by Matt Wilkes

Reds stay busy, trade for reliever Cionel Pérez

Less than 24 hours after acquiring Héctor Pérez, the Reds pulled off another trade for a young pitcher with upside, acquiring left-hander Cionel Pérez from the Astros. Minor-league catcher Luke Berryhill is heading to Houston in the deal.

Pérez is 24 years old and a former top-10 prospect of the Astros. He’s thrown 26.2 innings in the majors across three seasons — all in relief — posting a 5.74 ERA, 5.77 FIP, and 4.46 xFIP. The Reds apparently like what they see from Houston’s arms, as Pérez is the third former Astros pitcher acquired this offseason (Brandon Bailey and Hector Pérez).

Pérez primarily throws three pitches: a four-seam fastball, slider, and changeup. During his time in the majors, he’s mostly stuck to the fastball-slider combination. The four-seamer has averaged about 95 mph and touched 98 with below average spin, which typically means more sinking action. That’s helped him put up an above-average 52.7% ground-ball rate in his abbreviated big-league time.

The slider is his best pitch. It sits at 83 mph with above average spin that sits in about the 84th percentile. Opponents have hit just .226 and slugged .355 against it, as he’s held them to a .268 xwOBA and 30.3% whiff rate. It showed incredible movement in 2020, with 5.6 inches of vertical movement above average and 5.2 inches of horizontal movement above average. Both of those metrics would rank in the top 30 of all pitchers had he thrown enough pitches to qualify.

Here’s what the slider looks like:

The Astros signed Pérez in 2016 after he defected from Cuba. His original deal with the team was voided after an undisclosed elbow issue popped up in his physical. Pérez eventually agreed to a reworked contract for $3 million less. Despite the initial elbow concern, he’s stayed healthy throughout his professional career and spent most of his time starting, though he’s never pitched more than 93 innings in a season. In 222 minor-league innings, he has a 3.65 ERA, 3.44 FIP, 24.5% strikeout rate, and 8.7% walk rate.

After showing off excellent control in his first professional season, walks have been more of an issue for Pérez since 2018, which saw him tumble down prospect lists as evaluators felt he was destined for the bullpen. That’s where he’ll compete for a spot with the Reds in 2021, and he has an advantage because he’s a lefty — and a hard-throwing one at that. The Reds currently have only two other left-handers on the 40-man roster: Amir Garrett and Wade Miley. But Pérez still has one minor-league option remaining, giving the Reds flexibility with him in 2021.

The 40-man roster now stands at 37 players.

Matt got hooked on Reds baseball after attending his first game in Cinergy Field at 6 years old, and he hasn’t looked back. As a kid, he was often found imitating his favorite players — Ken Griffey Jr., Adam Dunn, Sean Casey, and Austin Kearns — in the backyard. When he finally went inside, he was leading the Reds to 162-0 seasons in MVP Baseball 2005 or keeping stats for whatever game was on TV. He started writing about baseball in 2014 and has become fascinated by analytics and all the new data in the game. Matt is also a graduate of The Ohio State University and currently lives in Columbus. Follow him on Twitter at @_MattWilkes.