The Reds have agreed to a one-year, $1.825MM deal with free-agent reliever Pedro Strop, according to Hector Gomez of Deportivo Z 101 (Twitter link). The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal adds that incentives can push the value of the deal, which is still pending a physical, up to $3.5MM. Strop is represented by the Movement Management Group.
It’s surprising that the Reds are coming away with Strop, who was reportedly deciding between the Marlins and Rangers as of last week. Nevertheless, it’s the latest strike in free agency for Cincinnati, a team clearly bent on returning to contention after a six-year drought. The Reds rank near the top of the National League in offseason spending via the open market, and Strop will go down as the second free agent they’ve pilfered from the division-rival Cubs. They took outfielder Nick Castellanos from Chicago earlier this week, though he cost far more money ($64MM) than Strop will collect.
While the Reds have been aggressive in bettering their roster this winter, they haven’t been all that active in upgrading a bullpen that was middle of the pack last season. They’re returning some quality holdovers – Raisel Iglesias, Michael Lorenzen, Amir Garrett and Robert Stephenson, to name a few – and the hope is Strop will accompany them as a key late-game option for the club in 2020.
The right-handed Strop, 34, has been quietly terrific over the past several years. Dating back to his 2011 breakout with the Rangers and Orioles, Strop has combined for a 3.00 ERA/3.32 FIP with 9.82 K/9, 3.89 BB/9 and a 54.8 percent groundball rate across 483 2/3 innings. He was mostly excellent with the Cubs from 2013-19, including during their championship drought-breaking 2016 campaign, but fell on hard times last season.
A hamstring injury limiting Strop to 41 2/3 innings, his fewest since 2011, and he only managed a 4.97 ERA/4.53 FIP when he was healthy enough to pitch. He also saw his average fastball velocity dip from 95.1 mph the previous season to 93.6 mph. Despite the drop in heat, Strop did strike out 10.58 batters per nine and induce grounders at a 52.9 percent clip; however, he struggled with control and home runs. Strop walked 4.32 hitters per nine and yielded homers on a career-worst 18.8 percent of fly balls, though he was hardly alone in surrendering more dingers than usual during the most HR-friendly season in the history of the sport.
The Reds are, of course, hoping Strop’s HR-FB rate bounces back toward his career mean of 10.1 percent. Regardless, he’s the latest of MLBTR’s top 50 free agents they’ve added. The club has now come away with five players from that list this offseason. And now that Strop’s coming off the board, Yasiel Puig (an ex-Red) and Brock Holt are the last ones standing.