time there. Players with that kind of capability and willingness to do what’s asked of them aren’t common.

Speaking of willingness to do what’s asked, Iribarren is entering his age-33 season. He has no illusions about the paths open to him. When I spoke to him, it was very clear that he knew his ceiling at this point is that of a bench player. A younger player or a player who had formerly been established as a major league regular may chafe at the notion of being given the status of permanent bench player. Not so with Iribarren, and that’s nice for team chemistry.

Perhaps the biggest asset Iribarren has is his reputation as someone who is excellent at mentoring younger players. Everyone I’ve spoken to – including Rockies GM Jeff Bridich – has spoken highly of his ability to work effectively with younger players. He’s already working with Jose Peraza and Eugenio Suarez. Should Herrera be called up, one presumes Iribarren would work with him as well. He very much feels that he is someone who didn’t appreciate the opportunities he was given and is dedicated to making sure other players don’t make the same mistakes he did. On a team overflowing with young players, having a player around who’s willing to be honest in that way can only help.


The two primary issues with Iribarren are age and roster space – and those intertwine. Iribarren is not currently on the 40-man roster and the Reds would have to give him a spot if he were given a place on the Opening Day roster. And, at his age, you can understand why the Reds might be reluctant to do that. Iribarren isn’t going to be a long-term contributor and so if the choice is between him and, say a 26-year-old who could theoretically contribute over a longer time period, it could be a difficult decision.


Regardless of what ends up happening, Iribarren is a fabulous story. A player returning to the majors for the first time in seven years when he is in his 30s is almost unheard of. And now he’s worked his way into the conversation for a regular bench spot on a major league team. Here at Redleg Nation, we’re fond of saying that we’re pro-fun. And players like Iribarren make the game a little bit more fun and that makes us want to root for him.

Jason has been a fan of the Reds since he was born. He really had no choice in the matter. He has been writing at Redleg Nation for a few years, and also writes and edits at The Hardball Times. His debut novel, When the Sparrow Sings, is available now and concerns baseball, among other things. You can find more information at

Join the conversation! 24 Comments

  1. I would love to see him make the team. I am all in with the rebuild and understand the time line we expect. However a player who can help mentor three young players or more is priceless. I also thin the fact that they are all Hispanic adds to the benefit. Making them feel more comfortable could be a real benefit. And I also think winning a little more now can go a long way toward building a healthy winning attitude. Add in the fact that another younger utility type has what a 40% chance of helping us down the road. Most are usually expendable trade bait.

  2. I’d rather have Iribarren than Alcantara. Peraza and Suarez can play SS if needed on a day where Cozart isn’t playing or in a pinch. And if we manage to trade Cozart, then Peraza should be moved to SS full time to see if that is a place he can play in the long term.

  3. I don’t think it has to be Iribarren or Alcantara. Both can play multiple positions in both infield or outfield. Iribarren sings a good bat. rather have Hernan than Renda.

  4. Yes, Iribarren is one of the bench answers. Iribarren is, at least last September, also a pretty good pinch hitter. The Reds have very, very few of those. He is just a good contact hitter.
    There should be a spot on the 25-man roster for Iribarren. Iribarren, I hope, this year will be the equivalent to a basketball team’s sixth man.

  5. Iribarren also gives you the flexiblility to carry three catchers if you want to ease Mesoraco back into a regular schedule.

    So while it may be a strain on the 40-man, it might be helpful to the 25-man?

  6. I think taking a potential starting pitcher and having them pitch for a season out of the bullpen is sometimes a great idea. I think doing the same with a position player, having him be a bench player, isn’t nearly as good a choice for development.

  7. Jason, nice succinct analysis of Iribarren’s situation.

    Last season, Iribarren proved he had a little left in the tank with a breakout (can a player have a breakout season at age 32?) season at AAA and continued his productive season during a September call up. I’ve compared Iribarren to Cairo when the Reds signed him to a one year contract at age 36 in 2010. Of course, the Reds overextended themselves when they signed Cairo to a multi-year contract in 2011 at age 37.

    Iribarren can put the bat on the ball and has reasonable (average) plate discipline as opposed to a swing early-swing often plate approach. He lacks power, but with a runner in scoring position, my money is on putting the bat on the ball or moving the line along rather than an all-or-nothing effort. His defensive flexibility, positive contributions as a teammate and mentor and offensive contributions demonstrated during the 2016 season and 2017 spring training should make him a lock for the 25-man roster on opening day.

    • Totally agree you old Cossack you.

      The guy gives a professional at bat. Great guy for the playoff roster we should now be assembling.

      The only downside was that Renda like Steve Sax throw from second base this week.

      I am on board with him, love his intangibles and drive

  8. Iribarren fits for the bench with Alcantara, Kivlehan, & Turner (if Meseraco on the DL). He does not fit with Raburn & Jennings in the mix. Iribarren is 1 NRI that might actually be successfullt flipped at the tradind deadline.

  9. This guy gives you a professional pinch hit at-bat, and not just in a swing at the first good pitch approach. That, plus his versatility, gives a lot of value. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him have a decent year off the bench and become a trade chip at the deadline that nets you a minor league relief pitcher. Lenny Harris kicked around for a long time with a smaller skill set.


    That’s gonna be your bench. Price loves him some veterans. In this instance, he’s also right.

  10. If he has a great bench first half, he’s trade bait. If his defensive range allows us to carry three catchers for a time, he’s helpful. If he can mentor younger players, we get another coach. I think it’s a smart move to include him on the 25-man roster.

  11. Rooting for Hernan as a player and a man. Hoping he makes the 25 man roster because it makes good baseball sense. Isn’t he the definition of the ideal bench player? I’ll be disappointed if Renda is in and Iribarren is out, but I guess we’ll know soon.

  12. I definitely like Irribarren for the bench. He’s actually the first one I’d pick of the NRI’s.

    • Yep! Then followed closely by Kivlehan with Turner retained. Let everyone else fight it out for the final roster spot or two.

  13. A big question I have for deciding who should make the team on the bench is who can play a decent defensive centerfield. Billy is obviously the starter there, but based on his injury history I would like to see him get a few more days off throughout the course of the season. I would want to make sure that 1 of my bench players is capable of backing up Hamilton in center.

    • Iribarren, Alcantara and Schebler can play CF. Jennings is a CF. If you want a really out-of-the-box option for CF, look no farther than the bullpen and plug Lorenzen into CF. The question becomes, are you looking for an injury replacement or a fill-in for the occasional day off? An injury replacement can be stashed at AAA. The occasional day off replacement must be available on the 25-man roster.

      • I just realized that Kivlehan also has 18 games played in CF after they moved him off 3B in 2014 & 2015 and were trying to find him a defensive home. Kivlehan also has the speed to play some CF, at least he did as recently as 2015.

      • I was looking for someone who could give Hamilton 1 day off each week. Hopefully giving him a little more rest through the season will keep him from getting injured in the second half.

    • I saw Hernan a lot in CF in Louisville last year. He’s legit. He’s not Hamilton, of course, and sometimes has issues with balls hit straight at him, but there’s nothing embarrassing about his play out there and he still has enough speed to have acceptable range, which is all you can really ask of a backup.

  14. 33 yo is nothing for a bench player. Flexibility is everything for a bench player. Take him to Cinci.

  15. Nice article, I liked Hernan when they called him up last year. I also would like to see him on he bench. I believe he can contribute. And he is flexible.

  16. I think iribarren will be a nice piece on this team I have felt for awhile it would be cool to have a left handed hitting infielder on the bench

  17. I think he can be a modern Lenny Harris with a little better defense. I don’t like him at the expense of a young guy who still has upside such as Alcantara but would take him on the bench over Renda, who I feel has very little upside, or even Jennings.

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About Jason Linden

Jason has been a fan of the Reds since he was born. He really had no choice in the matter. He has been writing at Redleg Nation for a few years, and also writes and edits at The Hardball Times. His debut novel, When the Sparrow Sings, is available now and concerns baseball, among other things. You can find more information at


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