Cincinnati celebrates Redsfest with two new pitchers

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

CINCINNATI — The Cincinnati Reds celebrated what will likely be the last Redsfest for a couple of years by welcoming two new pitchers into the fold.

Right-handers Emilio Pagán and Nick Martinez both showed up Friday to the the first day of the two-day event bearing free-agent contracts. Pagan signed a one-year, $8 million deal with a player option for 2025. Martinez signed a two-year, $26 million deal with the ability to opt out after one season.

President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Nick Krall suggested the franchise might not be done trying to upgrade last season’s team, which went 82-80 (a 20-win improvement from 2022) and finished two games out of the final wild-card spot in the National League.

“We’ll look at everything that can make us better,” Krall, who will lead members of the Reds front office to the winter meetings that are scheduled to start Monday in Nashville, Tenn., said at the Duke Energy Convention Center. “We’re looking across the board for anything that can make us better.”

Pagán, 32, posted a 2.99 ERA with 65 strikeouts over 69-1/3 innings with the Twins last season after logging a 4.40 earned-run average over 4.40 over the previous three seasons. Since breaking in with the Mariners in 2017, he has a 3.71 ERA with 456 strikeouts over 400 MLB with Seattle, Oakland, Tampa Bay, San Diego and Minnesota. His best season came in 2019 with the Rays, when he recorded 20 saves with a 2.31 ERA and 96 strikeouts in 70 innings.

Pagán has made more than 50 relief appearances five times in his six full seasons, piling up more than 60 innings every year. Last season, he also had 14 outings where he went more than one inning.

“We’re looking at him for the back of the bullpen, maybe as a setup guy,” Krall said.

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Martinez served in a swing role for the Padres the past two seasons following a four-year stint pitching in Japan with the Nippon Ham Fighters. In 2023, the right-hander was 6-4 with a 3.43 ERA over a career-high 63 appearances while pitching 110-1/3 innings. Over nine starts last season, Martinez posted a 2.32 ERA. It would appear he could join the Reds’ young rotation but also serve in a reliever role should circumstances change.

Cincinnati’s current stable of starters features Hunter Greene, Graham Ashcraft, Andrew Abbott, Nick Lodolo, Brandon Williamson and Connor Phillips, but no one in the group has more than two years of big league service time. Martinez would provide a veteran presence.

“He’s pitched some quality innings,” Krall said. “He’ll compete for a starting spot, but he’s done well in both roles. I could absolutely see him in the rotation.”

Krall and General Manager Brad Meador also revealed that third baseman and 2024 Rookie of the Year candidate Noelvi Marte suffered a strained hamstring while playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic and has come back to Cincinnati. Krall and Meador expect Marte, infielder Matt McLain, Ashcraft and Lodolo all are expected to be ready for spring training. McLain, Ashcraft and Lodolo all ended 2023 on the injured list.

“McLain is hitting off the tee,” Meador said. “We checked out Lodolo today and he’s doing great. Everybody’s on track.”

The same can’t be said for Redsfest, which faces a two-year hiatus as the convention center in downtown Cincinnati undergoes a massive renovation. Reds officials say they need at least 200,000 square feet of space to accommodate the 15,000 fans and various vendor and memorabilia booths and there is no other area location large enough to handle the event.

Convention center renovation also forced the Reds to postpone Redsfest in 2004 and 2005.

This year’s event is scheduled to resume Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

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