The Cincinnati Reds ended their seven-year skid of missing the playoffs last year after finishing 31-29. However, they lost Archie Bradley to the Phillies in free agency and trade Raisel Iglesias. In addition, Michael Lorenzen is projected to be part of the starting rotation this season. That left a hole to fill in the back end of the bullpen.
After agreeing to a one-year contract with free-agent lefty reliever Sean Doolittle, the Reds may have at least temporarily solved the late inning bullpen problem. He was not ranked among the top free agents, mainly due to injuries last season that limited the 34-year-old to 11 games and 7 2/3 innings with the Nationals last season. Doolittle is just two seasons removed from his second All-Star season in which he posted a 1.60 ERA and 25 saves.
Of the five main relievers used last season for the Reds, only Lucas Sims and Amir Garrett remain. Both posted an ERA of 2.45, but the rest of the relievers on the 40-man roster are questionable. Doolittle must also fall into that questionable category due to his injury situation last season, but he does have a proven track record.
Doolittle has saved at least 20 games in five of his nine Major League seasons. He was also an All-Star in 2014 after posting a 2.73 ERA with the A’s. After his All-Star season in 2018, Doolittle’s numbers dropped to 6-5 with a 4.05 ERA in 63 games. On the positive side, he saved a career-high 29 games and led the league in games finished with 55.
The Reds finished with the second-best ERA in the National League last season at 3.84 but had only nine saves. The addition of Doolittle has the potential to provide a reliable closer, while solidifying once again what could be a shaky bullpen after losses this off season. The move was certainly a risk worth taking for the Reds.