The Reds have designated right-hander Heath Hembree for assignment in order to open a spot on the roster for fellow right-hander Tony Santillan, who has been recalled from Triple-A Louisville, per a team announcement. Cincinnati also reinstated right-hander R.J. Alaniz from the injured list and optioned him to Triple-A. Meanwhile, the Reds announced earlier in the day that infielder Mike Freeman cleared waivers and has been assigned outright to Louisville.
Hembree’s DFA comes on the heels of a catastrophic outing in which he was tagged for five runs in just two-thirds of an inning. The Reds might’ve been able to look past that meltdown had he continued pitching as well as he did throughout the month of July, but the past several weeks have been a struggle for the veteran Hembree, to say the least. He’s yielded runs in seven of his past nine outings — a total of 13 in a span of just seven innings.
That dismal slump has ballooned Hembree’s ERA to a grisly 6.38 mark, but Hembree has previously been more solid out of the Cincinnati ’pen and spent several weeks pitching quite well as their primary closer while top relievers Tejay Antone, Michael Lorenzen and Lucas Sims were on the injured list. (Antone is still on the IL.) Hembree logged seven saves and posted a 1.42 ERA with a 19-to-5 K/BB ratio from June 28 through July 24. He’d had some early struggles as well, but that strong stretch dropped his ERA into the low-4.00s and gave the impression he’d righted the ship.
Clearly, that wasn’t the case, but there’s still plenty of reason that another club might be intrigued by Hembree. Among the 321 pitchers who have thrown at least 40 innings this year, Hembree’s 38 percent strikeout rate is the game’s seventh-highest mark. He’s tied for 15th in that same set of pitchers with a 27.4 K-BB% and sits 18th with a 2.84 SIERA.
Hembree has been done in by a ghastly 51.3 percent strand rate that sits more than 20 percent worse than the league average. That’s in part due to a sky-high 2.13 HR/9 mark; he’s yielded 10 long balls in his 44 2/3 innings this season, although seven of them have come in his hitter-friendly home park. Another club with a more spacious home setting might take a look at Hembree’s K-BB profile and generally solid track record from 2015-19 and opt to place a claim on outright waivers. His contract comes with a very reasonable $800K base salary in the Majors, though he’s already unlocked another $225K of incentives on top of that base, I’m told. Hembree would be an affordable change-of-scenery candidate for a team in need of bullpen depth — be it on a waiver claim or on a new contract if goes unclaimed and reaches the market.