February 28, 2024

Right-hander Nick Martinez and the Cincinnati Reds agreed on a two-year, $26 million contract that includes an opt-out after the first season, sources told ESPN, capping a busy Wednesday in which the Reds bulked up their pitching staff in hopes of winning the National League Central next season.

Martinez had opted out of the final two years of his contract with San Diego that would have paid him $16 million after the Padres declined their two-year, $32 million club option on the 33-year-old. He comes off a season in which he pitched 54 games out of the bullpen but thrived over nine starts, posting a 2.32 ERA in 42⅔ innings.

Martinez’s deal, which is pending a physical, will pay him $14 million in 2024, sources said, at which point he can head back to free agency. If he opts into the contract, Martinez would be paid $12 million in 2025.

Earlier Wednesday, Cincinnati agreed with Emilio Pagan on a one-year, $8 million contract that includes an $8 million player option for 2025, adding the hard-throwing right-hander to an improving bullpen that includes closer Alexis Diaz, right-handers Lucas Sims and Ian Gibaut, and left-hander Sam Moll, all of whom posted ERAs in the low 3s this year.

Fortifying their pitching staff was a top priority for the Reds, who were surprising contenders in the NL and at 82-80 finished two games shy of a wild-card berth. Cincinnati boasts a young core of infielders in Elly De La Cruz, Matt McLain, Noelvi Marte and Christian Encarnacion-Strand — all of whom were 23 or younger this season — along with utilityman Spencer Steer (25), right fielder Will Benson (25), second baseman Jonathan India (26), catcher Tyler Stephenson (27) and center fielder TJ Friedl (28).

Martinez is expected to join a rotation that could include any of five 25-and-under pitchers: Right-handers Hunter Greene and Graham Ashcraft and left-handers Nick Lodolo, Andrew Abbott and Brandon Williamson.

After four years of middling success with the Texas Rangers, Martinez spent four seasons in Japan, thriving in 2021 with a 1.60 ERA in 140⅔ innings. He returned stateside with more fastball velocity and an elite Vulcan-grip changeup he learned while in Japan. Martinez signed with the Padres, opting out of his deal after one season but re-signing last November for three years and $26 million, with the dual options following the first season.

In the two seasons since his return to Major League Baseball, Martinez is 10-8 with a 3.45 ERA and 201 strikeouts against 81 walks in 216⅔ innings.

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