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Ultimate Guide to 2024 Cincinnati Reds: Bullpen

The Reds bullpen should continue to be a strength.
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The Cincinnati Reds enter the 2024 season with higher expectations than the team has seen in recent memory. The Reds are deep and nuanced with few guarantees, but plenty of intrigue. The bullpen might be their biggest strength. 

The Reds stayed in the playoff race as long as they did because the bullpen pitched well for the majority of the season. As the calendar turned to August and September, though, this group fell apart. Nick Krall knew this and reinforced them with some key free agent deals.

The group is led, once again, by Alexis Diaz, who should be considered a top-10 closer in the league.

According to FanGraphs, Diaz had the same WAR as Josh Hader and only 0.1 less than Devin Williams. He will hold the fort down in most save situations, but the moves Krall made to bolster the bullpen have made it so Diaz does not have to pick every day. That is largely what led to his struggles to end the year.

Related: Ultimate Guide to 2024 Reds Starting Rotation

Also returning and looking to make a big impact on the late innings are Sam Moll and Lucas Sims. Those two were the right and left-handed setup men for the Reds. Sims was third behind Diaz and Fernando Cruz in strikeout percentage last year at 28%, while Moll allowed exactly two earned runs in his 24 2/3 innings as a Red. Both will figure prominently this year, as well, but will not be looked at as the only setup options.

Krall brought in Emilio Pagan, Nick Martinez, and Brent Suter to make this bullpen a formidable group. All three guys can pitch in setup situations. Martinez and Suter bring the added ability to throw multiple innings. 

Last year the Reds had almost as many outings by a relief pitcher where they recorded more than three outs (155) as they did outings by a relief pitcher who recorded less than three outs (147). Both Martinez and Suter have experience in MLB as starters and can pitcher two, three, even four innings when you need them.

Pagan will be counted on as a setup option. He didn’t strike out a ton of guys last season, but he limited the walks and the long balls while pitching the second-most innings of his career. He will be an asset for David Bell to call on.

Buck Farmer also returns, which leaves really just one spot up for grabs in camp. The discussion surrounding the spot is not as cut and dry as you might think, though.

Fernando Cruz was one of the best pitchers in the bullpen last year. Stop looking at his ERA, everything else was fantastic. ERA for relief pitchers is a very fickle number. Ian Gibaut was one of the most-used relief pitchers on the team and had solid numbers that some of the analytics say he was lucky to get. Alex Young could give the Reds three lefties out in the bullpen. He was a solid option out of the ‘pen as the only lefty out there, early in 2023.

Related: Ultimate Guide to 2024 Reds Infield

The talent conversation is buoyed by which pitchers have minor league options. Every pitcher but Gibaut has an option. Krall could use that and send those pitchers to Louisville to keep the organizational depth in the bullpen intact or they could make a choice that one of the guys with options are better than Gibaut. If they do that, Gibaut will have to pass through waivers and will most certainly get claimed. So the decision is whether to run it back with Gibaut or risk him being picked up by another team.

I didn't mention Tejay Antone. He also has options and can be sent to Louisville to prove that his arm is fully heathy and can withstand the regular schedule of pitching. I believe that if he shows that over the first month of the season, he may be brought up to the big league bullpen. The last time we saw him, Antone left a relief appearance with what was deemed “elbow fatigue.” He needs to prove he can stay healthy. 

This position group is deep and should remain a strength for the Reds this season.

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