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Reds, Emilio Pagan Agree to Two-Year Deal

The Cincinnati Reds failed to add enough pitching at the trade deadline this past summer. The team missed out on a Wild Card spot by just two games. The lack of activity in the summer might have cost them that spot. However, the team won’t be as passive this offseason. On Wednesday, Mark Feinsand of MLB reported that the Reds and reliever Emilio Pagan have agreed to a two-year deal. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that the deal is worth $16 million and contains a player opt-out after year one.

Pagan, 32, just produced his best season since 2019. In 69.1 innings for the Minnesota Twins, Pagan pitched to a 2.99 ERA (144 ERA+) with slightly above-average walk (7.7 percent) and strikeout (23.8 percent) percentages. The righty relied on his four-seam fastball and cutter combination to provide solid innings in the back end of the bullpen for the American League Central champions.

Pagan throws hard and gets a great spin on his fastball. His fastball spin rate has ranked in the 94th percentile or better in five of his seven seasons. His fastball spin rate has never been below the 87th percentile in any season.

It’s not hard to see why Pagan’s ability and potential enamor teams. However, Pagan has struggled to put it all together consistently. He produced three below-average seasons, per ERA+, from 2020-2022 before his rebound 2023 campaign. In his seven-year career, Pagan has already pitched for five teams, including a four-year stretch where he threw for four different squads.

Pagan’s Fit with the Reds

While the Reds produced an exciting core of position players last season, much was left to be desired on the pitching staff. Despite having a dominant young closer in Alexis Díaz, Cincinnati’s bullpen put up a 4.11 ERA, which ranked 16th in the majors. Reds relievers ranked among the worst in the league in K/9 (27th) and BB/9 (25th).

While Pagan should help push the unit closer to the league average, his home run rates might cause some concern. Before last season, Pagan had a career HR% of 4.7 percent. This included a career-high 6.1 percent in 2021.

However, Pagan broke out in 2023 partly due to keeping the ball in the park. While he didn’t produce fly balls or strikeouts at high rates, he excelled at not giving up homers. His 1.8 percent HR% was his career best, as was his 0.65 homers per nine.

It remains to be seen whether this can be attributed to adjustments, luck, or pitching in spacious Target Field. The Reds play in a hitter-friendly park and surely will hope Pagan’s success comes from adjustments rather than luck.

Main Photo Credits: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports


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