Robert Stephenson - 4-year deal for $40 million dollars
Robert Stephenson is very familiar with the NL Central, as he pitched in parts of seven seasons with the Reds and Pirates, but he saw a breakout campaign in 2023 with the Rays that has made him one of the better free-agent relievers available.
He began his major league career with the Reds back in 2016 as a starter and he did not find a whole lot of success. From 2016-2018 he made 22 starts and had a 5.47 ERA, a 5.7 BB/9 (walks per 9 innings), and a 9.4 H/9 (hits per 9 innings). Stephenson became a full-time reliever in 2019 and was solid in spurts but not for any extended period of time.
In 2023 with the Pirates, Stephenson had a 5.14 ERA in 18 appearances before he was traded to the Rays for minor league infielder Alika Williams and he had a resurgence. He had 42 relief outings with Tampa Bay and he hit career-bests in several statistical fields including win-loss percentage, ERA, ERA+, FIP, WHIP, H/9, BB/9, and K/9,
The risk you run in giving Stephenson a long-term deal like four years is if last season with Tampa was just a fluke, but with the way he ended last season could lead a team to overpay for him. Before he got to the Rays he had a career ERA of just under 5.00 across 7 seasons with the Reds, Rockies, and Pirates, which is obviously a larger sample size than just 42 games. But at the same time, you'd hate to miss out on a pitcher who will turn 31 next month, who may have discovered something that could make him a weapon for years to come.