The Cincinnati Reds have signed right-handed reliever Nate Jones to a minor league deal for the 2020 season that includes an invite to spring training. Jones, a northern Kentucky local, went to high school at Pendleton County High School and then played in college at Northern Kentucky University before being drafted in the 5th round by the Chicago White Sox, has been in the Major Leagues in each season since 2012.

Health has been a bit of an issue for the right-hander, though. Jones only pitched in two games in 2014 with the White Sox and he didn’t record an out in either of them. He missed nearly the entire season after undergoing back surgery in early May, and then Tommy John surgery in July of that year. He returned in late 2015 and threw 19.0 innings. He then missed most of 2017, pitching in just 11 games after undergoing surgery on his elbow to reposition his ulnar nerve – a surgery that is becoming more and more common throughout baseball. He returned in 2018 and had success, but missed three months in the middle of the season before returning in mid-September. In 2019 he didn’t make it through April before having his season shut down. He had pitched well while on the mound, but underwent flexor mass surgery in May.

If we take a look at the career for Nate Jones, it’s pretty clear that when healthy, he’s gotten results. His career ERA is 3.12, and his ERA+ is 135. He’s really only had three full seasons, though – mixing in bits-and-pieces of other seasons cut short by injuries. Two of those full seasons, 2012 and 2016, were very good ones.

Over the last three years his ERA has gone up each season. Small sample size in all of them, to be sure. The ERA is less concerning given the amount of innings. What is a bit concerning, though, is that his walk rate has gone from above-average to poor in that stretch. From 2012-2016 he walked 8.5% of the batters he faced. In the last three seasons that number has jumped to 12% as he’s given up 28 free passes in 52.0 innings.

When he’s been healthy, Nate Jones brings the heat. For his career he’s averaged 98 MPH on his sinker, mixing in a slider that works in the upper 80’s and touching the low 90’s. In 2019, before he was shut down, that velocity slipped to 95.6 MPH – the first time in his career he fell below the 97 MPH mark for an average.

The soon to be 34-year-old has a big time arm. We’ve got a long history of seeing it. But Nate Jones is now coming back from a third arm surgery since reaching the Major Leagues. For Cincinnati, there’s not much risk here. If he comes to Goodyear and is healthy, and looks like the old Nate Jones this signing could turn out to be a great one. And if Jones doesn’t quite look like the same guy he was after the surgery – there’s not much commitment for the organization in terms of salary.

19 Responses

  1. Hotto4Votto

    Very nice pickup on a minor league deal. As you said, low risk, but potential for a big reward. Hope he can stay healthy.

    • RojoBenjy

      Agreed.

      What do folks think about Casey Sadler that was just DFA by Dodgers?

      • Hotto4Votto

        From what I’ve read he’s been an ERA darling recently but the the other measures (FIP, SIERRA, etc) have not been as optimistic on him. Still even those seem to paint him about average, and he’s had good GB%. Low K numbers, low swinging strike % but also low BBs. If a guy gets guys out, and doesn’t walk a lot of guys I’m more inclined to with production over estimators. He seems to pitch to contact, which can be a mixed bag for relievers, but with the ground ball rates being good, at least a lot of the contact won’t be as damaging.
        Personally, I think his overall profile is worth a shot.

    • Charles Lackey

      As a Reds fan I to hope Nate can avoid the injury bug for himself and then for the Reds. It is a sad thing when a player works hard to get to the majors and stays a lot on the injured list. Good Luck Nate. Finally, there are only a few players left that ate available via trade or FA. The Reds Front Office needs to do their job and get another BIG BAT & A VERY GOOD PITCHER, do it now as waiting puts the Reds closer to the bottom in the standings.

      • Matt

        Nate will be about 45 minutes from his home town. I graduated from the same high school, and the same college, he did. Point is that he is likely to have a lot of fan support and has the potential to draw a few more fans to the park from Northern KY. Definitely a good decision by the Reds.

  2. Linkster

    This is a very good signing with no risk. The Reds will have an intense competition for the final four RP spots. Will they find a gem or two? Will they find a second LH?

      • RojoBenjy

        So Reed is good to go? That’s good news.

    • AirborneJayJay

      LHP Kyle Bird was DFA’d by Texas yesterday along with LHP Jeffrey Springs. Boston already traded for Springs. Bird would be a nice fit in Cincinnati or Louisville.

      • Colorado Red

        Yes, but he would them take a spot of the 40 man.
        Not sure, but is there someone on the 40 man, we can option to AAA, without a DFA ourselves.

      • AirborneJayJay

        Yes that is true. And to your point, the 40-man roster is getting very tight, after giving it a quick glance. Very tight. Not that usual 3-4 players being on it that comes as questionable.
        The Reds have 21 pitchers on the 40-man roster, yet only 4 are LH. They are going to have to import a few. The big veterans coming to spring training on minor league deals are RH, Jones and Thornburg are RH. They brought in Miley and Josh Smith, but they have to get a few more LHers. Those 2, Garrett and Reed and those are the 4 LHers. That’s it.
        De Leon is also RH. However, people are soon going to realize by the end of spring training just how big of a pick up De Leon was. I am excited to see him pitch.

  3. Ed

    Right now, Michael Lorenzen’s Instagram has all sorts of incredible workout videos. He’s doing pull-ups with a giant chain on his shoulders, sometimes he’s jumping 4 feet in the air onto a foam block. The last couple days, he’s been posting videos and photos of himself on the mound, and maybe the most interesting one of all had the caption “shooting for 100 + 3”

    It would be pretty cool if he comes back from this winter break hurling 103 mph fastballs. A lot of guys seem to be goofing around over the course of the off-season. Lorenzen has been working out like a mad man the entire time. Here’s to his work ethic, and I’d love to see him dominate next year.

    • RedNat

      like I posted before, I go back to the Frank Robinson days and Lorenzen is in my top 10 favorite reds of all time. love his work ethic as well. and his attitude. I hope he can lead the reds to a world series one day

    • RojoBenjy

      Hope the work ethic wears off on Raisel. Last season, Cowboy lit him up all April for not taking Spring Training seriously.

  4. CI3J

    Low risk, high reward. If it works out, great. If it doesn’t, oh well. It’s the kind of move that, if successful, could help define the Reds’ bullpen this season. But if it doesn’t work out, no one will even remember Jones was ever a part of the team.

    Nothing not to like.

  5. JayTheRed

    Wow if we could get those 2016 numbers or anything even remotely close to it. I am very pleased by this signing. Minor league deal no risk to at least see what he has in spring training.

    Maybe this could be our diamond in the ruff signing of the winter.

  6. MBS

    Any chance the Reds make a trade for a closer or elite setup man? If the Reds still have money to spend, 1 more real good arm in the bullpen could make a huge difference.

    • AirborneJayJay

      Reds POBO Dick Williams said today as they kicked off the Caravan that he is pretty certain the roster will change between now and spring training.
      He said, “I’m pretty sure there’ll be changes between now and camp.”

      • JayTheRed

        Makes you wonder if they have some kind of trade they are working on currently doesn’t it?