1:15pm: MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon reports that Simon receives a $2MM base salary on the deal and can take home another $1.5MM worth of incentives (Twitter link).
11:01am: The Reds and right-hander Alfredo Simon are in agreement on a Major League contract, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (via Twitter). The MVP Sports client will return to the Reds, where he pitched from 2012-14 before being traded to the Tigers in exchange for Eugenio Suarez and minor league righty Jonathon Crawford.
Simon, 35 in May, tallied 345 innings and a 3.16 ERA in his three years with the Reds, averaging 6.3 strikeouts and 2.7 walks per nine innings pitched to go along with a 48.5 percent ground-ball rate. Simon spent the first two years of his Reds tenure in the bullpen, but he made the jump to the rotation in 2014 and yielded better results than perhaps even the most optimistic expectations could’ve predicted. Simon made the first All-Star team of his career at the age of 33 that season, pitching to a 3.44 ERA in 196 2/3 innings. The outstanding work was enough to pique the Tigers’ trade interest and convince Detroit to cede a pair of intriguing young players for the final year of Simon’s club control.
Simon’s excellent season in ’14, though, looked to be largely smoke and mirrors, even at the time. The veteran benefited greatly from a minuscule .232 BABIP and 85 percent strand rate in the first half — neither of which appeared to make his 2.70 first-half ERA sustainable. That production did indeed prove too much to maintain, as Simon’s BABIP regressed to .309 in the second half, and his ERA after the break was a more pedestrian 4.52.
None of that, however, is to say that Simon can’t provide on-field value to the Reds’ pitching staff in 2016. (His off-field history, on the other hand, is a separate and lengthy issue.) The right-hander struggled to a 5.05 ERA with the Tigers last season, but that was partly due to a dip in strikeout rate and an increased walk rate. A move back to the NL could aid both of those factors, and despite the lackluster ERA, it has to be noted that Simon still racked up 187 innings in the Detroit rotation in what was another healthy year in the rotation. Making roughly 30 starts and delivering an ERA in the low- to mid-4.00 range would still be a boost to an uncertain Reds staff.
Indeed, Cincinnati has upside but also plenty of question marks beyond right-handers Anthony DeSclafani and Raisel Iglesias, so there’s certainly cause to add some depth in the form of Simon. While the club has a number of interesting young arms — Robert Stephenson, Brandon Finnegan, John Lamb, Michael Lorenzen and Cody Reed, to name a few — it’s difficult to rely on such an unproven mix to round out the rotation. That’s especially true in light of a UCL sprain for Lorenzen and a delayed start to the year for Lamb, who is recovering from offseason back surgery. The Reds, of course, also have veteran Homer Bailey on the mend from Tommy John surgery, but he figures to miss at least a couple of months this season as he works his way back, so there’s no telling exactly how many innings the club can receive from him.
Simon’s late start might mean that he won’t quite be ready to step into the Opening Day rotation, but even if that’s the case, it’s easy enough to see him jumping into the starting mix by the middle of next month and providing a stabilizing presence to an otherwise youthful staff. The Reds needn’t make a 40-man roster move to accommodate the addition of Simon, as that roster will stand at just 39 players, even after Simon’s return is finalized.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.