The Reds have signed right-hander Ben Lively to a minor league deal. Lively, who’s seen action in parts of three big-league seasons, returns to the organization that drafted him out of UCF in the fourth round of the 2013 draft before shipping him to the Phillies in exchange for Marlon Byrd following the 2014 season. The deal includes an invitation to spring training.
In limited big-league action with the Phillies and Royals, Lively has posted serviceable numbers, covering 120 innings across 26 appearances (20 starts) with a 4.80 ERA (5.03 FIP). The great majority of those innings came with the Phillies in 2017, when he posted a 4.26 ERA (4.97 FIP) across 15 starts (88 2/3 IP) — good for an almost exactly league-average ERA+ of 101.
Two months after a June 2019 trade to the Diamondbacks 2019 season (for whom he never appeared in a big-league game), Lively crossed the Pacific to pitch for the KBO’s Samsung Lions, for whom he also posted solid-if-unspectacular numbers. In parts of three seasons in South Korea, the righty recorded a 4.14 ERA in 202 1/3 innings across 36 starts before a shoulder injury cut his 2021 season short.
Though only one of what’s likely to be a slew of low-cost arms given a shot to earn a spot on the Reds pitching staff, Lively may well arrive in Arizona with a real chance to crack the Opening Day roster in Cincinnati. Though the club has a strong top-of-the-rotation trio of Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray, and Tyler Mahle in place at present, GM Nick Krall was reported to have been willing to engage in trade talks on all three ahead of the lockout. It’s unclear which, or how many, of the three will ultimately leave the Queen City, but the club has made no secret of its desire to cut payroll, suggesting that at least one will likely end up on the move.
Still, even in the unlikely event that all three stay in Cincy, there’s likely to be some significant spring competition at the back end of the Reds rotation. Vladimir Gutierrez, who had a solid 22-start debut for the Reds in 2021, likely has the inside track on one job, but the other would likely be open to Lively, fellow minor-league signee Brandon Bailey, and prospects Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo, and Reiver Sanmartin.