The Reds have signed right-hander Alec Mills to a minor league deal, according to his transactions tracker at MLB.com. He’s been assigned to the club’s Complex League team for now, where he will presumably build up before joining an affiliate in the upper levels of the club’s farm system.
Mills, 31, spent 2018 to 2022 with the Cubs, serving as a frequently-optioned depth starter in the first few of those seasons. By the end of 2019, he had tossed 57 1/3 innings with a 3.77 ERA. He was out of options going into 2020 and held his roster spot all year, posting a 4.48 ERA over 11 starts, which the obvious highlight being a the no-hitter he tossed in September.
Since then, however, he’s had some challenges. He dealt with ongoing back issues throughout 2021 and 2022, posting a combined 5.66 ERA in 136 2/3 innings over those two campaigns. After a couple of years of migrating on and off the injured list, he eventually underwent back surgery in September of last year. All told, he currently has a career 4.95 ERA in 256 1/3 career innings with a 19.5% strikeout rate, 7.2% walk rate and 48.5% ground ball rate.
Mills crossed three years of service time last year and would have been eligible for arbitration for the first time this past offseason, but the Cubs outrighted him off the roster instead. He lingered on the open market all winter but now has a new club.
The Reds have plenty of need for starting pitching, as they recently released Luis Cessa while Nick Lodolo, Justin Dunn, Vladimir Gutierrez and Connor Overton are all on the injured list. That leaves the current rotation as Hunter Greene, Graham Ashcraft, Brandon Williamson, Ben Lively and Luke Weaver. Williamson was just called up and looked good but in just one start so far. Lively has made a couple of relief appearances this year but will take the ball tomorrow, which will be his first start in the majors since 2018. Weaver, meanwhile, has a 6.26 ERA through his five starts this season.
The club has some intriguing pitchers in Triple-A, such as Levi Stoudt and Andrew Abbott, but is currently running with a group in the big leagues that has plenty of uncertainty in it. Mills will likely need some time to build up strength after last year’s surgery and missing Spring Training, but he could bolster the club’s rotation depth once he gets stretched out. If he can put the back issues behind him and return to the big leagues, he’ll be out of options but could be kept around beyond this season if the Reds so choose. He currently has three years and 97 days of service time and could be retained via arbitration until he crosses the six-year mark.