It was, what, 15 months ago that the Cincinnati Reds and David Bell were talking about using Raisel Iglesias in a non-traditional role for a closer. The talk was that rather than a traditional role as a closer, he would be used more like that of a “fireman”, brought in to face the heart of the order if it was before the 9th inning, or brought in in specific situations with the game on the line even if it wasn’t the final inning. But when it came time for baseball to start being played, things weren’t going well for Iglesias in the early part of 2019, and eventually he expressed his frustrations with his usage, which led to his return to more of a traditional closer role.

That sounds like it’s what’s going to be happening again this year, too. Manager David Bell was asked about Iglesias and the role he would play this season before the intrasquad scrimmage on Friday.

“Yes, the big thing with all of our guys is making sure they are ready and making sure they are ready to go on time. But, assuming he’s fully ready to go we’re going to need him to win games,” said Bell. “We talked about , have seen that he’s more comfortable pitching with the lead last year in the 9th. There’s no denying that. That’ll be a part of the decision making process. Also, there’s no doubt that 60 games, we’re going to do everything we can to win.”

The Cincinnati bullpen is deep, though. Michael Lorenzen, Amir Garrett, Robert Stephenson, Pedro Strop, Cody Reed, and Lucas Sims are all guys that can match up well with most lineups in baseball. There could be more opportunities to go around if and when Iglesias isn’t available.

“We have other options to close games as well, hopefully we’re winning so many that we have guys that can step in and pick Iggy up. He’s not going to be able to pitch every day,” Bell said. “Hopefully we’re winning most nights. The good thing, too, you saw yesterday, Michael pitched three innings and there may be times where Iggy pitches a couple in a row and we get to the 7th and Michael’s fully available and we wouldn’t be afraid to let him finish the game off, 2-3 innings. And there will be other times when he’ll only pitch one inning, too. We like our bullpen, we like all of our options. Iggy is a big part of that – we need Iggy to be himself and we understand what makes him tick and we’ll factor that in.”

The Reds manager seems confident in his bullpen. And why wouldn’t he? There are some strong arms in there. There is plenty of depth, too. A guy like Joel Kuhnel is fighting for a job after dominating the minors last year, pitching well in the Majors over the last six weeks of the regular season after being called up, and routinely pitches in the upper 90’s. Depth could be a huge factor in a short season where every game matters more. Quick hooks on starters that are struggling could be something that happens a lot more frequently in 2020, and having a plethora of arms to go to should be beneficial to teams that have plenty of good ones to choose from. Cincinnati seems to fit that bill.

10 Responses

  1. Sliotar

    “We talked about , have seen that he’s more comfortable pitching with the lead last year in the 9th.”

    LOL. You ain’t kidding, Skipper. Numbers don’t lie.

    (Courtesy of FanGraphs splits tool)

    Iglesias in 9th inning, career
    K/9 – 11.0
    BB/9 – 2.2
    HR/9 – 0.9
    WHIP – 0.95
    xFIP – 3.08

    Iglesias in 7th and 8th innings combined, career
    K/9 – 10.1
    BB/9 – 4.9
    HR/9 – 1.1
    WHIP – 1.30
    xFIP – 4.38

    • MBS

      Right, I don’t know why it was so hard for Bell to figure until now. Bell was like a kid learning which shapes to put in where. Quit pounding that star into the square hole.

  2. Sliotar

    There is the possibility of bringing like 30 other bullpen arms for innings other than the 9th. Use them all, if necessary.

    Iglesias is the sports car kept in the garage … only bring out when the sun is shining… or in the case of this season … only when the Reds have the lead and need to close the other team out in the 9th.

    • Mark Moore

      Always Be trading Closers …

      The shine is off him for me. He’s as much of a prima dona as was Chapman. Not what we ultimately need, especially when his non-lead, non-9th number are what they are.

      • vegastypo

        Shouldn’t EVERY pitcher be more comfortable in the ‘closer’ role? Starting an inning rather than inheriting somebody else’s mess, likely coming in with a lead, and with a limited number of outs to get. Oh, and you might get the bottom half, or even the bottom third, of the batting order.

        Use your best relief pitcher when he can most help the team win. Agree with Mark. If the Reds can’t maximize his talent because his ego is in the way, see if another team would overpay.

      • TR

        It seems Iglesias is centered on the ‘save’ stat. Use him this season in that way and hope he does well, and then trade him in the winter for more pitching. It’s an area where the Reds, over the years, have not always been in such a strong position.

  3. KDJ

    From the news and quotes, I keep getting the impression that the personal “S” is more important than the team “W” to Iglesias. I hope I am wrong about that. He is a talented pitcher. On the other hand, there are different mindsets/personalities that perform better in different roles. I’m not yet convinced which of those two explanations better fits Iglesias. Nevertheless, when the team starts getting more wins, hopefully the team “W” will be more appreciated.

    • greenmtred

      Sorry if this sounds cynical–it is, but do you suppose that Iglesias is not actually more self-centered than lots of other players? He may simply not bother with– or the language barrier prevents him from employing– the team-first happy talk we all know and love. These guys sell their services to the highest bidder, as do most of us, and their personal stats increase their value.

      • vegastypo

        Fair question. I thought the Reds and Iglesias reworked his contract to make sure he was going to continue to get paid “closer money,” but with the understanding that he might not rack up as many saves because of Bell’s plan to expand his usage possibilities beyond the ninth inning.

        This passage (two paragraphs) is from the Enquirer’s Bobby Nightengale in November 2018:

        (The deal could signal a new role for Iglesias next season. It’s easier to convince Iglesias to pitch in different situations when he doesn’t need to reach certain statistical benchmarks for arbitration purposes.

        “Everybody is aligned now in terms of getting paid,” said Dick Williams, the Reds’ president of baseball operations. “Now it’s just about going out and winning ballgames. You don’t have to worry about the any of the appearance statistics that are relevant in arbitration. I think everybody is on the same page now. We want to be able to maximize the value of Iglesias.”)

        So in reality, he struggled in that usage, complained openly about it, and ended up right back in the ninth-inning role.

        He was gonna make $9 mil this season, or whatever the prorated portion turns into, and then just over $9 mil next season. This year’s $9 mil would have put him in the top 10 in closers, fyi, if this spotrac listing was correct.

        https://www.spotrac.com/mlb/rankings/salary/closer/

        From that same Nightengale article:

        “This is a great opportunity,” Iglesias said in a statement. “I thank the Reds for trusting me and believing in me. Cincinnati is my second home, and I wanted to take this step.”

        I think it’s at least worth seeing if other teams would value his services enough to help the Reds in other areas on the trade front.