Raisel Iglesias Travieso
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 5' 11", Weight 165 lb.
Raisel Iglesias, whose first name is also sometimes spelled "Raicel", debuted for the Pineros de Isla de la Juventud in 2011-2012, going 1-1 with two saves and a 3.29 ERA, with poor control (54 BB in 76 2/3 IP). He was one of the younger members of the Cuban national team for the 2013 World Baseball Classic.
He defected to Haiti in the fall of 2013, establishing residency there. He petitioned Major League Baseball to be recognized as an international free agent and began working out for major league teams soon thereafter. On June 27, 2014, he signed a seven-year contract with the Cincinnati Reds for a total of $27 million, with a $5 million signing bonus. The Reds were impressed by the fact he could throw four pitches of solid quality. His only action came in the Arizona Fall League that season.
Iglesias started his professional career straight in the major leagues. Although he had been mainly a relief pitcher in Cuba, the Reds asked him to be a starter and he won a job in the starting rotation coming out of spring training in 2015. He made his debut facing the St. Louis Cardinals on April 12th and began very strong, pitching four dominant scoreless innings before running into trouble in the 5th, when he gave up three runs. He ended up with a no-decision. He was then sent down to the minor leagues after that start, making four starts for the AAA Louisville Bats before being called back to the Reds for a one-off start on May 13th, as a result of a string of rainouts and doubleheaders. He was masterful that day, allowing the Atlanta Braves only one run on two hits over 8 innings to earn his first major league win, 5-1. When he had three straight starts with double-digit strikeouts later in the year, he became the first 'rookie' to do that in MLB since Hideo Nomo 20 years earlier. While wins were hard to come by, he was pitching well, putting together a string of seven consecutive quality starts late in the year. He ended the year with a record of 3-7, 4.15, in 18 games, including 16 starts, and a K/W ratio of 104/28 in 95 1/3 innings.
In 2016, he made 5 starts for the Reds but was gradually moved to the bullpen, becoming the team's closer at the end of the season. His record was 3-2, 2.53 with 6 saves and 83 strikeouts in 78 1/3 innings. That solid performance convinced the Reds that his future was as a closer, and he rewarded them in 2017 by putting up the best numbers on the pitching staff for a team that was otherwise very weak on the mound. He went 3-3, 2.49 with 28 saves in 63 games, and again posted an excellent strikeout rate with 92 Ks in 76 innings. He repeated that performance in 2018 with a record of 2-5, 2.38 and 30 saves in 66 games. Having now established himself as one of the better closers in baseball, he signed a three-year contract extension on November 21st, worth $24.1 million, thus avoiding possible salary arbitration. He continued to save a large number of games in 2019, with 34, even if his won/loss record was a pretty bad 3-12 and his ERA jumped to 4.16. He bounced back in 2020 however, when he went 4-3, 2.74 with 8 saves during the abbreviated season. The Reds made the postseason for the first time since he had joined the team and he appeared in both games of the Wild Card Series against the Atlanta Braves. In Game 1 on September 30th, he came on in relief of starter Trevor Bauer with the game stil scoreless and two outs in the bottom of the 8th. He struck out Ronald Acuna to end the inning, then after issuing a leadoff walk to Freddie Freeman in the 9th, struck out the next three batters to keep the game scoreless. the Braves eventually won it, 1-0, in 13 innings. In Game 2 the next day, the Reds were trailing 1-0 when he came in to pitch the bottom of the 8th, but this time it did not go well as he walked Freeman again, then gave up a two-run homer to Marcell Ozuna, then after one out walked Ozzie Albies and gave up another two-run blast, this one to Adam Duvall. The Reds lost that game, 5-0, and were eliminated. Over his five seasons as the Reds' closer, he was one of only five relief pitchers in the majors to record over 100 saves, and among this group had the fewest blown saves.
- 30 Saves Seasons: 3 (2018, 2019 & 2021)