The Reds and right-hander Alan Busenitz agreed on a minor league deal earlier this week, according to the transactions log on Busenitz’s MLB.com profile page. Busenitz hit minor league free agency earlier this winter but now is set to return to Cincinnati for a second season in the organization.
A 25th-round pick by the Angels in the 2013 draft, Busenitz made his MLB debut with the Twins back in 2017, pitching out of the club’s bullpen for two seasons with a 4.58 ERA and 5.49 FIP. After being granted his release by the Twins prior to the 2019 season, Busenitz landed with the Rakuten Golden Eagles of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball. Busenitz’s first season in Japan was a dominant one, as he posted a sterling 1.69 ERA in 64 innings of work. Busenitz’s run prevention numbers regressed someone over the next two seasons, with a 3.51 ERA in 82 innings of work with a strikeout rate of just 18%, but he rebounded in 2022 to post a 2.14 ERA over 33 2/3 frames while punching out 21.1% of batters faced.
Busenitz’s strong 2022 campaign and generally solid NPB track record earned him a look from the Reds on a minor league deal last offseason. After posting a 2.83 ERA through 155 2/3 career innings overseas, the right-hander’s return to stateside ball saw him shuttled on and off the club’s 40-man roster throughout the season, though he ultimately posted a strong 2.57 ERA across his six appearances in the majors with five strikeouts against one walk in seven innings of work. His minor league numbers were also strong to start the season, as the righty posted a 2.48 ERA in 40 innings at the Triple-A level through mid-August. He struck out 25% of batters faced during that time, though his 12.8% walk rate stood out as a potential red flag.
The wheels came off for Busenitz after being sent to the minors for the final time in 2023 in late August. The right-hander struggled terrible to a 13.91 ERA in his final 11 minor league appearances last year, dragging his overall minor league numbers last season down to a mediocre 4.94 ERA in 51 innings. If Busenitz can avoid a late season slump in 2024, he could provide the Reds with a valuable depth arm in 2024 and help to support a relief corps that the club relied on for a whopping 652 1/3 frames last year, a figure that was second to only the Giants in the NL. Busenitz figures to compete with the likes of Fernando Cruz and Buck Farmer for a spot in the Reds bullpen this spring.