The Reds announced a series of roster moves today, selecting right-hander Ben Lively and recalling fellow righty Kevin Herget. In corresponding moves, righty Luis Cessa was designated for assignment and left-hander Reiver Sanmartin was placed on the 15-day injured list with a left elbow stress reaction, retroactive to Monday. Additionally, infielder Matt Reynolds, who was designated for assignment on the weekend, cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A Louisville. The club also released righty Hunter Strickland, per C. Trent Rosecrans of The Athletic.
Cessa, 31, spent many years working out of the bullpen for the Yankees before coming to the Reds at the deadline in 2021. He continued working as a reliever for the Reds initially but they converted him to the rotation late last year. They had a few vacancies after they traded away Luis Castillo, Tyler Mahle and Sonny Gray as part of their roster teardown. Cessa was able to hold his own in that new role last year, posting a 3.77 ERA over nine starts as the season was winding down.
He held a rotation job going into 2023 but couldn’t carry those results forward, as he’s been lit up for an ERA of 9.00 through 26 innings so far this year. There’s probably a bit of bad luck in there when considering his .410 batting average on balls in play and 60.2% strand rate but he’s also striking out a paltry 8.3% of batters faced, a significant drop from the 17.8% rate he managed in his nine starts at the end of last year.
The Reds will now have a week to trade Cessa or pass him through waivers. He’s making a salary of $2.65MM this year, which could deter other teams, considering his struggles on the season. Since he has more than five years of service time, in the event he clears waivers, he would have the right to reject an outright assignment and elect free agency while retaining that salary. If that comes to pass, any of the other 29 teams could sign Cessa for the prorated league minimum with the Reds on the hook for the remainder.
As for Lively, 31, he pitched in the big leagues in three straight years beginning in 2017, posting a 4.80 ERA in 120 innings. He signed with the Samsung Lions of the KBO League in August of 2019 and stayed with them through the 2021 campaign, registering a 4.14 ERA in his time there.
He returned to North America after that and has signed minor league deals with the Reds in each of the past two offseasons. Last year, he had a 4.09 ERA in 77 innings over 18 Triple-A starts but didn’t get called to the majors. He’s off to an even better start this year in terms of results, currently sporting a 2.33 ERA over 27 innings. There are some caveats to note, as he has just a 15.2% strikeout rate and is being helped by a .224 BABIP and 84.6% strand rate, but he will nonetheless get a chance to replicate those results in the big leagues, returning to the show for the first time since 2019.
Sanmartin is facing a significant absence as he won’t throw at all for the next four to six weeks, manager David Bell tells Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer. That leaves Alex Young as the club’s only left-handed reliever for the time being.
As for Reynolds, he has the right to reject this assignment and elect free agency due to having a previous career outright, though it’s not yet clear if he’s chosen to do so. He only spent about a week on the club’s roster and got just five plate appearances in that time.
Strickland, 34, is a veteran who was with the Reds last year, making 66 appearances with a 4.91 ERA. He returned on a minor league deal in the winter, was released when he didn’t make the Opening Day roster but re-signed on another minors deal. Unfortunately, he has an 11.45 ERA through 12 Triple-A appearances and the Reds have released him yet again.