Results tagged ‘ Cincinnati Reds ’
Joey Votto hasn’t played a game for the Cincinnati Reds since July 5. Battling a quad injury in his left leg, the four-time All-Star has watched his team fall out of contention, as the Reds have gone 12-25 since the All-Star break and 19-28 since he last suited up. His teammates picked him up early on, winning seven of nine games heading into the break, immediately following Votto being placed on the disabled list, as the club was just 1.5 games out in the NL Central before the break.
Then…it all fell apart. The offense has the lowest OPS in baseball in the second half (.596, 13 points lower than the next worst team), while the starting pitching, formerly the club’s greatest strength, has fallen off, including having to battle the depth chart due to an injury to Homer Bailey.
At ten games back going into Wednesday night’s battle with the Chicago Cubs and just 30 games remaining, there isn’t much left to play for this season, and there isn’t much left for Joey Votto to prove.
— ctrent (@ctrent) August 27, 2014
The recent news of Votto returning to the field and completing “baseball activities” is great. He has been out for so long and the offense is suffering. A healthy Joey Votto makes the Reds worth watching. A healthy Joey Votto makes the ten years and $213 million look much less unreasonable, and his ability to produce at his 2010 MVP levels would make it a bargain…
But…we don’t know if that Votto is ever coming back. We don’t know just how bad this quad injury is, and whether rest is or was the correct solution. The Reds allowed Votto to sit on the disabled list for nearly two months to rest his injury, while setting him up for a September return. Over those two months, fans weren’t updated on his injury, his treatment, or his future outlook, but was it really the fan’s rights to know that?
Here is the problem with how the Reds have handled the Joey Votto situation:
1) No one knows the true extent of the injury. Is it the quad, the knee, a ligament, a tendon? What is wrong with him and can it heal with rest or would a surgery have been more appropriate? What if rest didn’t work and another surgery knocks him out of action for a third or half of the 2015 season?
2) The Reds didn’t communicate the status of their superstar, which has left fans and media alike wondering what is going on. When Votto finally made an appearance, the media nearly ripped his head off and this was his response:
“Let’s make it clear here. This is a real gray area and I feel like I’ve been the one in the crosshairs. I’ve been injured and this is something I’ve had hanging over me in the general population, with the fans. The question is whether it is toughness or playing through pain or playing hurt sort of thing. I’m injured. And I’ve played injured. I went on the disabled list because I’ve been injured. I’m trying to be un-injured right now. So the second I’m capable of playing, and no longer injured, I will be back on the field. In the meantime, you can assume I’m injured. I shouldn’t get any sort of different treatment (from the fans). I’ve noticed little comments here and there, just a general perception that this is something I elected to do, that I elected to be hurt. I didn’t elect to get injured. I’m injured. What can I do?”
The organization left those who follow the team out to dry, but not nearly as much as they left the face of the franchise out to dry. Why do that to your top asset, whether you agree with the contract or not?
3) Votto is now coming back in September. He is going to prepare to return to the team WITH the team, as there isn’t going to be a minor league rehab assignment with the minor league season nearly over. With a game and an approach built on timing, the Reds are, once again, setting Votto up to fail. He has a .390 on-base percentage this season in 62 games, but the focus remains on the six home runs and .255 batting average that many still, unfortunately, consider the only valuable measurables when it comes to determining player value. If the fans and club weren’t happy with his production before the injury, how are they going to be satisfied with Votto returning to the lineup in September after 60 or more days away from live, Major League pitching?
It doesn’t make sense for Votto to return in 2014. He has nothing to prove and he is only going to hurt himself more by coming back. The expectations that he has to live up to in a “small-market” like Cincinnati seem quite outrageous, and it’s very unfortunate that a very good player with a very useful skill-set continues to be ripped apart for accepting a life-changing contract that the team was responsible for offering.
Joey Votto is a fantastic player. He needs to get himself right to truly help the Cincinnati Reds. Unfortunately, the rest of the team and management didn’t do their part in 2014. Replacing Shin-Soo Choo‘s production with a rookie speedster (Billy Hamilton) and veteran utility-man (Skip Schumaker) didn’t do the trick, especially when the club’s top player was unable to take the field. Joey Votto didn’t help the Reds in 2014, but neither did Walt Jocketty or Bob Castellini. It’s time to put the blame elsewhere and let Votto get himself right for 2015 and beyond. There is much more riding on his knee in 2015 than this wasted 2014 season.
I’ll be on a 10-day hiatus with little to no internet access, so I figured I would link to the articles that I am most proud of over my three years of running the site. Additionally, feel free to check out Wahoo’s on First, a Cleveland Indians’ blog, where I am co-editor, and you’ll be able to hear podcasts, read about the trade deadline, and other Tribe news. Thanks for finding me and enjoy the second half!
2014 Top 50 Mid-Season Prospects: Self explanatory title.
The Sudden Emergence of J.D. Martinez: A look at the breakout Tigers’ outfielder.
The Flaw of Sabermetrics: How WAR Can Ruin Payrolls: Can the statistic of Wins Above Replacement take a larger role in free agency, and, if it can, how could that ruin the game or increase spending to new heights?
Losing the Captain and the Heart of Baseball: Derek Jeter is retiring. If you watched the All-Star Game, you may have heard. Why is it really such a big deal?
Vladimir Guerrero: Overlooked Greatness: I interview Sports Illustrated’s Jay Jaffe and discussed Guerrero’s Hall of Fame resume, along with how his JAWS system compares him to other greats.
Pitchers Who Won’t Come Up Short: Short pitchers that throw hard – it’s a thing, but so is the label of not being able to hold up due to their height.
Jack Morris: Why He Isn’t a Hall of Famer: Self explanatory.
MLB TV Contract Eliminates Excuses for “Small-Markets”: Don’t tell the fans you don’t have the money when this is out there.
2014 Top 100 MLB Prospects: The preseason list.
Baseball came together for the All-Star celebration at Target Field, bowing in awe at the accomplishments of Yankees’ great Derek Jeter, while basking in the glory of the greatest superstar of the current generation taking control of yet another game, with Mike Trout running away with the MVP and a sweet new Chevrolet Corvette. All-Star Weekend brought the future of the game into the festivities for the 16th year, as top prospects from around the league took to the stage in the Futures Game, while Giancarlo Stanton‘s monster shots weren’t enough to keep Yoenis Cespedes from becoming the first back-to-back home run derby champion since Ken Griffey, Jr. accomplished the feat in 1998 and 1999. Still, when baseball comes together to celebrate its stars, there is always one thing that comes up:
Pete Rose, who gambled on baseball.
Pete Rose, who bet on the team that he was managing.
Pete Rose, who ruined the credibility of the game.
Pete Rose, the greatest hit collector in the history of baseball.
Pete Rose, the man who won’t stop fighting for an opportunity to return to the game that made him who he is, while leaving a legacy of hustle, production, and passion that hasn’t been matched since his ban from the game in August of 1989.
For many people, the integrity of the game is all that matters. Former commissioner Fay Vincent seems to have made it his lifelong goal to uphold the ban, placed by the late A. Bartlett Giamatti; however, with Bud Selig stepping down from the commissioner role, is there an opportunity to leave a legacy beyond inter-league play, the Wild Card, twenty years of labor peace, and record revenues?
— ctrent (@ctrent) July 15, 2014
In 2015, there will be a new commissioner, and, awkwardly, the All-Star Game will be held at Cincinnati’s Great American Ballpark. Selig has now gone on the record in saying that Rose will be allowed to participate in the festivities surrounding the event, but how much should he be involved? Is there truly a reason for Rose to still be banned?
Selig had this to say regarding Rose’s inclusion in next year’s All-Star events in the “Queen City”:
Selig would not answer a question about specific guidelines the Reds would have to follow.
“It’s sort of subjective, they’ve done some things with Pete, but they’ve been very, very thoughtful and limited,” Selig said. “That’s a subject that I’m sure they’ll discuss in the next year. They’re all here, but that’s not a subject that’s come up.”
As for Rose’s overall status with Selig, who is scheduled to step aside at the end of the year, the commissioner said there has been no change in Rose’s status.
“It’s a matter under advisement. That’s my standard line,” Selig said. “I’m the judge and that’s where it’ll stay. There’s nothing new.”
The game certainly has its own idea of how great a sin is. You can’t gamble on baseball, but you can take drugs illegally and influence your production and earning potential. You can’t bet on baseball, but you can cheat by using foreign substances to alter how a pitch assaults a batter. You can’t bet on baseball, but you can be a racist, bigot, and a social embarrassment to the sport. For all of the character flaws of Pete Rose, the character clause of the Hall of Fame has overlooked so much worse, and while there hasn’t truly been a “steroid user” inducted to-date, the moment that one of those players finally earns that honor is the last day that Pete Rose and the Black Sox can spend on the outside of enshrinement, or so you would think.
Pete Rose is a Hall of Fame baseball player. He may be a Hall of Fame moron for what he did as a manager, but you can’t put an asterisk next to 4,256 hits, 17-time All-Star, 1973 NL MVP, 1975 World Series MVP, and the effort and fire that has been unmatched.
Has it been long enough? Next month, Rose will have been gone from the game for 25 years. He has missed out on an opportunity to assist young players through coaching, he has missed out on the opportunity to lead a team as a manager, and he has missed an opportunity to discuss the game as a great should be able to do, with respect from his peers. He didn’t help his cause over the years with his failure to admit to his faults immediately, but baseball has a lot to gain from the years left in Rose’s life, having shoved him aside long enough, just as they did the truth about steroids for so many years in the great sport.
Brandon Phillips took a spill in the eighth inning of Wednesday night’s game, and what was originally thought to be a left wrist injury has turned into a torn thumb ligament, likely costing the slick-fielding second baseman six weeks for Cincinnati. After Wednesday night’s win against the Cubs, the Reds were just 2.5 games out in the NL Central. Now, with Homer Bailey leaving his start on Thursday with right patella tendon pain, Billy Hamilton nursing a hamstring strain, and Joey Votto battling, once again, a quad injury, the Reds could easily head in the wrong direction.
.@DatDudeBP to miss 6 weeks after left thumb surgery tomorrow. Bailey to make next start.
— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) July 10, 2014
The Cincinnati Reds 40-man roster and system is bereft of any true offensive assistance beyond their active, 25-man roster. Jack Hannahan (currently on the 60-day disabled list with a shoulder injury) just began baseball activities after spending the entire season on the shelf, Neftali Soto was on the active roster for most of Votto’s previous DL stint and the Reds appreciated him so much that they put Brayan Pena (who had never started a game at first in his career) at first base over him, and Donald Lutz was hitting well in Double-A to earn a very brief trial during Votto’s last stint, but he has been quite over-matched at Double-A. Kristopher Negron and Ramon Santiago can handle the position, but they would provide very little offensive production over the next 40 to 60 days. The remainder of the 40-man consists of outfielders like Ryan LaMarre, Juan Duran, and Yorman Rodriguez, none of which provide any help.
The Reds could add Ruben Gotay, 31, who hasn’t played in the majors since 2008, from Louisville, while reaching to lower levels either wouldn’t be a solid option or would be downright stupid.
Could the Reds look for help via a trade?
There are certainly some options out there as the trade deadline approaches. Here are five players who could fit with the Cincinnati Reds during a time that their roster is littered with injuries:
1. Ben Zobrist, Tampa Bay Rays: Zobrist is 34 and the Rays are 10 games under .500 in the AL East. While they’ve been playing better of late, it likely won’t be enough to keep the club from selling off pieces. With David Price the top commodity on their roster and the focus of so many clubs, Zobrist could be overlooked a bit, which isn’t new for one of the most underrated players in baseball over the last five years. Zobrist could play second base for Cincinnati until Phillips returns, while being an option in the outfield beyond that point. In fact, Zobrist has a $7.5 million team option ($500,000 buyout) for 2015, and with Ryan Ludwick reaching free agency and the Reds needing an upgrade in left, Zobrist would be a tremendous fit. He is a switch-hitter, he has a career .354 on-base percentage, and his versatility can not be understated. While he could be pricey considering the number of clubs who could be in on him and the team-friendly contract for next season, if the Reds are interested in remaining contenders over the next two to three months, he would be the perfect fit.
2. Asdrubal Cabrera, Cleveland Indians: Cabrera is a free agent after the 2014 season and the Indians may not be all that interested in offering him a one-year deal on the qualifying offer, fearing that he could accept it and block the shortstop position if and when Francisco Lindor is officially ready. There may not be such a thing as a “bad” one-year deal, but there is a lot that goes into Cabrera’s availability. First and foremost, are the Cleveland Indians sellers? They’re within striking distance in the AL Central and the AL Wild Card, and with Lindor in Double-A and Mike Aviles and Jose Ramirez unlikely to be upgrades at short, would they be better off keeping him? Cabrera could likely handle second base, as Zack Cozart wouldn’t move off of short in Cincinnati due to his strong defense, but what is he worth for Cincinnati? Perhaps Ben Lively, who was dominant in the California League prior to a recent promotion to Double-A, would be interesting for pitching depth in the Indians’ system, but he isn’t going to help the team this year. Cabrera would interest several contenders, but the Indians need to determine if they consider themselves the same prior to Cabrera becoming available.
3. Gordon Beckham, Chicago White Sox: If we were living in 2009, Beckham would be very, very expensive in a deal; however, Beckham has been through a free-fall over the last five seasons for the White Sox, seeing his numbers, value, and playing time take various dives along the way. Injuries have been a factor during his career, but Beckham’s ability to handle second and third could make him useful for Cincinnati, especially with Todd Frazier capable of playing multiple positions, likely including left field. Beckham is under team control through the 2015 season, but after earning $4.18 million in 2014, he could also be a non-tender candidate based on his failed production. The White Sox have Micah Johnson and Marcus Semien who could potentially slide into the second base job, and Chicago has little reason to not take additional minor league depth after having one of the worst systems in baseball over the last decade prior to Rick Hahn taking over the GM job.
4. Daniel Murphy, New York Mets: The Mets likely aren’t as good as their 42-49 record, which has left them eight games out in the challenging NL East. With very little talent on the major league roster, the Mets are in a slow rebuild, whether the owners and management are aware of it is yet to be determined (signing a 40-year-old to a two-year deal isn’t the norm for a team in their situation – Bartolo Colon this past offseason). The Mets would need another miracle to contend this year, and Murphy could be the Reds’ miracle. Murphy has hit well over his career, earning his first All-Star berth this season, posting a .291/.335/.423 line over his six seasons. While his versatility is a bit more limited than it used to be, he (or Phillips) could be traded after the 2014 season, as they both wouldn’t fit being limited to second base. Murphy is arbitration-eligible for the final time in 2015 before reaching free agency, so his cost could be a bit high, and with very little ready (beside Wilmer Flores) to take over second base, the Mets could be better served giving their fans at least one reason to show up.
5. Darwin Barney, Chicago Cubs: Barney is well-known for his glove, as he should be, but it could be argued that he wouldn’t help the Reds much offensively; however, the Cubs have no reason to keep him around with Arismendy Alcantara on the way up and a likely move to second base for either Addison Russell or Javier Baez in the near future in the minors, both top 10 prospects. Barney is under team-control through the 2016 season, and, like others, he wouldn’t have much value to the Reds once Phillips returns. He could be a useful utility player, especially if he hits like he has over his last eight games (.387/.387/.516).
Has Todd Frazier Shown Enough to Warrant an Extension in Cincinnati?
The Cincinnati Reds have locked-up Homer Bailey and Joey Votto to nine-figure contracts, Brandon Phillips is signed through 2017 (he’s owed $39 million from 2015-2017), and Jay Bruce is signed through 2017 (when including his 2017 team option worth $13 million). Beyond those four players, and pre-arbitration youngsters, like Devin Mesoraco and Billy Hamilton, the Reds are set to lose several players to free agency after the 2015 and 2016 season. Chief among those heading towards free agency are Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, and Mike Leake after the 2015 season, and Aroldis Chapman after the 2016 season.
Cincinnati have several young arms on the way up, including current bullpen arm Tony Cingrani, three starters in Double-A – Robert Stephenson, Michael Lorenzen, and Ben Lively, and recent college draftees Nick Howard (out of Virginia) and Wyatt Strahan (out of Southern California) to add to the mix. The presence of these young arms could ease the pain of losing three above-average starting pitchers and an elite closer in the next couple of seasons; however, outside of Jesse Winker and Seth Mejias-Brean, who were just promoted to Double-A, there isn’t much offensive depth in the minor league system, and certainly not enough to produce enough runs offensively to win games when and if Cueto, Latos, and Leake leave via free agency. The team will need to score more, and they need to lock-up young producers like Devin Mesoraco and Todd Frazier to long-term, team-friendly deals now to avoid an offensive collapse in future seasons, especially considering that the Reds are ranked 27th in MLB in runs scored with some talented players in the lineup currently.
Devin Mesoraco is breaking out in 2014, posting a .304/.385/.587 triple-slash and 10 home runs in his first 151 plate appearances. While he and Frazier are both free agents after the 2017 season, this is Mesoraco’s first experience with extensive playing time, and the club should monitor how he continues handling pitchers and his own health prior to locking up the 26-year-old backstop, though, he would make an excellent player to extend, as well.
However, this post isn’t about Mesoraco, it’s about Todd Frazier, and Todd Frazier is not only breaking out in 2014, he is taking steps towards stardom. After another multi-hit game on Thursday, his 18th of the season, Frazier has a .279/.349/.517 triple-slash to go along with his 31 extra-base hits, 41 RBI, and seven stolen bases. At 28, Frazier is in his prime and would be in his early 30’s if the Reds were able to buyout his arbitration years and gain options for the 2018 through 2020 seasons, while keeping the costs of a potential right-handed power hitter down.
You see, Frazier is overlooked quite a bit due to his struggles in his sophomore season, 2013, when he managed a .234/.314/.407 triple-slash, but some of that can be attributed to his .269 BABIP. While there were struggles, Frazier did improve his walk-rate (which has taken another step forward in 2014), while also improving his strikeout rate. His 100 wRC+ was league average, despite the ugly batting average, but his .721 OPS was in the top 15 among third basemen in MLB, and he posted a career-high 73 RBI.
In 2012, Frazier’s rookie season, he had an .829 OPS, second among NL rookies, to go along with his 19 home runs and 67 RBI, while being forgotten among the National League Rookie of the Year hype that led to Bryce Harper winning the award, while Mike Trout‘s historic run towards finishing second in the AL MVP voting to Miguel Cabrera left many other rookies that year (including Yoenis Cespedes, Matt Carpenter, and Yu Darvish) feeling like chopped liver.
Since his rookie season, Todd Frazier ranks 11th in wRC+ (115, higher than Kyle Seager, Pablo Sandoval, and Pedro Alvarez), 11th in wOBA (.344, higher than Seager, Sandoval, and Alvarez), 11th in WAR (8.6, higher than Aramis Ramirez, Ryan Zimmerman, Sandoval, and Alvarez), and each of the players that Frazier ranks higher than make considerably more money, outside of Seager:
Aramis Ramirez: in the middle of a three-year, $40 million deal (2015 – $4 million buyout or $14 million option)
Ryan Zimmerman: in the middle of an 11-year, $135 million deal that runs through 2020 (including options)
Kyle Seager: earning $540,000 this year and arbitration-eligible for the first time in 2015
Pablo Sandoval: in the final year of a three-year, $17.15 million deal and likely to cash-in this winter
Pedro Alvarez: earning $4.25 million this year and arbitration-eligible for the first time in 2015
Frazier is making $600,000 this season and is arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter. Just like Seager, Frazier has provided tremendous value when compared to other third basemen around baseball, and he has earned a financial reward for his contribution over the last two-and-a-half seasons, especially when you consider the bargain he has been to this point. With the numbers that he is putting up, he could get quite expensive in arbitration. In 2014, Frazier is truly pacing third basemen across MLB: 2nd in WAR (2.7), 1st in wRC+ (139), 1st in wOBA (.377), 1st in slugging percentage (.517, only player over .500), 1st in OPS (.866), 2nd in home runs (16, Josh Donaldson leads with 17), and 1st in stolen bases (7). While some may think it is a mirage, Frazier’s sophomore season seems to be the regression from the norm. His batting average (.273) is the same as it was in his rookie season, his slugging percentage is similar to what it was in his rookie season (.498 in 2012 and .517 entering play today), and his BABIP is just .304, closer to league average than being responsible for inflating his overall numbers. While the HR/FB is very high (21.1 percent), Frazier’s line-drive, ground-ball, and fly-ball rates are each in line with his career norms, the ball is just leaving the yard at a much higher rate.
While there could be some regression in home runs, which would lead to more fly-balls and lower overall production, it is atypical for balls to stay in the yard in the warmer months in Cincinnati, much less many other ballparks across MLB. At 28, Frazier is in his prime and the production seems legitimate.
With right-handed power being advantageous with both Joey Votto and Jay Bruce batting left-handed in the middle of the order, a productive Todd Frazier has tremendous value for Cincinnati. The cost of pitching on the open market makes it very unlikely that the Reds can afford to keep any one of the trio of Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, and Mike Leake after the 2015 season, which makes the ability to create runs offensively that much more valuable going forward for Cincinnati. The Reds need Todd Frazier and they need him beyond 2017. Now is the time to invest in the Frank Sinatra loving, Toms River, New Jersey star, as the club can’t afford to go to arbitration with him as he continues to develop offensively.
The 2014 season has been a difficult one for the Cincinnati Reds and their fans. Sitting at 31-34 and eight games out in the NL Central, the Reds find themselves in a difficult situation. Are they going to compete over the rest of the season and aim for one of the two Wild Card spots (which didn’t work out so well for them in 2013), are they going to become buyers to get over the hump and make a run for the division, or are they going to have a fire sale and start things over again? With so much money invested in Joey Votto and Homer Bailey, it seems nearly impossible for the club that consistently screams small-market and small payroll to right this ship quickly, but there is a deal out there that could make a lot of sense for the Cincinnati Reds.
When the Reds signed Bailey to a six-year, $105 million extension, they seemed to have closed the door on any extensions for Johnny Cueto (a free agent after the 2015 season who has a $10 million team option for 2015), Mat Latos (arbitration-eligible in 2015 and a free agent after the 2015 season), and Mike Leake (arbitration-eligible in 2015 and a free agent after the 2015 season). The Reds have a nice problem right now with Latos coming back from his elbow injury and having to decide who to boot from the rotation between the breakout, 9-win starter Alfredo Simon and the young, hard-throwing lefty Tony Cingrani; however, beyond the six pitchers (Cueto, Bailey, Latos, Leake, Simon, and Cingrani), the Reds starting pitching depth is rather weak. Jeff Francis is the club’s top option from Triple-A Louisville, while the club waits on the maturation of Robert Stephenson and Michael Lorenzen at the Double-A level to refine the future of the Cincinnati rotation.
With that being said, the Reds are in desperate need of offensive production. The club ranks 26th in MLB in team batting average, 25th in MLB in OPS, and 25th in wOBA. With Joey Votto’s knee injury and Jay Bruce‘s lack of production (.212/.320/.364, 89 OPS+), the Reds have leaned heavily on the production of Devin Mesoraco and Todd Frazier to keep the team treading water during the struggles and absences of the stars, but the Reds could use an influx of offensive talent, and the only way to do that is to deal from the club’s strength.
Cincinnati Reds Trade Mat Latos to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Matt Kemp and cash considerations.
With the cost of a win reaching $7 million and the revenue streaming in from MLB Advanced Media and television contracts, small market teams could find it quite challenging to shell out the kind of money necessary to compete with large market clubs in free agency. For that reason, the Reds could acquire a talented, powerful right-handed batter from the Dodgers to put into the middle of the Cincinnati order between Votto and Bruce, while improving the less than stellar production in left field that has managed a .672 OPS for the Reds in 2014.
Matt Kemp is due a whopping $107 million between 2015 and 2019, but whoever takes on the contract from the Dodgers could acquire cash, as well, due to Kemp’s struggles with injuries over the last couple of seasons. When the Dodgers took on the Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, and Carl Crawford contracts, they added hundreds of millions of dollars in payroll, which made the Andre Ethier contract and the Matt Kemp contract seem nearly immovable due to the money and years involved. Unfortunately for Los Angeles, Ethier’s contract is quite possibly the worst contract in baseball ($56 million between 2015 and 2017), while the club has very little leverage in trades due to the gluttony of outfielders that the club has with Crawford, Kemp, Ethier, Yasiel Puig, and Joc Pederson raking in the minor leagues. By trading Matt Kemp and $30 million in cash considerations, the club would rid themselves of $77 million in payroll over the next five season ($15.4 million per season), while acquiring additional talent to compete in the NL West.
Mat Latos would be the perfect acquisition for the Los Angeles Dodgers if they were to trade Matt Kemp. Latos, while coming off of some elbow and left knee woes currently, is just 26 years old. He has compiled a career 3.35 ERA and 1.17 WHIP over 849.2 career innings. Prior to the 2014 season, since he hasn’t thrown a pitch yet as of this article being posted, Latos had missed time to the disabled list twice in his career (2010 for an abdomen strain and 2011 for shoulder inflammation), but he hadn’t had any types of surgeries until bone spurs were removed from his elbow after the 2013 season and the surgery to repair his left meniscus this spring. Latos makes a lot of sense for the Dodgers with Josh Beckett heading towards free agency, taking his $15.75 million salary off of the books. Latos would sit nicely in the Los Angeles rotation with Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, and Hyun-jin Ryu, especially with Chad Billingsley and Dan Haren having options that may lead to their dismissal from the rotation and club in 2015, as he would solidify an already dangerous rotation.
While the Reds would miss Latos in the rotation, they still have quite a bit of existing talent, at least through the 2015 season. By taking on five-years and $77 million in Matt Kemp, the Reds would be paying less on an annual basis for Kemp than what Shin-Soo Choo is getting paid annually by the Texas Rangers after he left Cincinnati for a seven-year, $130 million deal. Kemp is just 29 and the right-handed power in the cleanup spot can’t be understated when he could be put between Votto and Bruce. If you consider that the Reds are paying Ryan Ludwick $7 million in 2014 and he has a -0.1 WAR, you can see how it would make perfect sense for Cincinnati to pay an additional $8.4 million to have a player like Kemp take his spot in left field in 2015.
Would the Dodgers do this type of deal? Perhaps if they are given an opportunity to work out an extension with Latos prior to the completion of the deal, and, a bigger question, would the Dodgers include that amount of cash without receiving additional talent with Latos, or is the loss of $77 million in future payroll worth making the deal? For the Reds, their long-term pitching could take a hit, but they already knew that they could potentially lose three starters after the 2015 season going into this season, which is likely why they acted quickly on Homer Bailey. Now, Cincinnati needs to act on adding to their offense, as the additions of Skip Schumaker and Ramon Santiago by Walt Jocketty this past offseason has done nothing to help the club.
While the media in Cincinnati is stirring the pot in regards to whether Marty Brennaman is too negative, there are other more pressing issues on my mind. Some in Cincy are still wondering what Walt Jocketty was doing this offseason when free agency came and went with the Reds losing Shin-Soo Choo to the Texas Rangers, Billy Hamilton being locked into the center field job immediately, and very little offensive depth being established. Well, shocker, with Jay Bruce and Joey Votto battling injuries this month, that depth has been tested.
The issue with the 25-man roster in Cincinnati is that the Reds have been playing with 24 men all year. How? The roster space suck that is Neftali Soto. The life of a player who is limited to one position and that position possessing a player with a ten-year, $250 million extension, which hasn’t even kicked in yet, must be really bad when you’re the quarter-billionaire’s backup. How difficult is it to sit on the bench and receive all of four starts and 29 plate appearances when your team has played 45 games? The meal money and contract must be nice, but when you’re 25 years old and have some skills, think Juan Francisco with a right-handed bat and a little less power, it must be frustrating to ride the pine about as often as Cal Ripken, Jr.’s backup.
For all of his sitting and waiting for his opportunity, Soto can be ridiculed for his miserable production to this point, a .075/.095/.100 triple-slash in all of 42 plate appearances that cover 32 games played in his career. But can you really blame the guy considering he is getting about two plate appearances per week? Even with Joey Votto on the shelf, the Reds have elected to use Brayan Pena, the backup catcher, who had ZERO starts at first base and played in all of 9.2 innings at first in his career before taking over the position on May 16th, when the Reds traveled to Philadelphia without Votto due to his injury.
Soto is Votto’s backup, right? Isn’t that why he’s on the team? He certainly isn’t the right-handed bat off the bench, that title belongs to Chris Heisey, right?
So, what is Neftali Soto doing on the Cincinnati Reds’ 25-man roster? If Brayan Pena is playing first base while Joey Votto is out, shouldn’t Tucker Barnhart be with the club, so that they have two catchers? And, if Soto isn’t going to start, be a defensive substitute, or even pinch-hit, why is he wasting the clubhouse attendant’s time by making him wash his clean uniform over-and-over?
With Ryan Ludwick hurting and missing a few games, Votto out, Bruce just returning from knee surgery, and Brayan Pena manning first base, don’t the Reds have a need to fill? Don’t the Reds need to have a full bench when going into an important, three-game series at home against St. Louis this weekend?
Neftali Soto is out of options, but so are the Reds. They can’t go short-handed while letting a player sit on the bench every night. While they value the player enough to keep him in uniform, they don’t value him enough to let him play. Could Neftali Soto possibly be worth more sitting on your bench than he would sitting on another team’s? He isn’t going to become the next Jose Bautista – at least that seems quite unlikely – so just designate him for assignment, quit playing a man short every night, and prepare your team for battle this weekend.
You’d think that after so many years of leading a team that Walt Jocketty would have a clue, but with every day that passes that Bryan Price passes on using Neftali Sota, even as a pinch-hitter, this team is passing up an opportunity to use its roster correctly.
When I search minor league stats, I look for strikeouts and WHIP leaders out of guys with solid frames at pitcher, solid plate discipline, gap power, and speed out of hitters. I am not a scout that can go to games, but I tend to find some pretty interesting talent on numbers alone, and while you can’t judge projection much while just using numbers, players have to produce to move up. Working with numbers alone worked for Billy Beane, right? Here is a list of some players to get to know or keep an eye on based on their production.
Ben Lively, RHP, Cincinnati Reds
Not since Tony Cingrani dominated the California League to the tune of a 1.11 ERA and 0.92 WHIP over 10 starts in 2012 have the Reds had a pitcher doing what Lively is doing this season. Since being drafted out of Central Florida last season, the 6’4″ right-hander has done nothing but dominate at each stop. The control is legit and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him jump to Double-A Pensacola in the next couple of weeks, moving him on the fast tracks to the majors, while joining Robert Stephenson as a member of the Blue Wahoo rotation.
Matthew Bowman, RHP, New York Mets
Bowman is a Princeton product and, if nothing else, his intelligence could lead to long-term success; however, he seems to have some talen, as well. He is creently dominating Double-A for the Mets and continuing in his ability to keep runners off the base paths at every stop. With his continued ability to throw strikes, the Mets could team Bowman with Rafael Montero in New York to have young, strike-throwing machines within the rotation.
Matt Boyd, LHP, Toronto Blue Jays
He’s left-handed and breathing, so he will get a long look, but Boyd has posted some pretty impressive numbers in his brief professional career. The strikeout totals are impressive for a southpaw, and it will be interesting to see how quickly the Blue Jays move him considering his collegiate pedigree.
|A (1 season)||A||0||1||0.64||3||14.0||7||1||1||0||1||12||0.571||4.5||0.6||7.7||12.00|
|A+ (2 seasons)||A+||4||2||1.54||7||41.0||25||7||7||3||8||48||0.805||5.5||1.8||10.5||6.00|
Daniel Winkler, RHP, Colorado Rockies
Jonathan Gray and Eddie Butler get a lot of hype for their abilities, results, and projection within the Rockies’ system, but Winkler continues to post solid strikeout totals and numbers in tough environments on his way up the organizational ladder. His early-season results have been quite impressive once again, as he gets a longer look at Double-A after making just five starts in Tulsa in 2013.
Seth Streich, RHP, Oakland A’s
A 6’3″ right-hander out of Ohio University, Streich has put up solid numbers in the challenging pitching environment of the California League in the early-going of 2014. Improved strikeout numbers are evident, but, most importantly, he is keeping the ball in the park. With the A’s having to deal with injuries to Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin this season, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them push some of their college arms who are posting solid numbers.
Ryan Merritt, LHP, Cleveland Indians
Merrit’s early-season success is very impressive, particularly the one earned run in 24.1 innings. He doesn’t miss enough bats to be considered an elite prospect within the Tribe system, but if he continues to keep runs off of the board, perhaps he could be a solid back-end of the rotation starter. You could view him as a Tommy Milone-like arm.
Marco Gonzales, LHP, St. Louis Cardinals
Another solid pitching prospect for an absolutely loaded system, Gonzales is a southpaw out of Gonzaga on the fast track to St. Louis. With a lack of left-handed options within the Cardinals’ rotation due to the constant shoulder woes of Jaime Garcia, his selection was a wise choice for the perennial contenders. Gonzales will be a solid addition to the Cardinal rotation, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see the youngster end up making a dozen starts in Double-A this season.
Stephen Landazuri, RHP, Seattle Mariners
At just 6′, 175 pounds, Landazuri is going to have to overcome the same “too short” labels that have landed upon Roy Oswalt, Johnny Cueto, Kris Medlen, and flame-throwing rookie Yordano Ventura. When he isn’t pitching in a challenging environment (like the Northwest League and the California League), Landazuri has posted very impressive numbers. Now, a younger-than-average starter in Double-A, the righty is striking out more than a batter per inning and keeping the opposition from getting on with just 4.7 hits per nine innings and a 0.65 WHIP after four starts. He’s someone to watch within the Mariners rotation in 2014, as they try to work through injuries to Hashashi Iwakuma, Taijuan Walker, and James Paxton.
Chad Pinder, 2B, Oakland A’s
Pinder, a shortstop at Virginia Tech, has moved to second base this season and he has produced solid numbers in the early-going in the hitter-friendly Cal League. His 17 extra-base hits in just 24 games is impressive for anyone, let alone a middle infielder. With Eric Sogard occupying second at the major league level, Pinder could be a viable long-term option for the A’s in the next couple of seasons. Another few weeks of this type of production, and Pinder could be moved to Double-A very quickly.
Joey Gallo, 3B, Texas Rangers
Everyone should already know his name thanks to his 40 home runs at the age of 19 in his first full season. The fact that he is showing some semblance of plate discipline this season while still showcasing his elite-level power makes Gallo one of the top prospects in the minor leagues right now. With so many slugging, elite prospects suffering through injuries this season (Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano, and Javier Baez are all currently disabled), Gallo will shoot up mid-season prospect lists with similar months. His long-term outlook will only beam brighter due to his ballpark and offensive projection for the Rangers.
Peter O’Brien, C, New York Yankees
Due to Gary Sanchez being in Double-A, O’Brien was forced to return to the Florida State League, but he hasn’t disappointed, posting solid power numbers in Tampa, though, he is a bit old for the league at this point. O’Brien’s ability to hit for power should make him a decent option for, at least, a backup catching spot. He’d likely have a better career than J.P. Arencibia, who could hit for power and couldn’t walk at the same clip that O’Brien has over his brief career. If he continues to hit like he has, the Yankees may move him off of catcher or use him as trade bait.
Jonathan Rodriguez, 1B/3B, St. Louis Cardinals
Another solid hitter found by the St. Louis Cardinals scouting department out of the State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota, Rodriguez has handled the corner infield positions throughout his minor league career, but he has only played first in 2014. With Matt Adams ahead of him, another season of solid production will likely make him trade bait for St. Louis. Solid gap power, a solid approach, and good contact skills will make this right-handed bat a decent platoon player in a worst case scenario.
Ryan Rua, 3B, Texas Rangers
The Rangers system may not be as loaded as it was in years past due to the failure of so many elite prospects in 2013 in Hickory with their huge strikeout numbers, but Rua can’t be grouped in with those players any longer. He is raking in Double-A now, skipping the High-A level with his assignment this season and his brief promotion last year. There seems to be his continued power with early improvements in his plate discipline, and with Adrian Beltre potentially becoming a free agent after 2015 (he has a $16 million vesting option for 2016), Rua could be Gallo to the hot corner in Texas.
Mookie Betts, 2B, Boston Red Sox
Betts is already nothing more than trade bait in Boston, given that he profiles as a second baseman and Dustin Pedroia has that spot locked down through 2021. Betts has incredible bat-to-ball skills, tremendous plate discipline, and solid speed. With his early-season production in Double-A at the age of 21, the Red Sox may be able to utilize this chip for an elite addition if they are making another playoff run in 2014.
Jabari Blash, OF, Seattle Mariners
I love this guy’s name and he has some intriguing tools that could even play in Seattle. His plate discipline isn’t elite, but there is enough there to be , and he has enough power and speed in his 6’5″ frame to be a very good producer, and, after being selected three times in the draft, he must have something in his game to make him an intriguing name to follow.
The beginning of the season is full of hope and joy…and when reality sets in, that hope and joy can become fear and anger. It makes fans begin to second guess their team’s season after just four games in a 162-game season. Although the first week isn’t officially over, there are already players who have developed a following of Twitter rage, a second guessing that doesn’t allow for patience, and the fear that could result in a player being added to a sell-low trade in their fantasy league after just 12 to 25 at-bats. These players have become the talk of their respective towns for the wrong reasons.
B.J. Upton, CF, Atlanta Braves
Coming into today, the league-wide swing/miss rate was 23.1%. B.J Upton has swung & missed 43.2% through today (16x in 37 swings).
— jasoncollette (@jasoncollette) April 4, 2014
Even after spending the offseason tinkering with his swing, Upton’s ability to make contact has seemed to completely vanish. Upton has gone from a 4.5 (2007) and 4.8 (2008) WAR player to having a -0.6 WAR in 2013 when he hit .184 and had a 56 wRC+. In just the second year of a five-year, $75.2 million deal with Atlanta, the outfielder, who will turn 30 in August, certainly hasn’t provided anything close to what he has been paid by Braves brass. Although it is early in the season, this type of production, or lack there of, will only force the Braves into difficult choices – like moving Evan Gattis to left while playing Jason Heyward in center and Justin Upton in right, while giving Christian Bethancourt some at-bats behind the plate – allowing Upton an opportunity to continue to alter his swing or pray to the baseball gods for some sort of guidance in what appears to be a hopeless adventure.
Can He Rebound?: Upton has had success in the past, but after his failures in 2013, it’s fair to wonder if the tools that made him a half-way decent player have eroded to the point that he can’t be considered a toolsy player anymore. If he doesn’t have tools, he can’t produce. He has talent around him to hide his issues, potentially seeing more fastballs due to the presence of Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman protecting him in the Atlanta order. I can see him rebounding, but he never was a .300 hitter. Even reaching .250 is going to be a chore, but the power and speed combination is always worth waiting on. The Braves paid a lot for him, so he’ll get a long look.
Billy Hamilton, CF, Cincinnati Reds
— Redleg Nation (@redlegnation) April 3, 2014
Did anyone think that Hamilton was going to hit .368 like he did in his September call-up last season after he managed to hit just .256 in Triple-A prior to the promotion? You gotta love the golden quote from “classy” St. Louis beat writer Derrick Goold on Hamilton, but his sarcasm and mocking ways aren’t all that different from Reds fans, who are already pretty upset with the breeze that Hamilton is creating near the Ohio River. During Wednesday night’s game, Hamilton’s bunting skills were quite questionable, as well, going directly to Michael Wacha and Matt Carpenter with consecutive attempts – DIRECTLY. I was talking to my wife and said the same thing that Goold said, in a different way: “Speed doesn’t matter when it’s walking back to the dugout.” Maybe Hamilton is trying to hit the ball to the gaps, maybe he is feeling the pressure of replacing an All-Star after the departure of Shin-Soo Choo…Regardless, what he is doing isn’t working, and after injuring his finger on his stolen base attempt on Friday night in New York, hitting may be even more difficult until he is 100 percent.
Can He Rebound?: Hamilton didn’t prove anything in Triple-A last season to overcome the questions in his bat. His speed helps his defense play up, but it doesn’t do anything until he starts getting on base. No one has ever had 200 hits while getting 200 bunt singles in a season, and that won’t happen this year either. Don’t be shocked to see his struggles continue, leading to Chris Heisey and Roger Bernadina manning center while Hamilton refines his craft in Louisville. He will need to get it going quickly there, as well, as Phillip Ervin could easily replace him as the center fielder of the future in Cincinnati.
Colby Rasmus, CF, Toronto Blue Jays
Colby Rasmus has 10 K’s in first 21 PA of 2014. Worth noting — Colby Rasmus had 10 K’s in first 23 PA of 2013.
— Arden Zwelling (@ArdenZwelling) April 5, 2014
When considering that this is a contract year for Rasmus, this certainly isn’t the start that he was hoping for. After posting the highest WAR of his career in 2013 (4.8), things were looking up. With Rasmus, though, the swing and miss in his game can overshadow the large, end-of-year counting stats. At one time, Rasmus had a .361 on-base percentage and walked in nearly 12 percent of his at-bats…but that was in 2010, and Rasmus’ patience has seemed to drop while his power numbers ballooned and his defensive skills increased. Which Colby Rasmus is going to show up in 2014? That really can’t be answered, but if he is going to cash-in on his free agency after the season, he needs to get those numbers back to last year’s really quick-like.
Can He Rebound?: Rasmus, like Upton, has a lot of talent around him in Toronto. He has always had crazy abilities, but the makeup has been questioned due to his run-ins with Tony LaRussa and his defensive numbers looking so week prior to 2013. The power is legit and the payoff for success will be huge due to the lack of center field depth in free agency after the 2014 season. It would be easier to see Rasmus rebounding if he wasn’t struggling so much with making contact, while also seeing drops in his plate discipline numbers. He’s at the right age for a huge breakout, and I can see him hitting 30 home runs in 2014, but it won’t always be pretty.
Cliff Lee, LHP, Philadelphia Phillies
in 2013, JP Arencibia walked 18 times in 497 plate appearances while Cliff Lee walked 32 of the 876 batters he faced
— Cespedes Family BBQ (@CespedesBBQ) March 31, 2014
Looks like the Opening Day Cliff Lee was a temporary thing. He’s the normal Cliff Lee so far today. — Len Kasper (@LenKasper) April 5, 2014
With Roy Halladay retired and Cole Hamels on the disabled list due to shoulder woes, there was a lot expected of the Phillies’ No.1 starter this season. Even though he earned the win, in spite of allowing eight earned runs in five innings (KILL THE WIN!!!), the fans of Philadelphia can’t be pleased with how Lee looked on Opening Day. However, Lee rebounded tremendously this afternoon against the Cubs, tossing seven scoreless innings (10 hits, 6:0 K:BB) to make things a little more “normal” with a 6.00 ERA. Some may warn that the successful outing was due to the opponent, but Philly fans should anticipate more outings like Saturday’s going forward.
Can He Rebound?: He already did. Trust in him.
Jim Johnson, RHP, Oakland Athletics
I put a Jim Johnson poster on my door and now it won’t close.
— Cole Lopez (@ColeLopez77) April 3, 2014
Johnson has been, quite possibly, the worst development of the first week of the season. He had faced all of 12 batters and NINE of them had reached base – five of them scoring – heading into Saturday. He did get through an inning today while striking out two, allowing zero runs (hooray!), and allowing only one hit. After imploding in his first two appearances, it was fair to wonder if the A’s would give him the ball in the next save situation, especially with a solid bullpen in Oakland. Today was proof that they aren’t giving up on hit just yet, and with a $10 million salary for this season, it seems very unlikely that Johnson will lose his job too quickly.
Can He Rebound?: Johnson blew nine saves in 2013, lost eight games, and still managed an ERA under 3.00 while closing 50 games out for Baltimore. In fact, he has 101 saves since the start of the 2012 season. This was a lot of money for a team like Oakland to spend on a closer, which leads me to two conclusions: 1) The A’s will win a lot of games this season, and 2) Jim Johnson will remain the closer.
Over the last nine games of the season, the Cincinnati Reds were 2-7, including their National League Wild Card loss in Pittsburgh, which would be their fifth loss against the Pirates in the nine game span. Needless to say, after a disappointing collapse in the 2012 National League Division Series against the San Francisco Giants, the collapse at the end of the 2013 season wasn’t pleasing to the fans, or the front office. Dusty Baker was canned shortly thereafter, replaced by pitching coach Bryan Price, who, in his first year as manager, has been dealt with the task of rebuilding a roster with a lot of question marks into a perennial power, all the while continuing to look up at the St. Louis Cardinals, who have built a system of winning from within.
Now, the Reds must replace their lead-off hitter, Shin-Soo Choo, who only managed a .423 on-base percentage and 107 runs scored while reaching base 305 times by hit, walk, or hit-by-pitch, after watching Choo run to the Texas Rangers in free agency for seven-years, $130 million.
Certainly, it wasn’t within the budget to re-up with Choo at $18.7 million per year, not with Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, and Brandon Phillips combining to make $33 million in 2014, $38 million in 2015, and $45.5 million in 2016, that is, of course, if one of them isn’t traded. The Reds have long had a payroll between $80 and $100 million under current owner Bob Castellini, but is it time to start questioning what the long-term goal of the franchise is, after sputtering around the free agent market while trying to replace their best lead-off hitter since Joe Morgan and Pete Rose were flapping and flopping around Riverfront Stadium. Whether television contracts and Major League Baseball Advanced Media revenue will allow the “small-market” Reds to increase their payroll further is a valid question, but with Matt Latos, Johnny Cueto, and Mike Leake under team-control through 2015, and Homer Bailey headed towards free agency after the 2014 season, how else can the team remain contenders, especially with St. Louis constantly reloading and the Chicago Cubs reaching their contention window, just as the Reds is becoming questionable?
This offseason was difficult, clearly. The Reds couldn’t be in on Choo, Jacoby Ellsbury, or any other big-name free agent, but with very little money to spend, GM Walt Jocketty could have been more active in the trade market, or at least the minor league free agent route. Dick Williams, the VP of Baseball Operations, told me during the Reds’ caravan that the club lost out on Grady Sizemore due to his relationship with one of Boston’s trainers, who had been with Cleveland during his time there. While Sizemore wasn’t a lock to produce, or stay healthy, he fit the bill as a low-cost centerfield option. He wasn’t a leadoff hitter, though, at least he hadn’t shown those skills since his last somewhat healthy season, 2009. Which left the club with little choice but to give their in-house candidate, Billy Hamilton, the job.
The issue with Hamilton, though, is that, though he has otherworldly speed, is he capable of thriving long-term in center, a position that he has been playing since the start of the 2012 season. His experience in Triple-A left a lot to be desired, as he posted a .256/.308/.343 triple-slash, stealing 75 bases and scoring 75 runs in 123 games for Louisville. We all know about his brief September audition, when Dusty Baker allowed him to receive all of 22 plate appearances, while Baker pinch-ran him often to allow the speedy Mississippian to accumulate 13 stolen bases in 14 tries.
In addition to plugging Hamilton into center, here is the laundry list of exciting moves that the Reds have made this winter:
November: Signed LHP Manny Parra, 2B Skip Schumaker, and C Brayan Pena to major league contracts; Signed OF Mike Wilson, LHP Nick Schmidt, and RHP Ross Ismail to minor league contracts; Signed C Max Ramirez, LHP Lee Hyde, and 3B Rey Navarro to minor league contracts and invited them to Spring Training;
December: Signed 3B Ruben Gotay and RHP Trevor Bell to minor league contracts; Invited non-roster RHP Jose Diaz and 2B Kristopher Negron to Spring Training; Signed RHP Chien-Ming Wang, C Corky Miller, and SS Argenis Diaz to minor league contracts and invited them to Spring Training; Acquired LHP David Holmberg from Arizona for Ryan Hanigan;
Well, Choo’s production won’t be replaced by Hamilton, speed or no speed. Even if Hamilton increases his on-base percentage to .340 over 600 plate appearances, he doesn’t have the patient approach that Choo had, and, while he can move himself from base to base with his wheels, he just won’t be on as often. If Choo’s production is a clear downgrade, where are they upgrading?
Is Devin Mesoraco set for a breakout season, replacing the putrid production that Ryan Hanigan provided in 2013? Is Todd Frazier going to post an .829 OPS, as he did in 2012, or something similar to his .721 OPS from 2013? Is Zack Cozart even worth starting anymore, given his career .680 OPS over 1,256 plate appearances? Ryan Ludwick had a nice 2012 and his 2013 was ruined due to his Opening Day shoulder injury, but was he ever worth a two-year, $15 million extension, especially when you consider it was back-loaded with an option for 2015, making him guaranteed $13 million, including his 2015 buyout? Brandon Phillips, 103 RBI or not, saw his OPS fall to .705 in 2013. Joey Votto and Jay Bruce seem like locks for success, but Bruce continues to be one of the streakiest players in all of baseball, while Votto’s patience seems to have overtaken his ability to actually produce at his 2010 MVP level ever again.
As far as the rotation, it remains pretty deep, but once you get past the top five, there are question marks. While that wouldn’t be a huge deal for most clubs, you have to remember that Johnny Cueto only had one full season and he immediately got hurt in the first game of the 2012 playoffs. Bailey, Latos, and Leake are very good options, and Tony Cingrani was impressive, even with just one good pitch, but having Wang, Francis, and nothing else as fallback options is rough, which may lead to the club rushing top prospect Robert Stephenson if there was an injury in 2014, not to mention how the rotation is going to function if Bailey leaves via free agency or Cueto’s 2015 option isn’t picked up. Who will be starting games and why don’t the Reds have options waiting like the Cardinals?
The bullpen is still built to dominate, as Aroldis Chapman is as shutdown as it gets. A full season of Sean Marshall, Jonathan Broxton, a former closer in his own right, serving as a setup man, and J.J. Hoover, Sam LeCure, Manny Parra, and Alfredo Simon rounding out the group helps the Reds bullpen look tremendous for another season…but a bullpen doesn’t have a lot of value if they aren’t protecting more leads than deficits.
The Reds haven’t been active enough. The Reds haven’t drafted enough high-ceiling talent. The Reds haven’t had enough success on the international market.
The Reds are a lot like the Milwaukee Brewers, locking up talent for just a little while, and then watching that talent and the contention window fly way in the breeze. You see, the Brewers were a competitive team until Prince Fielder left. They traded a lot of good, young talent to acquire Zack Greinke and CC Sabathia to help them contend. They bought in to that window and went for it. It is hard for a small-market to commit a lot of money to talent like Greinke and Sabathia, only to watch them leave for big-markets once they hit free agency, but the revenue that comes with a playoff run or a World Series title would alleviate a lot of those dollars. The Brewers, then, went into quite a funk the last several seasons, and they have yet to recover, but the worst part is that their farm system is terrible. If Ryan Braun doesn’t rebound, the club still has Carlos Gomez and Jean Segura, but the rest of the organization is quite barren.
The Reds are a lot like the Brewers because they haven’t had many successful recent drafts. While a lot of the key names on the major league roster are homegrown, there isn’t a whole lot of depth currently in the minor league system. The Reds did trade a couple of solid young players (Yasmani Grandal, Yonder Alonso, and Brad Boxberger) to acquire Mat Latos and Choo (Didi Gregorius and Drew Stubbs), but outside of Stephenson and Hamilton, much of the high-level talent was in Low-A or the Rookie levels last season, specifically Phillip Ervin, Jesse Winker, and Nick Travieso.
So, what will happen when 2015 rolls around without an Oscar Taveras waiting to take over left field for Ludwick? Who fills the rotation without a Gerrit Cole or Jameson Taillon ready to step in for A.J. Burnett? Who will push Todd Frazier at third base without a Kris Bryant or Javier Baez?
While the Reds and Brewers have weaker farm systems and question marks at several spots, the Cubs, Cardinals, and Pirates have done it right. They have managed to stay active and have taken risks with draft picks to make sure that they are getting the talent necessary to maintain solid depth within their organization. Sure, the Pirates and Cubs have had higher picks due to their lack of success over the years, but the Cardinals have a lot of talent and they haven’t had a season below .500 since 2007, while making the playoffs in 11 of the last 18 seasons, including four World Series and two titles.
The conservative nature of the current regime in Cincinnati may not look awful as the Reds compete in 2014, but when Chicago, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis have their high-level minor league talent stepping in within the next two to three seasons, Reds fans will forget about the nightmares that Albert Pujols used to bring, and will instead be kept awake by Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Albert Almora, Gregory Polanco, Oscar Taveras, and others who will make their names in the depths of the thriving systems in the rest of the National League Central. Meanwhile, the Brewers and Reds will continue to cry small-market when they have, instead, chosen to be smarter at the right times.
There are still names on the free agent market that can help the Reds contend, but none of them will make them as good as they were last season, in 2012, or in 2010, when Cincinnati has reached the playoffs. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense at this point to scrap what has been built. Instead, run out there with what you have and hope for the best, which, apparently, was Walt Jocketty and Bob Castellini’s plan all offseason.