'He’s got deception': How crafty Suter provides Reds with even more depth

January 14th, 2024

CINCINNATI -- Reds president Nick Krall had already spent much of this offseason adding several veteran arms to his club's pitching staff. Still, Krall wanted more and wasn't going to stop until he got more.

On Saturday, more officially came in the form of left-hander and Cincinnati-raised reliever . The club and Suter, who agreed to a one-year, $3 million contract with a 2025 club option on Thursday, finalized the deal after the pitcher passed his physical.

"Just making sure we have enough quality depth to start the season and then also to get through the season. No one can have too much pitching depth," Krall said.

Along with Suter, the Reds have also signed Emilio Pagán, Nick Martinez and Frankie Montas, as well as re-signed Buck Farmer. In total, Cincinnati has spent $108.25 million on free agents this winter as they seek to reach the postseason following an 82-win campaign in 2023.

In the bullpen, the Reds already had lefties in Sam Moll and Alex Young. But the 34-year-old Suter, who can earn additional bonuses up to $200,000 for games pitched, can bring an entirely different look.

"He’s got deception. He’s been tough on everyone," Krall said. "When for us you have Hunter Greene throwing 100 [mph] and you bring him in throwing 86, I think there is a completely different look to bring somebody in with varied looks and get better results. The deception is really good. He just knows how to pitch.”

Suter had a 3.38 ERA in 57 appearances across 69 1/3 innings last season for the Rockies. Despite pitching 27 games in the thin air at Coors Field, Suter did not allow a single homer in Denver, giving up just three homers in 2023. He has 3.49 ERA in 253 career games for the Brewers (2016-22) and Colorado.

Throughout his big league career, getting soft contact has been a cornerstone in Suter's game. In 2023, Suter ranked in the 100th percentile of average exit velocity (84 mph), 99th percentile in hard-hit rate (26.3%) and 97th percentile in barrel rate (3.3%), per Baseball Savant. Although he was near the bottom rung for strikeout rate (18th percentile), chase rate (17th percentile) and whiff rate (20th percentile), he had a 3.23 expected ERA (based on quality of contact, strikeouts and walks), which ranked in the 88th percentile.

“Definitely have to do it a different way," Suter said. "I do it with late movement. My four-seam [fastball] has some ride-cut to it. I have a two-seam that kind of tumbles off that. The changeup has been a big pitch for me here lately and a slider that’s been improving. I try to make everything look like a fastball and have it be late movement and all kinds of directions.

“I try to generate weak contact. I would love to miss more bats but I definitely need to miss barrels in my game. It's something I definitely want to take into Great American. It’s certainly a homer ballpark. I want to make sure I limit the damage and keep my team in the game.”

Suter also brings durability along with his dependability, having pitched at least 66 2/3 innings in each of his past three seasons. Since 2021, Suter's 204 innings rank sixth among all relievers. Cincinnati’s bullpen was heavily worked in '23, pitching the second-most innings in the National League. The Reds (4) and Astros (5) were the only teams last year that had at least four pitchers make 65 appearances. Only the Reds and Guardians had three relievers reach 70 appearances.

Suter's arrival to the mix adds more intrigue to an upcoming Spring Training that already has competition-galore in the rotation and infield. Now, the bullpen battle intensifies with even fewer available spots.

Along with closer Alexis Díaz, Farmer, Moll, Young, Lucas Sims, Fernando Cruz, Ian Gibaut, Tejay Antone are among the bullpen arms who will be back. Martinez, if he doesn't make the rotation, would also join the bullpen. It's possible some rotation contenders who don't make the starting five could move to relief roles.

“I think there’s guys that are going to come into camp. They might have been on the roster last year and are going to be fighting for a spot," Krall said. “I think we have some younger players in our bullpen. I think we have some veteran guys now. It’s really good to have that mix of players. We’ve got returning guys that have had some really good success.

"You’ve got some younger players that are a little more hit-or-miss and don’t have the track record. I’m really excited to add quality depth to our pitching staff as opposed to just adding players.”