12:50pm: It’s a big league deal for Strickland, tweets Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer.
8:16am: The two sides have agreed to a deal, tweets MLB Network’s Jon Heyman.
8:00am: The Reds are closing in on a deal with free-agent righty Hunter Strickland, tweets Robert Murray of FanSided. Strickland, a client of All Bases Covered, would give Cincinnati a veteran option to consider for what’s otherwise a largely inexperienced relief corps.
Strickland, 33, split the 2021 season between three clubs, beginning the year with the Rays after signing a minor league deal and pitching well through 16 innings. Tampa Bay still felt comfortable trading him to the Angels for cash, and things quickly went south for Strickland in Anaheim, where he yielded nine runs (seven earned) in just 6 1/3 innings of work. The Halos designated him for assignment and traded him to the Brewers (again for cash).
Strickland quickly righted the ship in Milwaukee and remained in the Brewers’ bullpen for the duration of the season. He notched a tidy 1.73 ERA in 36 1/3 frames with the Brew Crew and added another 2 1/3 shutout frames in the NLDS. Overall, his regular season concluded with 58 2/3 innings of 2.61 ERA ball (4.19 FIP, 4.06 SIERA). Along the way, Strickland whiffed 24% of his opponents against a 9.1% walk rate and a 34.8% grounder rate. He was particularly deft when it came to suppressing hard contact, as Statcast ranked his 29.4% hard-hit rate in the 97th percentile of MLB pitchers and his 86.9 mph average exit velocity in the 84th percentile.
The Reds will be without top reliever Tejay Antone for most, if not all of the 2022 season after he underwent Tommy John surgery in late August last season. Meanwhile, projected closer Lucas Sims won’t be ready for Opening Day, as he’s currently healthy but behind schedule in camp after rehabbing some offseason back troubles. Lefty Amir Garrett was traded to the Royals in this month’s Mike Minor swap, and the Reds have seen both Michael Lorenzen (Angels) and Mychal Givens (Cubs) depart via free agency.
Cincinnati does still have at least a pair of veteran arms at the back of the ’pen, as former Yankees Luis Cessa and Justin Wilson, both acquired from New York last summer, are still with the club. Righty Jeff Hoffman, though, is the only other projected member of the bullpen with even a year of big league service time. (Hoffman has three-plus years but has still yet to truly solidify himself as a steady option.) Cincinnati does have a handful of more seasoned options in camp as non-roster players, including Buck Farmer, Kyle Zimmer and Trey Wingenter.