Simon returns to Reds on 1-year deal

Right-hander adds veteran presence to a young starting rotation

March 17th, 2016

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Even though the Reds are committed to going younger -- especially with pitching -- they were concerned about not having someone in the rotation with a longer track record of working deep into games. To find that pitcher, they reached back to the recent past and signed free agent Alfredo Simon to a one-year Major League contract.

Simon, who pitched for Cincinnati from 2012-14, arrived at Reds camp on Thursday, ready to go to work.

"Certainly our past history with Alfredo made this a much easier decision for us," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "The durability factor -- we know what we're getting. He's extremely resilient. In a young rotation, and probably a young bullpen as well, his durability really is a huge bonus for us."

Simon, who will turn 35 on May 8, will earn a base salary of $2 million, with an additional $1.5 million possible in incentives.

"Right now, it's late. I had to make a decision. I had to sign," Simon said. "I had a couple of offers on different teams, but I decided to come here. I played here. Everybody knows me here, and I'm happy to come back here."

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The Reds entered camp with Anthony DeSclafani and Raisel Iglesias in the rotation, followed by a lot of question marks. Brandon Finnegan looks good for a spot, but he has never pitched a full season as a starter in the big leagues.

The situation became murkier when Michael Lorenzen suffered a strain and tendinitis in his elbow this week, and Jon Moscot is dealing a mild intercostal strain. Lorenzen likely will begin the season on the disabled list, while Moscot should be ready for the season, assuming he makes the team. Cody Reed and Robert Stephenson are exciting young prospects, but their readiness for the big leagues is not assumed.

The optimum situation for the development of Stephenson and Reed would be for them to begin the season in the Minors. Veteran Homer Bailey won't be ready until May as he rehabs from Tommy John surgery. John Lamb, who is coming off of December back surgery, likely won't be available until late April.

Reds general manager Dick Williams noted the move to add Simon was not a reaction to the recent developments.

"We've been following the market for the past month or so," Williams said, "looking for someone that we could plug into the rotation that could provide us with innings, a veteran presence, some experience -- particularly in our division, someone we've had success with in the past.

"We've got a lot of young pitchers. Their future is very important to us. To be able to plug someone into the rotation like this, it allows us to continue with our strategy of being very diligent about preparing our young players as best we can to succeed in the future.

"We're very happy that this opportunity came about and [Reds president and CEO Bob] Castellini gave us the resources to extend the budget a little bit to make this happen beyond where we planned to go."

In Simon's three-year stint with Cincinnati, he was 24-16 with a 3.16 ERA in 131 games, including 32 starts. The club originally claimed him off of waivers from the Orioles before Opening Day 2012, and he rose to become a dependable reliever in multiple roles.

Heading into 2014, the Reds converted Simon to a starter, and it was a success, as he went 15-10 with a 3.44 ERA in 32 starts while throwing a career-high 196 1/3 innings. He made the National League All-Star team that season following a 12-3 start, before he struggled in the second half.

During the Winter Meetings in 2014, the Reds traded Simon to the Tigers for shortstop Eugenio Suarez and Minor League pitcher Jonathon Crawford. Suarez broke out last season while filling in for Zack Cozart, and he is heading into '16 as the starting third baseman.

Last season for Detroit, Simon was 13-12 with a 5.05 ERA in 31 starts and 187 innings pitched. A free agent in the offseason, he spent his time at home in the Dominican Republic waiting for a team to show interest. He sent a video of his bullpen session to the Reds.

"I hope to be ready as soon as I can," Simon said. "I've been throwing to hitters. I hope to do my best and just work hard."

The Reds' plan is for Simon to be a member of their rotation from the start of the regular season. He shouldn't need too much time to catch up.

"He threw 50 pitches on the side," Price said. "He'll throw a couple of bullpens most likely, and get slotted into games and try to build him up to be ready to make one of those first five starts [of the season]. It's yet to be known if that is a possibility, but I'm pretty confident he can get himself up to speed."

"If you've been around Alfredo Simon before, you know that he's always ready to pitch," Williams said. "He's a competitor. He keeps himself in good shape, and his durability is one of his best assets. We anticipate him being ready in April."

Simon said he received a similar offer to pitch for the Blue Jays.

"I'm glad to come here to the Reds, because everybody knows me here," Simon said. "I'm going to be with my old team."