Cincinnati Reds sign catcher Luke Maile, Covington Catholic product, to 1-year deal

Luke Maile was a part of the Cleveland Guardians’ playoff run during the 2022 season and now he’s returning home.

Maile signed a one-year, $1.175 million contract with the Cincinnati Reds on Monday, filling the backup catcher role behind starter Tyler Stephenson. Maile can receive an additional $25,000 bonus if he plays in 80 games, a source with knowledge of the contract told The Enquirer. Maile, a Covington Catholic product, has drawn positive reviews for his defense throughout his seven-year career and becomes the Reds’ first free agent signing of the winter.

Luke Maile hits a home run during a game against the Houston Astros on Aug. 7.
Luke Maile hits a home run during a game against the Houston Astros on Aug. 7.

The Reds didn’t receive much production from their backup catchers last season, but it’s an area the club wanted to address with a pitching staff that could trend even younger during another rebuilding season.

Maile, who will turn 32 in February, hit .221 in a career-high 76 games this year with three homers, 10 doubles and 17 RBI. The Reds will be his sixth organization since he was taken in the eighth round of the 2012 MLB Draft by the Tampa Bay Rays.

He’s never played a big-league game inside of Great American Ball Park, but he made one start against his hometown team in 2017.

Cleveland Guardians catcher Luke Maile rounds the bases after hitting a home run during the fifth inning against the Houston Astros at Progressive Field.
Cleveland Guardians catcher Luke Maile rounds the bases after hitting a home run during the fifth inning against the Houston Astros at Progressive Field.

The Reds parted with their backup catching depth at the beginning of the offseason when they needed to create space on their 40-man roster for players who ended the season on the 60-day injured list. Austin Romine, Aramis Garcia and Michael Papierski are free agents. Mark Kolozsvary was claimed off waivers by the Baltimore Orioles.

Rookie starters Nick Lodolo and Hunter Greene often complimented Romine at the end of the season for his veteran influence on them. Maile, who has a strong arm to control the run game, has worked with a wide variety of pitchers, and has playoff experience with Cleveland (2022) and Milwaukee (2021).

The Reds had conversations about the backup catcher job with Tucker Barnhart, who spent eight seasons on the team, but MLB.com reported Barnhart was searching for a starting catching opportunity.

Stephenson has resumed baseball activities, including swinging a bat, after he broke his collarbone in July. Stephenson, 26, was limited to 50 games in his first year as the club’s primary catcher, but he showed how much he could impact the lineup with a .319 batting average, six homers, nine doubles and 35 RBI. In a 100-loss season, the Reds had a 22-24 record in games started by Stephenson.

Aristides Aquino headed to Japan

Aristides Aquino fires a throw to third base in a game against the Cubs on Oct. 3.
Aristides Aquino fires a throw to third base in a game against the Cubs on Oct. 3.

Former Reds outfielder Aristides Aquino, who was released earlier this month with a rising salary through arbitration, has signed a one-year, $1.2 million contract with Japan’s Chunichi Dragons, according to Dominican-based reporter Hector Gomez.

The 28-year-old Aquino hit .197 last season with 10 homers, 13 doubles and 30 RBI in 80 games. He struck out 101 times in 276 plate appearances, posting a .246 on-base percentage. Aquino played Gold Glove-caliber defense in right field, but he even lost playing time after the trade deadline because of his offensive struggles.

Aquino was the National League player of the month in Aug. 2019, his first full month in the majors, when he hit .320 with 14 homers and 33 RBI in 29 games. He’s never come close to matching that level of production and ran out of chances with the Reds.

Alexis Díaz, Nick Lodolo net Rookie of the Year votes

Reds closer Alexis Diaz celebrates a Reds win after recording the final out in a 3-1 win over the Cubs on Oct. 3.
Reds closer Alexis Diaz celebrates a Reds win after recording the final out in a 3-1 win over the Cubs on Oct. 3.

Reds closer Alexis Díaz received a lone second-place vote for National League Rookie of the Year while left-hander Nick Lodolo netted a pair of third-place votes.

Díaz placed fifth in the voting while Lodolo tied with Pittsburgh’s Oneil Cruz for sixth. It was the second consecutive year the Reds had at least two players receive votes in the rookie of the year voting after Jonathan India won in 2021 and Tyler Stephenson tied for sixth.

This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Cincinnati Reds sign free agent catcher Luke Maile to 1-year contract